THE CENTER FOR APPLIED ENVIRONMENTAL & GEOSPATIAL TECHNOLOGY

PORTFOLIO

Acid Mine Drainage Water Quality Sampling

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Project Summary

By 2016, over 15 billion tons of coal had been mined from Pennsylvania with approximately 250,000 acres of mine lands left abandoned. Once abandoned, water flows into mines and interacts with rock forms previously unexposed. The exposure of these mined areas to water and oxygen leads to the production of acid, decreasing the pH of water flowing out of mines. This form of pollution is referred to as Acid Mine Drainage (AMD). However, efforts to remediate AMD lead to the precipitation of hydrous ferric oxides (HFO) which deposit as solids along stream beds and banks. It is hypothesized that these HFO deposits create physical blockages of food and habitat resources for macroinvertebrates, a key part of aquatic ecosystems.

The goal of this study was to determine the impact of HFO deposits on macroinvertebrate communities and organic decomposition within the Swatara Watershed. To accomplish this, we collected benthic macroinvertebrates, through kick samples and leaf pack analysis, from 6 sites separated into 3 treatment groups: unaffected by AMD, affected by AMD, and remediated with HFO deposits present. All collected macroinvertebrates were identified to family. Overall community health was determined via the calculation of an Index of Biotic Integrity (IBI), which quantifies pollution tolerance and species diversity by averaging 6 separate indexes. No statistical difference in IBI was found between streams unaffected by AMD and those with HFO solids present. Streams affected by AMD had a significantly lower IBI. However, remediated streams with HFO deposits had lower overall community diversity. These results suggest that the HFO deposits post-AMD remediation do not preclude the reestablishment of pollution intolerant macroinvertebrates but lowers overall community diversity.

The environmental-based research involved in this type of project will be useful for students in the future as they gain experience in many different aspects of data collection and analysis. Because of the interdisciplinary nature of this project and others that the University engages in, students have the ability to use their ecological knowledge and skills, in conjunction with their ability to conduct geospatial analyses, to better display findings in an easy to understand visual method.

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AUGMENTED REALITY DEVELOPMENT FOR THE CITY OF HARRISBURG POLICE DEPARTMENT

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Project Summary

In 2016, SIGMA Resources contacted Harrisburg University about a proof of concept (POC) for an augmented reality project that the City of Harrisburg Police Department was interested in. They were interested in seeing a simple application that could be loaded onto an officer’s phone or tablet, as well as be issued to detectives and other city officials. The application was designed in such a way that a point on the screen would display various forms of data. Specifically, they were interested in parcel data, that is maintained by Dauphin County and crime records for each of the posted address. The purpose of this project was to allow for immediate identification of addresses that might be close together or not labeled well, and possible dangerous crimes that might have previously happened at that location. Ultimately, this tool supplies critical information allowing the user to make better-informed decisions. 

The first step to moving this project forward was a series of meetings with the City of Harrisburg Police Department and ArcGIS, a company that is partnered with ESRI to produce augmented reality products. Once an understanding of what data the application needed to run and the needs of the police department was outlined, data was collected from Dauphin County and the City of Harrisburg’s crime records. The data tables were joined based on addresses and were then added to the application. At this point in time, all the software from ArcGIS was being tested so constant feedback of software glitches and errors were recorded and given to the company. A need arose for accuracy in locations where poor reception caused the GPS locations to be inaccurate. Therefore, the use of Bad Elf GPS receivers was implemented to increase the accuracy and complete the POC. The project was then presented to the chief of police and other city officials where it was positively received.  

This project was an eye-opener for students in the world of software development and the need for accurate data. It helped the researchers develop a greater understanding of GPS functions in different environments, working in a professional environment, and gain experience working with the cutting-edge technology of augmented reality. Any projects that give students experience working with a diverse set of software and/or hardware are something that the Center is very interested in exploring, as we seek to get students as much exposure as possible to what they will eventually encounter.  

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Bobwhite Quail Restoration Mapping

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Project Summary

Monitoring of various species and populations using appropriate methodologies is one of the many capabilities that the Center offers. An example of this is our habitat mapping project of the Bobwhite Quail population in Pennsylvania.   

The Bobwhite Quail, an important early succession and grassland species, had been a resident of Pennsylvania long before historical records were kept, and was found in extremely high densities within the accounts of early explorers and settlers of the region.  However, by the turn of the century, quail sightings were sparse, and following a two-year survey by the Pennsylvania Game Commission (PGC) and Penn State University, in 2014 quail were deemed extirpated from Pennsylvania. The PGC immediately made the restoration of this important species a top priority and began steps to bring these birds back.  They developed a 10-year comprehensive management plan that outlines everything from surveying, monitoring, translocation, and the required year by year habitat management. Harrisburg University’s Center for Applied Environmental and Geospatial Technology has been assisting the PGC via habitat surveys, digitizing habitat improvements, updating the National Bobwhite Conservation Initiative geodatabase to account for habitat improvements within the recovery zone, and updating the statewide available habitat model by classifying high-resolution landcover maps.  

