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2008 Winners of the MN GIS/LIS Consortium Scholarship abstracts and bios
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Brock Anderson - Bemidji State University
Margarette M. Elliot - Minnesota State University, Mankato – Grad
Brett Fleck - Minnesota State University, Mankato – Undergrad
Kushal Gurung - St. Cloud State University – Undergrad
Rebecca Haass - Anoka Ramsey Community College
Alek Halverson - St. Cloud State University – Grad
Victoria Harris - Macalester College
Jenelle Taylor Hudok - Saint Mary's University of Minnesota
Len Kne - University of Minnesota, Twin Cities – Grad
Erin McClenahan - Itasca Community College
Jeremy Moore - University of Minnesota, Twin Cities – Undergrad
Deborah Richards - Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College
Nicholas Salo - University of Minnesota, Duluth
Allison Seiwert - University of St. Thomas

1. Brock AndersonBemidji State University (not participating in competition)

Brock Anderson is a Junior in the Geography program at Bemidji State University. He received an A.A.S in natural resources - forestry from Itasca Community College in 2005. He is currently pursuing a degree in Geography with a GIS focus. He currently is employed by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources as a GIS intern and is involved in several GIS projects including a large-scale wetland monitoring project throughout the state of Minnesota. He has strong interests in GIS and natural resources with a particular interest in forestry related issues. Brock plans to graduate in the spring of 2009 and seek employment in a forestry-related field.

2. Margarette M. Elliot - Minnesota State University, Mankato - Grad

Margarette received her B.A. from Gustavus Adolphus College in 2003, majoring in environmental studies with minors in both geology and geography. During the summer of 2007, she expanded her GIS skills through an internship with the Center for Rural Development, St. Peter, MN. As part of a graduate research opportunity, Maggie presented preliminary research on River Quality Monitoring Using Airborne Remote Sensing on the Blue Earth River, MN at AAG in Boston, MA in April of 2008. Her research interests include utilizing GIS and remote sensing applications to explore environmental issues. Maggie will continue on as a geography graduate research student and will serve as graduate teaching assistant for the coming academic year. Future endeavors will include the completion of her Master’s Degree in Geography from Minnesota State University of Mankato with hopes of pursuing of a doctoral degree in the field of geography or environmental science.

Spatial Environment of the Blue Earth River Riparian Corridor
and Its Effect on Water Quality

The health of a riparian system can be directly correlated with its surrounding geography. Spatial setting determines vital components of riparian ecosystems, including climate, vegetation, soil type, and land use. Due to its situation in a heavily farmed region in south-central Minnesota, the Blue Earth River serves as an ideal case study for examining the link between land use/land cover and resulting water quality. As part of a larger research effort, water samples have been taken from sites along the channel on days coinciding with major rain events. Also, airborne dynamic hyperspectral remote sensing images were gathered from the river on days corresponding with sample collection. By creating GIS layers of geographical characteristics of the river including land use/land cover, soil and vegetation, slope, etc. for each of the dates where both airborne imagery and water sample data is available, this study aims to examine the connections between rain events occurring on specific riparian environments and the resulting water quality issues along the Blue Earth River channel. Potential solutions to water contamination are investigated by manipulating the resulting data with the inclusion of a variety of GIS techniques.

3. Brett Fleck - Minnesota State University, Mankato – Undergrad

Brett Fleck is a senior student at Minnesota State University, Mankato majoring in economics and minoring in mathematics, geography, and business administration. Brett was introduced to geographic information systems while taking an elective for his geography minor. He has prior research and presenting experience from participating in the Undergraduate Research Conference in 2006, winning ‘Best in Presentation’ in his field. Brett is heavily involved on campus sitting on various university and student government committees. His interest in the topic of ethanol production and agricultural land conversion stems from the fact that he grew up on a farm his father still runs near New Ulm, Minnesota. Brett plans on graduating in the spring of 2009 and would like to pursue further studies at the graduate level or seek a position in either the public or private sectors.

Agricultural Land Conversion’s Impact on Ethanol Production
in the Seven County Metropolitan Area of Minnesota from 2000 - 2005

Two major issues today, urban sprawl and ethanol production, are becoming ever increasingly intertwined. Urban sprawl is converting productive agricultural land that could be used in ethanol production for urban use at a rapid rate. This research asks three basic questions to get a better understanding of the magnitude of the issue. The questions are: (1) How many acres of land were converted during the study period? (2) How many gallons of ethanol production were potentially lost? (3) How many automobiles could that ethanol have contributed to fueling? Answers to these questions are sought using spatial analysis software along with government statistics. While the results of this study are merely estimates and encompass a relatively small study area, they are only the beginning to what could be a significant area of study in the future. Further rigorous analysis could provide a more vivid picture of where the issue stands today and what it might become in the long run.

