Centre students' collaborative research published
RELEASED: June 1, 2006
DANVILLE, KY—Graduating-senior Daniel Saman and rising senior Laura Whitaker participated in research with Endre Nyerges, associate professor of anthropology, that is due to be published in an ESRI (Environmental Systems Research Institute) book this summer. The research, titled “Water and Settlement,” will be published in Understanding Place: GIS and Mapping Across the College Curriculum (Sinton and Lund), an honor rarely bestowed on work co-authored by undergraduates.
GIS, Geographic Information Systems, is a database through which topography, hydrology, landscape, etc., can be spatially analyzed. For example, a GIS is often used in public health research, such as locating areas in Kentucky with the highest rates of cancer. Waste sites and other polluting sources can also be mapped. From this data, a GIS can assist in analyzing whether there is a correlation between relative distance to a pollution source and elevated cancer risks.
The goal of the research performed by Nyerges, Saman and Whitaker was to try to show the relationship that exists between where West African farmers chose to settle in the region of Kilimi, Sierra Leone, and the topography around them (grassland, forests, trees, water sources [such as streams]). Nyerges asked the students to assist in the summer research because he wanted to do a publication focusing on Sierra Leone and modify/edit his own training module that shows students the relationships between settlement sites and topography. The training module they revised also takes students through an ArcView GIS course. ArcView GIS is the computer program that is used in manipulating and analyzing geographic data.
Their research showed that there is a wide variety of topography that surrounds village sites, and also that villages are very close to water sources. Essentially, they argued that these settlers do not create forests, but instead choose very good sites at which to live, contrary to a recently popularized view that the farming activity of settlers in this area creates new forest. The summer research and writing project was funded by a grant from Centre College’s Faculty Development Committee.
Centre offers many opportunities for students to do collaborative research with faculty members during the academic year and the summer. A number of students are doing collaborative research this summer.
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