This type of habitat and environmental surveying, and the processing of the data afterward, enhances many of our student’s skillset. As they enter their respective careers, this interdisciplinary skillset of environmental and geospatial analysis provides an excellent base to start their careers. Projects such as this give students valuable experience working on long-term restoration projects with ever-growing datasets – from the field data collection to the processing of the data and subsequently, the development of the maps.

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Creston Environmental LLC

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Project Summary

In September of 2019, the Center formed a partnership and signed a non-disclosure with Creston to provide them with GIS and mapping expertise. As a small organization not in need of a full GIS department, Creston is able to leverage the Center to meet their on-demand mapping needs. These requests are often time-sensitive and require a quick turn-around – something that is very useful for our students to get experience in.  

The Creston projects involve locating particular pad sites around the country and gathering landowner data for the parcels that are in the same vicinity of those planned sites. After gathering the data, printable field maps of the immediate area surrounding the pad site are constructed. Extensive cartographic principles are used to ensure that the maps are both legible and informative since there are often times many parcels within close proximity of each other. Additionally, individual maps of each parcel area created to mail to the landowners to inform the landowners of their work. Lastly, after the various maps have been constructed, the Center is responsible for creating Trimble files showing various spatial data that can be used for Creston when they are conducting their field visits to collect soil and water samples.  

As a company that specializes in soil and water sampling around oil and gas well pad sites, this partnership provides the Center with a connection to a major employer of geospatial graduates. Any connections the students can make to major geospatial industries is beneficial to both our students and our clients.  

Death Cab for Cutie Concert Map

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Project Summary

Making printable maps for various events is a common practice that our students get to participate in. Through Harrisburg University’s promotion of the Concert Series, and the various eSports events and festivals that the University hosts, this is one of our most popular types of internal mapping projects.

Taking data from a variety of datasets, including roads and building footprints, as well as creating festival spatial datasets from the ground up, students and staff are tasked with creating print maps, such as this one for the Death Cab for Cutie Concert at Riverfront Park. These maps are often published on websites for viewing prior to the event, in addition to being distributed during the event.  

When creating event maps such as the Death Cab for Cutie one, students are able to apply their extensive knowledge of cartography to make sure they construct the map with the same branding as the overall event. Knowledge of which fonts and color palettes to use, within both the ArcGIS & Adobe Suite products, is critical and positions our students to be able to create aesthetically pleasing maps for any organization.

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Digital Harrisburg

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Project Summary

The Digital Harrisburg project, in partnership with Messiah College, funded by the Harrisburg University Presidential Research Grant, has compiled multiple datasets which include historical Census data, building footprints, and Sanborn maps. Geospatial processes were performed on each of these datasets and ultimately, an online interactive web map was constructed. 

The beginning of the project focused on the improvement of the geocoding rate and the accuracy of the building footprint layer. The work done on Digital Harrisburg improved Census data, allowing a more accurate spatial analysis of the City of Harrisburg. As a result of the spatial analysis performed, trends of ethnicities and race movements across the city became apparent. Because of this, additional spatial analysis was conducted to try to decipher why these trends and movements occurred. Specifically, the project compared the density analysis of the 8th Ward versus the surrounding areas. The project investigated the history of the city focusing more on individual families and following their migration within the city. These improved layers and spatial analysis are now published on a WebMap application that is available to the public.  

The partnership between Harrisburg University and Messiah College provides the students with important collaboration and networking opportunities needed for the future after graduating from Harrisburg University. This type of geospatial, historic analysis work is extremely useful for historians, as well as the general public looking at the history of their area and home. 

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Drone Flight of Jesuit & Iroquois Grounds 

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Project Summary

In the summer of 2018, the Cukierski family contacted Harrisburg University to inquire if we would be available to do drone surveys of their property in upstate New York. Their property contains the site of an Iroquois village and Jesuit missionary structure that is slowly being excavated by faculty at Colgate University. Archeology faculty from Cornell University were set to perform the drone work but health issues required them to withdraw from the project.

Faculty and staff from the Center visited the site in both August and October of 2018 to conduct flights over three distinct areas of the property. Ground control points were used so that any visual anomalies from traditional photogrammetry and thermal imaging could be located on the ground for future investigation. These flights were repeated in October in order to capture leaf off conditions. 