4. Kushal Gurung - St. Cloud State University – Undergrad (not participating in competition)

Kushal is a senior at St. Cloud State University. He plans to graduate with a Bachelor of Science degree in Environmental Studies with a Geographic Information Systems (GIS) minor in Fall 2008. Kushal has worked as a GIS analyst in the Spatial Analysis Research Center for the past two summers. He worked on making numerous thematic maps of Minnesota counties for the Minnesota Forest Resource Council (MFRC) and is currently working on a contract with a major retail store to build a GIS database.

5. Rebecca Haass - Anoka Ramsey Community College

Becky began her career with the National Park Service in 2000 as a seasonal Biological Science Technician. Finding the mission and the work of the National Park Service very gratifying, she continued to expand her knowledge and skills. In 2007 Becky and her supervisors noted that the National Park Service at Saint Croix Falls would have need of a GIS Specialist. Finding the GIS an interesting area of technology, Becky returned to school to add an Associates Degree in GIS to her Bachelor of Science Degree. Becky continues to work with the National Park Service and uses the knowledge she has gained in the field with her GIS education to provide informative data to the Service as well as various community groups and individuals. Becky resides in Dresser, WI and is a graduate of Osceola High School. During the winter months Becky likes to ski and serves as a downhill ski instructor at Trollhaugen. During the summer months she enjoys exploring western Wisconsin on her motorcycle.

Radio Propagation versus Viewshed:
A Project Regarding a Washington County Communications Tower

Geographic Information Systems (GIS) have become an integral part of planning. GIS integrates and relates data to a spatial component thereby providing information in a more visual and understandable format. This project displays information related to a decision making process which pitted public safety officials and their need for a radio tower with adequate propagation against citizens concerned about the aesthetics of a tower in the scenic St. Croix River Valley. Through this project the reader gains a better understanding of the issues surrounding the controversy and importance of GIS is underscored.

6. Alek Halverson - St. Cloud State University – Grad (not participating in competition)

Alek Halverson earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Geography from Minnesota State University, Mankato in 2005. He is enrolled in the Master of Geography (GIS emphasis) program at St. Cloud State University. He is currently a graduate assistant in the GIS computer lab and has also worked as a GIS/Remote Sensing Intern in the Spatial Analysis Research Center at SCSU, and as a GPS/GIS Intern for the City of St. Cloud. Alek is also a member of the international geographical honor society, Gamma Theta Upsilon.

7. Victoria Harris - Macalester College

Victoria Harris is a senior Geography major and Urban Studies minor at Macalester College. She came to Mac wanting to study political science but discovered geography her freshman year and fell in love with the department and especially GIS. Since then she has taken every GIS class, nearly every geography class with an urban focus, a multitude of other geography classes and worked as a teaching assistant in the GIS lab. During the summer of 2007 she interned with the Delaware River Basin Commission in West Trenton, NJ outside her native Philadelphia as a GIS intern in watershed management and planning. There she learned about the processes of managing a river basin that supplies nearly 15 million people with drinking water as well as how various government agencies cooperate to ensure the vitality of the water for nature and human society. During the summer of 2008 she interned with the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission in Philadelphia, PA working with the GIS and planning divisions. The internship focused on regional and transportation planning. Victoria hopes to join the ranks of the nation’s urban planners after graduation this December. Her objective is to use her GIS skills and knowledge of planning to understand and manage both natural and human elements of the urban landscape in order to create a better life for America’s inner cities and metropolitan regions.

Spatial Mismatch in the Twin Cities

The spatial mismatch hypothesis, the geographic or temporal disconnect between place of residence and place of employment that disproportionately affects low income and minority residents, is a phenomenon that behaves differently in every city. Even with an understanding of the general trend as described in the literature, further geographic research is necessary to more fully understand the particulars of mismatch in any given place. Little academic and even less geographic research has been done about the spatial mismatch within the Twin Cities metro area. This project attempts to fill the gap of research about the spatial mismatch in Twin Cities through an extensive geographical study of socio-economic patterns of residence and employment, and their spatial relationship with commuter patterns. Special emphasis is paid to transportation and access to transportation because of its importance as a means of commute to work and its especial importance to groups most typically associated with the spatial mismatch hypothesis. A comparison of commuter patterns and the geographic patterns of transportation access across racial and economic groups reveals the extent to which the traditional spatial mismatch hypothesis holds true in the Twin Cities metro area.

