Progress on Poughkeepsie Natural Resource Inventory

A natural resources inventory (NRI) is a document that catalogues the natural and cultural resources within a given locality (e.g., municipality, watershed, or region). NRIs are used by local leaders to make informed land use decisions. An effective NRI should also illustrate where conservation efforts and preservation can be directed, and indicate where more research or focus would be helpful in the specific locality’s unique context.

The Environmental Cooperative at the Vassar Barns has been working on a Natural Resource Inventory of the City of Poughkeepsie since the spring of 2017. At that time, Rachel Marklyn ‘17 began the process of gathering existing data pertaining to the City’s natural and cultural resources.

During the summer of 2017, Elise Chessman ’18 worked on writing the water resources chapter of the City’s NRI. Water resources are a very important topic to the City of Poughkeepsie, with the Fall Kill a focal yet under-utilized part of the City and the Hudson River a notable feature of Poughkeepsie’s past and present significance. These factors made water resources a great jumping off point to begin writing the NRI. Along with a descriptive chapter on the City’s water resources, six maps were created, including: floodplains and percent developed imperviousness, watersheds, water quality, culverts and aquatic passability, and wetlands and hydric soils.

The future of the project will include writing and mapping geologic features and topography, land use patterns, and the cultural, recreational, and historic resources of the City. Hudsonia Ltd. is performing assessments on habitats and biological communities for the City as well.

As an appendix that will be included in the City of Poughkeepsie’s NRI, India Futterman ‘19 wrote an Ash Tree Management Plan, focused on the Emerald Ash Borer, which you can read more about here.

This Project has been funded in part by a grant from the New York State Environmental Protection Fund through the Hudson River Estuary Program of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.

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GIS and Sustainability Project Exchange

Want to make a difference? Help out by taking on a project, or suggest one.
If you want to do a thesis project or independent study that makes a difference, then start by finding out what is needed on campus.  It’s always nice to have an eager audience interested in your work, and your products are better when that audience holds you accountable for doing it well.  Here are a few questions and ideas as examples of projects that individuals or classes could take on.  Read the complete list on Google Docs, or add questions in the comments or contribute your own ideas.  

This list is just a start. Any idea may be useful. Any idea can have a theoretical angle that makes it suitable for a thesis topic. Ideas can also be found in other locations, such as Princeton’s sustainability ideas list.

You can add to this list (add your name if you want to help students develop it). Or you can peruse the list for projects that need doing. Questions? see Alistair Hall or Mary Ann Cunningham.

  • The EMMA network is currently is made up of 9 sites in the Hudson Valley, which are in need of site characterizations.  The sites are meant to create a north/south and urban/rural gradient. In particular help is needed to map the land cover, soils, streams, wetlands, waterbodies, and fragmentation. This information would be incredibly valuable as EMMA undergoes strategic planning and develops future directions. Any students that might be interested in working on this project should contact Keri Vancamp
  • What is the magnitude of ecosystem services of tree cover on the Vassar Campus? Use iTree programs to calculate them.
  • Mapping the UN’s Map Human Development Index (HDI) – This is a very extensive GIS data set based on the UN’s Human Development Report tabular data by country, and there are many topics that could be mapped to display newer HDI and related data. Some background on the dataset and the HDI report is available here. This data set is available on the lab computers.
  • Map the Greater Ecological Preserve and create a visitor’s natural history/birding/plant walk map.
  • Update and develop campus planting maps and data – Point locations of all campus plantings have been mapped and associated with maintenance scheduling information. The web map used to display this information could be further developed to include maintenance activity (accessed via web app and/or mobile app). The polygon areas of the plantings need to be mapped.
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Mapping Emerald Ash Borer in the City of Poughkeepsie

By India Futterman ’19

Emerald ash borer, an invasive species of beetle that arrived in the United States in packing material from Asia, has officially arrived in Dutchess County. During the summer of 2017, Elise Chessman ‘18 and India Futterman ‘19 set out to map the infestation among the street ash trees of the City of Poughkeepsie. Prior to their survey, it was fairly clear that EAB was present in the City, though the extent of its damage and its potential to spread were essentially unknown. 