Harrisburg University’s Center for Applied Environmental and Geospatial Technology delivered high resolution visual imagery mosaics and georeferenced thermal images of the property.  Several thermal images were used to identify anomalies in the primary archaeological site.  Video panning shots of the property were also delivered for documentation purposes. 

The partnership between Harrisburg University and Messiah College provides the students with important collaboration and networking opportunities needed for the future after graduating from Harrisburg University. This type of geospatial, historic analysis work is extremely useful for historians, as well as the general public looking at the history of their area and home. 

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Drone Mapping in the Isthmus of Corinth 

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Project Summary

Harrisburg University faculty and two students have collaborated with Messiah College on a project that involved traveling to the Isthmus of Greece twice, to conduct drone mapping. The work was aimed at continuing to contribute to the mapping of the Eastern Corinthia Area Study (EKAS) that consisted of ground-based surveying.   

In addition to the continuation of visual spectrum mapping using UAS technology, the 2018 trip included research and testing of Near Infrared (NIR) and Thermal Infrared imagery. This type of multispectral analysis has been tested for many years, but the advent of lightweight sensors mounted on drones has opened extensive possibilities. Thermal emissivity across archaeology sites can vary significantly based on subsurface features and provide new insight into survey locations. Conducting NIR and Thermal IR imagery analysis contributed not only to the research of this region in Greece but to the overall benchmarking of multispectral image analysis. After the images were all collected and processed, some were then georeferenced by Harrisburg University students in order to identify certain historic features that may have been detected by thermal sensing, including the Wiseman Wall – an ancient fortification wall.  

 This project provided students with the excellent opportunity to see a different culture by fully immersing them in the experience of doing fieldwork in that region. Additionally, as Harrisburg University continues to grow, a goal is to partner with more universities on new research. 

Eastern Massasauga Rattlesnake Population Study

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Project Summary

Jennings Environmental Education Center in Slippery Rock, Pennsylvania is one of the few remaining prairie ecosystems in Pennsylvania. There, land managers have broken the 20-acre prairie into several plots and use a variety of different methods on each plot to simulate disturbance: prescribed fire, cutting, herbicide, and a lack of treatment. The treatments are used various times throughout the year. As part of this project at Jennings, the Center employed a diversity of skill sets and tools ranging from sUAS flights to wood stem counts. 

Our research team worked to analyze plot treatment information, woody stem count data, snake location, and rattlesnake census data collected by land managers from 2012 to 2018 at Jennings to figure out if current methods are successful, as well as determine which disturbance method is most effective for increasing Eastern Massasauga Rattlesnake populations and decreasing woody vegetation growth. We hypothesiz4ed that the best treatment method would be the use of prescribed fire. To analyze the data, prairie plots were digitized in ArcMap. Woody stem count sampling locations and snake capture locations were added to determine what plots were located in. In Each quadrant, we found an overall decrease in woody vegetation and an increase in Eastern Massasauga Rattlesnakes. However, due to use of all treatments in different rotations, we were unable to determine if fire was, in fact, the most effective method of disturbance. Along with this analysis, the research team has been working to find a more efficient way to monitor this species of rattlesnake rather than the current capture, mark, release methods. The methods we have tested thus far include the use of trail cameras to capture images of the snakes and analyzing spot patterns to differentiate individuals as well as the use of a thermal drone to locate rattlesnakes. It was determined that the trail camera method was not as effective as we had hoped. The use of the thermal drone has proven some success so far. Our team is continuing to explore the use and effectiveness of this new method.  

The Eastern Massasauga Rattlesnake project combines many of the interdisciplinary skills that our students learn in a classroom setting and allows them to practice them in the real world. This project provided understanding of land management and how it is important skill for any student who wants to explore ecosystem restoration, architecture, engineering, or related disciplines.

E-Waste Drive Time Analysis & Mapping

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Project Summary

The Center for Applied Environmental & Geospatial Technology was contracted by the Consumer Technology Association to provide a spatial analysis of the e-waste recycling that occurs in the State of Pennsylvania. Many individuals are not aware that specific e-waste recycling facilities exist, and if they do, are unaware of where these are located. Through analyses such as a drive time analysis, the Consumer Technology Association can identify where additional sites can be added or if any could be removed as a result of underutilization.  

Students in the Center completed a phone survey of each county in Pennsylvania to assess the current situation regarding the recycling of electronics. Additionally, certain municipalities where recycling occurs were surveyed. These results were then converted into spatial data to create maps of existing sites and the drive times to these sites, with the goal of seeing what areas of the state had a recycling site in close proximity. Furthermore, a population density dataset was used to analyze, in total number of people and population density, how much of the state has access to a recycling facility. The results showed that the majority of the southeast and southwest portions of the state, where the bulk of the population is concentrated, had adequate access to a facility, while other parts of the State were missing the facilities necessary. 