8. Jenelle Taylor Hudok - Saint Mary's University of Minnesota

Jenelle was born and raised in Elgin, Minnesota. She graduated from the University of St. Thomas in 2002 with a major in Sociology: Criminal Justice and a minor in geography with a concentration in GIS. While at St. Thomas, Jenelle worked for the Minnesota Department of Transportation in the Metro GIS Support Unit. After graduation, Jenelle began working for the Minnesota Gang Strike Force and later, for the Minnesota Department of Corrections. In 2004, Jenelle enrolled in the graduate program at Saint Mary’s University after she decided to enhance her GIS skills in order to use them more actively in her career in law enforcement. Jenelle currently works for the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension in the Predatory Offender Investigations Unit. She lives in Corcoran, Minnesota, with her husband Chris, 12 barn cats and a horse.

Predicting the Primary Residence of Serial Sexual Offenders:
Another Look at a Predictive Algorithm

This study analyzes a series of crimes committed by sexual offenders and a series committed by non-sexual offenders. Subjects chosen for the study were seven sexual offenders (Test Group) and twelve offenders with non-sexual crimes (Control Group). Test data were selected from the Minnesota Predatory Offender Registry. Control group data were randomly selected from data provided with the crime analysis software used in this study (CrimeStat III). Historical offense data from all offenders were analyzed using the Journey-to-Crime (JTC) function of CrimeStat III to predict the most likely location of residence based upon the location of offenses. The distance predicted was compared with the actual location of the residence of each offender. Data collected for each group was compared both visually and statistically to determine if there was a significant difference between the two groups. No significant differences in the accuracies of prediction were found.

9. Len Kne - University of Minnesota, Twin Cities – Grad

Len Kne is a student in the MGIS program at the University of Minnesota. Previous careers include more than a decade in information technology and as a research specialist for a regional park system. He has a B.S. in Recreation Resource Management from the University of Minnesota. Len is currently a research assistant at the Human-Environment Geographic Information Sciences lab, working on Minnesota Interactive Internet Mapping (MIIM). MIIM is a web-based application that introduces K-12 and post-secondary students to principles of geography and GIS. This summer Len received a Google Summer of Code Grant and has been working on the open source web mapping project Mapbender, a customizable web mapping application.

Measuring the usability of web mapping applications:
The use of eye tracking systems to evaluate GIS on the web

Geographic Information System (GIS) functionality is making its way onto the internet in the form of web mapping. The use of Google, Multimap, and Yahoo Maps has become ubiquitous throughout much of the world, but there has been little study of the design of web mapping, especially for applications beyond address location or route finding. A well designed web map is important as the viewer of the map should be able to focus on the meaning or purpose of the map, not on how to use it. In this paper we examine the literature on web mapping usability, present the results of a study which used eye tracking technology to look at the effectiveness of map tools, and discuss criteria for designing web maps.
A web-mapping application, Minnesota Interactive Internet Mapping (MIIM), was used in measuring the efficiency of different toolsets for moving around a map. Study participants were asked to zoom in to six areas of a map, half of the time using the "zoom-by-rectangle” tool, the other half of the time with a combination of pan and zoom tools. Eye tracking and measures of time spent on a task were used to assess differences between treatments. Our primary hypothesis that use of the zoom-by-rectangle tool would be more efficient was not supported. However, a positive side-effect of the use of eye tracking was the collection of substantial qualitative data while the participants completed the tasks. Discussion will focus on how this qualitative data was used to improve the design of a web mapping application.

10. Erin McClenahan - Itasca Community College

In 2008, Erin McClenahan earned an Associates in Arts and Sciences degree in Natural Resources with an emphasis in GIS from Itasca Community College in Grand Rapids, MN. For the past two years she worked for the Department of Natural Resources Forest Resource Assessment using aerial photography to delineate wetlands across the state of Minnesota. Part of this work involved the rectification and orthorectification of aerial photographs. In the summer of 2007, Erin worked as a forest technician collecting samples and data in the Two Harbors area. She completed an internship with the USFS Northern Research Station assisting in the creation of spatial databases for modeling the effects of climate change on forest productivity and carbon cycling. She plans to transfer to the University of Minnesota Duluth to complete a Bachelors of Arts degree in Geology with a minor in Geography in the fall of 2009.