The ability to conduct survey research, as well as examine multiple variables at one time, is a skill set that our students gain by working on many of the projects that involve spatial analysis such as this work completed for the Consumer Technology Association. This type of multi-variable analysis will be crucial to student’s success in virtually every industry.

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Floodplain Evaluation of PA Farm Show Complex

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Project Summary

The Pennsylvania Farm Show Complex is located in Harrisburg, PA — an urban area that presents unique challenges when it comes to flooding. The complex opened in 1929 and is located within the Paxton Creek Watershed. Since its inception, flooding has been a continual issue. Due to the increase in impervious surfaces from the rapid urbanization of Harrisburg, PA, the Center took on the task to research the cause and possible solutions for the flooding. 

The Center captured a variety of geospatial and environmental research to examine the area. Using a Phantom 3 Advanced drone, an RGB image was captured with a 20mm Pilot, and a NIR image was captured with 4.14mm and 12mp. With this current imagery, the Center was able to evaluate the floodplain of Paxton Creek. Habitat Assessment and Rosgen Stream Classification result demonstrated that Paxton Creek had been greatly altered and channelized. After evaluating the data, we located a historic Paxton Creek map that informed our team that Paxton Creek was redirected into a channel while the surrounding area was being developed. The channel does not have proper floodplains and cannot handle high volumes of water. The best way to address the flooding issue is by installing a form of stormwater retention. 

The Pennsylvania Farm Show Complex approached the Center with this flooding issue, which allowed our employees and students to develop this research and execute it from start to finish. The ability to problem solve is an important skill for our students to have as they enter their careers after graduation. 

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Ft. Indiantown Gap Groundwater Contour Creation 

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Project Summary

As a reference from one of our other clients, the Department of Military & Veterans Affairs (DMVA) reached out to the Center to explore a potential collaboration that would lead to the development of a groundwater contour dataset of the Ft. Indiantown Gap Cantonment Area. Using various GIS and geologic analysis, the Center has developed these contours at different intervals and has provided them, in addition to a geologic report of the area, to the client.  

The Center used the provided well dataset to create groundwater contours in both 10 ft and 20 ft intervals. This was achieved through multiple tools in ArcGIS and can be improved upon through manual editing based on further data collection or known anomalies. The provided data was geocoded using the latitude and longitude of each well site. Once the wells were spatially depicted, the Center used the Spatial Analyst Tools. As this is a point dataset with known elevation points, the tool “Topo to Raster” was used to create a raster file. “Topo to Raster” estimates the values between known point elevations to create a hydrologically correct raster surface. With the new raster dataset created, the Center was able to use the ArcGIS tool “Contours”. This allowed the creation of the two contour datasets of the Ft. Indiantown Gap Cantonment Camp Area.  

While creating the contours, DMVA recommended examining the accuracy of the contours against the surrounding drainage ways and the surface contours of the area. The general shape of the groundwater contours made sense with the drainage way systems surrounding the Cantonment area. When examining the surface contours against the groundwater contours, there is a concern about the season in which the elevation data was collected. Both Shuey Lake and Marquette Lake are believed to intersect the groundwater. Knowing if the data was collected during a wet or dry season would assist in verifying the accuracy of the groundwater contours.  

Thanks to the field visit and the using of the spatial analyst extension, our students are able to get a complete understanding of everything that goes into a groundwater analysis project. Hydrologic analysis is a growing niche within the world of both geospatial technology and environmental science so we anticipate, projects such as this will arise again in the future – both at the Center and as students enter the workforce upon graduation. 

Georeferencing of Dauphin County Aerial Imagery

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Project Summary

Dauphin County collected 1992 aerial imagery of the entire county and currently have the documents stored as 34X44” sheets. In order to convert these to digital format, the Center was responsible for scanning these as PDF documents using the ColorTrac large format scanner, as well as post-processing the image. Using an index grid, the documents were named accordingly in order for Dauphin County to easily identify one document from another.  

After the scanning of these aerial images was complete, the Center georeferenced all of the images using first order polynomial techniques, and adding 4 tie-in points to each image. The aerial images were georeferenced using features such as road intersections and bridges that have not changed over the approximately 20 years in between when the images were taken and today. Once all of the images were georeferenced, they were placed into a newly created mosaic dataset – creating one seamless image of Dauphin County in its entirety from 1992. 

While a fairly simple task to complete, this type of work is valuable for the clients as there are not many organizations that have the desire to complete simple scanning work, but also the geospatial ability to georeference those images. One of the most valuable things that the Center got out of this project was the potential to collaborate with Dauphin County again in the future on other sets of imagery. These types of continuing relationships are exactly what the Center hopes to achieve.  