Land Cover Classification

My model presents a comparative and accuracy assessment of Field Inventory Analysis versus GAP Remote Sensing Data. These maps will display coverage areas for the 212 provinces of Minnesota. The maps will visually show the similarities and differences between the two forms of data collection. Below the map images, analysis will be presented in question and answer format using the questions I wanted answered and the outcome of research and analysis of the information given.

11. Jeremy Moore - University of Minnesota, Twin Cities – Undergrad

I am a geography major attending the University of Minnesota where I am currently a member of the Geographic Information Science Student Organization. My research interests include environmental analysis in the GIS environment, cartography, and human-environment systems. In my spare time I enjoy backcountry skiing, mountain biking, backpacking, and golf.

Using GIS and 3D Terrain Modeling for Avalanche Geovisualization

The use of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) to monitor, document and model fluvial dynamics has become an essential tool within snow avalanche research and forecasting. Researchers such as Karl Birkeland and Chris McCollister from Montana State University as well as Urs Gruber from the Swiss Federal Institute for Snow and Avalanche Research have pioneered the use of GIS in avalanche probability mapping. McCollister’s GIS software program GeoWAX as well as Gruber’s Swiss Nearest Neighbors approach have mainly used historical weather and avalanche data to derive statistical probabilities based on recurring weather and avalanche trends. The downfall to these approaches is that they rely on historical databases and therefore are unable to forecast potential release areas that lie outside the current database. The goal of this research project is examine terrain features using GIS to locate potential avalanche release areas on a local scale where historical weather and avalanche databases do not exist.
12. Deborah Richards - Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College

Deborah Richards, a junior at Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College, will receive her Associate of Science Degree in Environmental Science, along with Certification in Geographic Information Systems and Visualizations in the spring of 2009. She is a St. Louis County Master Gardener, and volunteers over 25 hours annually for various community gardening projects. Deborah resides in Duluth, MN with her husband of 29 years and the youngest of their four children.
Non-Native Invasive Terrestrial Plants Threaten the
Woodland Ecosystem of Minnesota’s Arrowhead Region

The spread of non-native invasive plant and animal species is thought to be one of the largest ecological problems we face today. In Minnesota, evidence has shown the impact on our lakes and wetlands due to aquatic invasive species, an impact that has proven to be detrimental to many native aquatic plants and animals. Minnesota forests are facing a similar threat, one that is not receiving as much attention of the public as aquatic invasive species, but one that is of equal importance. Non-native invasive terrestrial plants already established in other areas of the state and along our borders have the capability to encroach and alter our diverse northern woodland ecosystems.
This project examines the role recreational trails, secondary roads and highway corridors are playing in the transmission of non-native terrestrial invasive plant species into the northern forests of the Arrowhead Region of Minnesota. A map created using ArcGIS illustrates the locations of five invasive plant species that are threatening forest diversity in the region. Highlighted, along with the areas of known infestation and their proximity to roads or trails, are the native forest communities that are at the highest risk of invasion. Raising public awareness will be an important element to controlling the spread of non-native invasive plant species into the pristine wilderness areas of the Arrowhead region.
13. Nicholas Salo - University of Minnesota, Duluth (not participating in competition)

[No information available at press time.]

14. Allison Seiwert - University of St. Thomas

In Fall 2008 I will be a senior at the University of St. Thomas, St. Paul, MN. I am majoring in Geography with a concentration in GIS and minoring in Communication Studies. I have worked as a Lab Assistant within the St. Thomas Geography Department for almost a year now, and TA for several different classes throughout the department. Over the summer of 2008 I will be interning at ESRI in Redlands, CA. While there I will be working with their Product Marketing team. My goal after graduation is to go to grad school and eventually end up in a job doing something I love.

Senior Citizens and Three Rivers Park Trails

In order to get the local senior citizens active and on the Three Rivers Park District of Hennepin County, Minnesota Trails, they needed to know exactly how many park benches there already were and where they are located. Our job was to learn how to use Three Rivers Park’s software and GPS and then go out on the trails and collect the points. After going out in the field and locating the benches on several trails using a Trimble Pathfinder GPS, I took the data I collected and put it on a map, comparing the demographics around the trails. After looking through the correlation of points and the demography around them I wanted to determine whether or not there were enough benches to satisfy the older population (Ages 55 and Up) surrounding the trails.

Our congratulations go out to all of the recipients for a job well done!



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