Hotspot Analysis of Roadkill Surveys 

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Project Summary

There is perhaps no other human impact that is as far-reaching and destructive on wildlife as transportation infrastructure. Vehicular collisions have now surpassed hunting as the leading direct human cause of vertebrate mortality on land. While the number of common species killed along roads is staggering, the population effects can be devastating for small and declining populations. In response, many local, state, and federal agencies are implementing mitigating structures into highway design to reduce the occurrence of wildlife-vehicle collisions. Past studies have found that roadkill locations along roadways act as reliable indicators of wildlife crossing areas.

Research that involved completing roadkill surveys along a 19 km stretch of HWY 64 running through the northern portion of Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge in Dare County, North Carolina was conducted by a member of the Center. Road killed animals were collected and identified by walking along both sides of the highway every 7 – 10 days during summer months (April – August) and every 14 days in all other months (September – March) from March 2009 to March 2011. Every vertebrate animal mortality was identified to a precise taxonomic level. UTM coordinates, date, sex, age, and location on the roadway (e.g. road or shoulder) were also recorded. All road kills were either removed from the search area or marked with paint to avoid double counts in subsequent surveys. Additionally, data on medium and large-sized mammal road kills were opportunistically collected. Using the data collected along HWY 64, hotspot analysis was used to determine areas of interest for the mitigating structures. The hotspot analysis executed for Birds, Amphibians, Reptiles, and Mammals determined the lack of cold spots — meaning that there is not a single area that would assist the roadkill issue with one mitigation structure. The most successful mitigation method is to raise the 19 km of HWY 64 to be a bridge over the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge. 

Humans are part of the environment and they greatly affect any ecosystem, which needs to be considered while executing research and determining solutions. This project allowed analysis on a large dataset, background research on infrastructure, and research on mitigation techniques which covers many possible career paths for HU graduates.

Infrastructure Mapping of Water Facilities 

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Project Summary

While the majority of the projects our students complete are done directly at the Center for Applied Environmental & Geospatial Technology, some of our clients, such as American Water, have preferred to bring our students on-site to their facilities. This setup is particularly useful for situations that require students to use the company’s current GIS setup. 

Students are responsible for taking as-built drawings of various water line features, such as mains and valves, and digitizing new or confirming existing features in the GIS database. Additionally, many attributes about this data are captured to ensure that all information about the water system is current and up-to-date. Students work in a Spatial Data Enterprise (SDE) environment that is deployed out to an online mapping application. This valuable information is pushed out to company-wide personnel, including employees working in the field who find this information to be critical to their everyday tasks 

In addition to the technical skills that the students are able to hone while working at American Water, perhaps the most valuable aspect of their experience is the professional knowledge that they are able to gain while working directly alongside other full-time employees in the GIS industry. Not only does this help students understand the professional work environment but it also helps them form valuable connections in the industry. 

Interactive Alumni Map

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Project Summary

One of the growing trends in the field of geospatial technology is the development of online, interactive web mapping applications. These useful resources are frequently stored on organizations’ websites to increase awareness on a particular topic 

In the case of the Harrisburg University Alumni Map, the Alumni Relations Department asked us to create a web map that shows the location of student alumni by graduation year. Each semester, we are provided a list of all graduates and geocode the locations based on zip code. Additionally, information such as the major is captured for each individual student. These points are then loaded onto a custom web mapping application. This allows visitors to the website to easily see where Harrisburg University alumni are from and also the ability to network.  

Due to the increased usage of these web mapping applications in virtually every industry, where everyone wants quick, digital access to spatial data, interactive mapping projects such as this one provide students with the necessary background to create custom applications for the organization that they join after graduation.  

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Mine Mapping Grant

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Project Summary

Over the course of several years, the Center has engaged with the Pennsylvania DEP to complete scanning, georeferencing, digitizing, and mosaicking of tens of thousands of underground mine maps throughout the State of Pennsylvania. This work is being used to inform the DEP’s Mine Subsidence Insurance Program, as well as provide mapping support for mine reclamation projects and construction permitting.  

The majority of the work that is being done on this project specifically involves maps of the Anthracite Regions of Pennsylvania. This Anthracite Coal has many complex seams that reside under Carbon, Columbia, Dauphin, Lackawanna, Lebanon, Luzerne, Northumberland, Schuylkill, Susquehanna, and Wayne Counties. Ultimately, the goal is to have one seamless mosaic of each coal seam that can be used to examine which homes and properties may be at risk of mine subsidence and therefore, need to purchase mine subsidence insurance. In order to create a single mosaic of each coal seam, the Center examines all of the scanned and georeferenced maps from the various collections to determine which is the most complete and informative map. In particular, the mosaicking work that the Center is partaking in now is specifically related to that of the Southern Anthracite Field – predominantly in Schuylkill County. The types of vector data that are being digitized from the mosaics are the locations of shafts and entries, elevation points, and extents of each of the mines. From this vector data, the creation of 3-D models will ensue, both in a digital form and possibly 3-D printed.  

The map analysis, georeferencing, and digitizing involved in this project, provides students with a taste of what many of the positions will entail after they graduate from the University and start their geospatial careers. 

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Monitoring Blue Iguana Population Growth

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Project Summary

At Harrisburg University, we have discovered an ever-growing demand for monitoring reptile populations using drone-mounted thermal sensors, as well as other heat-detecting cameras such as camera traps. One of these projects involved the mapping of the blue iguana habitat on Grand Cayman in the Cayman Islands. Partnering with the Cayman Islands Department of Environment, Harrisburg University faculty and students have been working to help eradicate the invasive green iguana species in order to protect the dwindling native blue iguanas.  

In areas of Grand Cayman, where the terrain is particularly rugged and the vegetation is dense, drone imagery of the visible spectrum is collected in order to stitch together a complete map of the habitat. Additionally, thermal imagery is collected at various heights in hopes of being able to identify blue iguanas on the ground. Instead of simply relying on thermal and visible spectrum imagery, that is collected via a UAS, the installation of motion-sensor camera traps was used throughout the Salinas Reserve study area with hopes to identify iguanas within the areaThis was done primarily to determine the distance that adult blue iguanas travel, in order to track their population. After installation by Harrisburg University, these traps will be monitored weekly by the Cayman Islands Department of Environment. 

Drone-based reptile population studies such as this and our study of the Eastern Massasauga Rattlesnake, can be refined and adapted to meet certain research goals for a variety of reptiles and potentially other animals. They provide valuable experiences for our students who get to participate in field work, as well as working on a very collaborative effort that typically involves different areas of expertise – both within the University and partnering organizations.

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Multi-Environmental Parameters Dashboard for Susquehanna River Basin using Machine Learning Techniques

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Project Summary

Through partnerships and a Presidential Research Grant, the Center is often given the opportunity to assist in multi-faceted projects, such as this one completed for the Susquehanna River Basin Commission. In Phase II of the project, the goal was to apply Artificial Intelligence (AI) and real-time GIS tools to enhance the SRBC’s data-driven methods, providing more accurate and timely results, and enabling more efficient, effective, and pragmatic decision-making.

The first steps in this project were data collection and management. The computer science team received SRBC historical datasets for water quality, which allowed them to validate the ability to convert the data for the use of AI and Data Analytics. As the computer science team was developing the machine learning predictive model, the Center was brought in to create an Operational Dashboard to house the model. Knowing that this model will be used by SRBC, the Center created a dashboard that was all-in-one with sub-basin selectors, viewing capabilities of major watersheds, and site information of the remote data collection locations. The final piece of the dashboard is the predictive model which was presented in a graph displaying 7-day predictions of water conductance.

Projects such as this one allows the Center to dive deeper into online mapping and mapping applications. Understanding the needs of the client and the capabilities of GIS are so important not only for the Center but for the students to know as they graduate and move into their careers.

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NRG GIS Implementation 

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Project Summary

As public infrastructure companies began ramping up their geospatial capabilities, for both engineering and regulatory reasons, NRG of Harrisburg (currently Clearway Energy) approached the Center about assisting in setting up a Geographic Information System for them. The goal was to allow multiple employees across the organization to have access to the variety of data that was captured and stored. 

Initially, the NRG GIS was designed at the Center and then deployed on-site. Collecting many PDF drawings of the water infrastructure that existed throughout the City, the Center converted those to digital, GIS format. Many features, such as valves, water mains, pipe diameter, and others were captured in vector geodatabases after developing a data model that showed where to store that information. Additionally, the original as-built drawings were linked so that they could be viewed as attachments once a given feature was clicked-on.  

To this day, the Center provides support on this system as needed and looks forward to continuing the relationship with Clearway Energy. The Center provides Clearway with convenient access to a large format scanner, which is used periodically throughout the year as they need to get paper as-built drawings into digital format. Gaining valuable knowledge and familiarity in the public utilities infrastructure industry, which is a major employer of geospatial technology students, is critical to many of our students’ success after graduation.  

Nursing Feasibility Study 

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Project Summary

As Harrisburg University began developing its nursing program, they tasked the Center with performing a feasibility study examining demographics across various geographies and the existence of different types of infrastructure that would be relevant in the field of nursing. In the summer of 2018, the Center produced nearly 100 different tables, maps, and graphs, which were composed into a comprehensive report to be turned over to the Nursing Department at Harrisburg University. 

Much of the data that was analyzed for this project was obtained from ESRI’s Business Analyst analytics software and the U.S. Census Bureau. This combination of statistical and spatial data is a powerful one that allows organizations to make decisions on where to establish a facility or program, or whether it would be a benefit to that organization. The data analyzed as part of this nursing program study was no different. The types of variables that we analyzed ranged from mortality and disease rates (critical indicators of where medical facilities are needed), to percentage of college-aged and minority students (people who would be interested in the program at Harrisburg University), to number of actual hospital and nursing home locations (where students would likely be employed) in the Central Pennsylvania Region. This data often came in a tabular data format that was then converted into shapefiles and feature classes to create spatial data that could then be mapped. To accompany these maps, the data was also analyzed to see how trends have developed and changed over time or if they are trending upwards or downwards to specific medical benchmarks. 

The experience that the students gained from using Census Data for a real-world application, as well as getting their first exposure to Business Analyst, will serve them greatly when they enter the workforce. Countless organizations are often tasked with site selection and feasibility studies and having an individual who has experience conducting these types of studies, will provide great value to that organization. Additionally, we believe this experience has set the Center up nicely to be able to conduct these same types of analyses for other programs across the University, as well as organizations external to the University.  

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The Redlining of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania 1936 

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Project Summary

Working alongside Messiah University, the Harrisburg Redlined Story Map was created to show the results of a survey carried out by federal agents of the Home Owners’ Loan Corporation (HOLC). Between 1935 and 1936, the survey was conducted to pinpoint parts of the city and surrounding communities that they judged worthy of investment through government-backed housing loans. The survey gathered information about the property and population of Harrisburg and its surrounding communities in order to divide inhabited zones into four distinct grades: “Best,” “Still Desirable,” “Definitely Declining,” and “Hazardous.” These insurance grades effectively ensured that private and public housing loans were awarded to communities and neighborhoods according to their racial, ethnic, and economic characteristics. 

At the beginning of this project, the Center was given a digital copy of the original survey map from 1936, and a digitized dataset of the communities in Harrisburg, PA. From those documents, the Center compiled a dataset by including notes taken from the survey record, including the population of the area broken down by race and ethnicity, and the final grade of the communities. The final grades were then used to symbolize the communities just as they were on the original survey map and added into the interactive Story Map platform. 

As ArcGIS Online is an ever-growing platform to work on, it is always important for students and staff to stay up-to-date on the latest feature additions within the platform. Additionally, continuing partnerships with other Universities, such as Messiah University, is extremely useful for both the Center, in terms of diversifying our project portfolio, and students forming valuable connections that extend far beyond the reaches of Harrisburg University.

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Sidewalk Mapping Application 

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Project Summary

After successful completion of the Land-Use Analysis project that the Center had previously completed for the Tri-County Regional Planning Commission, the Commission approached the Center to see if we would be interested in completing a Sidewalk Web Mapping Application for the federally funded roads in the Tri-County Region. The first focus of this project would be to determine if there is a given sidewalk along a particular road and if a sidewalk does exist, what condition is it in. This knowledge is critical for planning locations for sidewalk improvement efforts in the future. 

The Center began with the initial setup of the web mapping application and outlining a symbology that would be used when adding data to the web mapping application. The types of data being captured were as follows: 1. Does a sidewalk exist along a given road and is it located on both sides or a single side and 2. If the sidewalk does exist, what condition is it in on a scale of excellent to poor? The methodology for collecting this data was through a two-phased approach. Initially, we scanned Google Street View to determine the existence and condition of all sidewalks that were visible in areas that had up-to-date imagery. For areas that weren’t easily visible, the Center took field visits and used ArcCollector to update the information as it was observed from the physical location. After all data was collected, the web application was turned over to the Commission for use. 

As a Center, the opportunity for work with a previous client is something we strive for. This tells us that the relationship is beneficial to both the students and the client. Often in the field of environmental and geospatial technologies, students will have to use multiple collection methods to obtain the needed data. In this specific instance, giving students the opportunity to develop a web mapping application, and using both digital and field-collected data, is something that will transcend many of their future industries. 

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Spectral Classification of Oyster Bed Restoration 

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Project Summary

Crassostrea virginica, the eastern oyster, is an important aquatic filter feeder. A two-inch adult oyster can filter approximately 50 gallons of water a day, while an acre of oyster beds can filter out 543 pounds of nitrogen per year. Over-harvesting of the eastern oyster combined with increased pollution, caused the Chesapeake Bay health to decrease. Oyster bed restoration is one method to combat estuarine pollution. Once completed, restoration projects require continuous monitoring of health and growth. Monitoring processes typically involve immense manpower, large budgets, and disturbance in oysters’ filtration. 

The project team hypothesized that using remotely obtained imagery to measure oyster bed growth would be a more economical and efficient approach. Using Landsat 8 imagery, a spectral signature was created for the following landcover types: oyster beds, shallow water, deep water, developed land, undeveloped land, and wetlands. Scatter plots of the spectral signatures revealed that the appropriate bands to use for the classification of oyster beds were within the blue, green, and near-infrared spectrums. Using those bands, we completed a supervised classification to identify all oyster beds within the Choptank River. However, it was determined that the resolution of the satellite imagery was too course to pick up the smaller beds. In conclusion, this technique has the potential to efficiently measure oyster bed growth if completed with higher resolution near-infrared imagery. 

This project allowed a student to focus on researching a powerful filtering resource within the Chesapeake Bay. Thanks to the proven methods developed for this project, in the future, oyster restoration groups will be able to execute monitoring with greater accuracy to save money and time in their efforts. 

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Tri-County Regional Planning Commission Land-Use Analysis 

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Project Summary

In 2015, the Center was contacted by the Tri-County Regional Planning Commission – an organization involved in the planning policies for Dauphin, Cumberland, and Perry counties — about a land classification project for their jurisdiction. Specifically, this project looked at the change in land-use over a 4-year period. This would aid them in planning accordingly for future projects.  

To do this, a grid was set up in order to assign areas for a methodical completion of the project. Students worked with county parcel and tax data to help identify the land classification, along with the main form of identification of aerial imagery. Specific types of forest or agricultural lands were delineated accordingly, as well as multi-use properties, commercial, residential, and civil infrastructure. The final step was to perform quality control on the colors and numbers coded for the digitized areas in order to ensure accuracy across the county. Since the organization was happy with the work done in 2015, they also reached back out to the Center in 2021 to conduct a similar analysis and update the Dauphin and Perry County datasets using similar methodology.

This was a great experience for the students to see how to properly organize a large project that required a keen eye for detail and to be trusted with confidential information. The project also taught students the importance of quality control and topology. 

UAS Mapping & Georeferencing 

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Project Summary

As a subcontractor for Aerial Content Group, LLC, a company offering commercial aerial photography, 3D Modeling, and Thermal Imaging Services, the Center has worked with this organization on a few different projects to date and hopes to continue many more of these projects in the future. The majority of the work so far has been performed in relation to drone flights of a quarry in Greenstone, PA that is owned by Specialty Granules, LLC. From the aerial drone flights, which are conducted semi-annually, ground contours are measured for regulatory purposes. In addition, using the UAS imagery collected volumetric measuring is completed.  

In addition to the usual flights of the active quarry area, occasionally additional flights in the general vicinity of the quarry have also been conducted. The reason for these flights is to identify areas where old copper mine shafts or entries may have been historically located adjacent to the quarry grounds. From an initial flight, we were able to identify one of these entries. Using our ZenmuseXT Thermal sensor to capture imagery that we then perform georeferencing to ensure correct placement of these potential hazards.  

In addition to the projects at the quarry, our Part 107 Certified staff at the Center for Applied Environmental & Geospatial Technology are on call to assist with drone flights as needed. We welcome our students to become Part 107 Certified to be able to assist with the drone flights, but in the meantime, students will gain experience georeferencing and analyzing aerial images collected from UAS.

Urban Wood Network 

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Project Summary

The Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources approached the Center in 2019 with an idea to develop a web mapping application that would link professionals across the urban wood community. The goal of the network was to display the variety of players in the industry, from those cutting and milling the urban wood to those making finished products out of the wood, in a fashion where the general public could easily identify who to contact to meet their needs. Additionally, this application is useful for individual organizations within the network to identify who might be interested in buying their milled lumber, or who one might contact in order to transport a log that they wish to turn into a finished product.  

Initially, this project began with an email survey design to obtain information such as an address, contact information, services provided, and products provided, from folks looking to be included on this website. Due to the limited response rate from the initial email survey, a follow-up phone survey was implemented by Harrisburg University students – providing them with some excellent communication and survey experience. Then, the results were calculated and tabulated, spatial datasets categorizing the types of services and products were created. After the spatial datasets were created, a web mapping application displaying the various data layers was developed – maintaining the branding and cartographic principles requested by DCNR. This web map is now in the process of being integrated into DCNR’s website. 

The web application development experience is useful for our students as they grow their skillsets in a world where having digital maps on a variety of platforms is critical. Additionally, the experience gained from being involved in a project right from the data collection to final web map transfer is invaluable.  

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