View larger map Continue reading

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Student maps support Poughkeepsie transit analysis and recommendations

Comparison of former city bus routes and new county bus routes in Poughkeepsie, with income distribution by Census block group. Map by Siennah Yang (Geography, ’18). Click to view larger version.

The recent consolidation of the City of Poughkeepsie Transit bus system into Dutchess County Department of Mass Transit’s bus system has been much debated among city leaders, bus system users, and other stakeholders. One of the voices that have engaged in the debate was Dr. Kafui Attoh, Assistant Professor of Urban Studies at CUNY, whose research focuses on issues of transportation equity. Working with Siennah Yang (Geography, ’18) to create maps comparing previous city routes and new county routes with information about the populations served and suggested alterations and additional routes, Dr. Attoh and Yang wrote a memo outlining their analysis of the routes with suggestions for improvements to better serve its users, and sent it to a number of city council members. 

Continue reading

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Poughkeepsie: A City Divided

Areas north of the east – west arterial have lower median incomes than those in the island created by the arterial and south of the arterial.

In this post on Mid-Hudson Currents, the Benjamin Center (at SUNY New Paltz) Blog, Senior Research Associate, Joshua Simons, outlines the geographic and socioeconomic divides in the City of Poughkeepsie through a series of maps. “It is striking how the physical barriers of the highways conform so closely to how the city is divided racially, ethnically, and economically,” Simons writes, referring to the divisions between communities on different sides of Route 9 and the east-west (US-44/ NY-55) arterial.  Continue reading

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Student Web Mapping Projects

Students enrolled in GEOG 228 – Web Mapping: Advanced Approaches to Publishing recently completed their final projects for the semester.  Students in this course create web maps, map apps, story maps using ArcGIS Online,  which offers new opportunities to publicize and share spatial data. Other applications such as ArcGIS Collector app and Open Street Map promote group sourcing of data, which are explored as well.  Students’ final projects were published on Vassar Maps and Apps and can be viewed at the class page

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Solar Projects in New York State

Nearly 10,000 solar projects have participated in New York’s open enrollment solar incentive programs over the past 10 years.  The data was made publicly available on Open NY, New York States open data portal.  (See Environmental Leader’s story about the initial release of the data for more information and background.) The data was acquired and organized by Vassar student Toscane Clarey as part of a project for GEOG 228 – Web Mapping: Advanced Approaches to Publishing. This project was intended to increase visibility of solar projects in New York State.  

The points in the map illustrate aggregated solar installations by zip code (or “City”, as is listed in the pop-up window when clicking an individual point.) The total number of solar projects associated with each point, total nameplate capacity in kilowatt hours (kWh), and the total expected output in megawatt hours (MWh) are also listed in the pop-up window. 

Use the zoom buttons (+/-) and pan around the map and explore local installations. Click the button in the upper-left corner [>>] to view the legend, which indicates the aggregated expected output associated with the relative size of the point symbols. 

Note that southern New York contains a higher number of installations and output, and that rural areas appear to be under-served. 


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Alumni Mapping Work

The Geospatial Mapping at Vassar blog is proud to showcase alumni work when available.  If you wish to share examples of your geospatial mapping and analysis work, please email  


In her first week at Michael Baker International, an Engineering firm headquartered in Pittsburgh, PA, Emily Webb (Geography-Anthropology, ’16) had already worked on two mapping projects in which she called upon the cartography skills she learned at Vassar.  In her role for the company, Emily explained, “I work with ArcMap to research spatial statistics and to put together maps for project reports.” She also explained that she started using a vector graphics program for fine-tuning labels in her maps — something she picked up on-the-job. Continue reading

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Beaver Herbivory at the Vassar Farm Ecological Preserve

By Annie Greene (Biology ’19), Dylan Finley (Urban Studies ’17)

This semester in Lynn Christenson’s ecology class (BIOL-241), we mapped the locations of trees affected by beavers near the beaver dam at the Vassar Farm and Ecological Preserve. Our studies revealed preferences in beaver foraging in regards to species, tree size, and distance from water.  We used Vassar’s “Maps & Apps” ArcGIS Online implementation and the ArcGIS Collector App on a GPS-enabled Apple iPad to map the location of the trees based on their geographic coordinates.

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Community Choice Aggregation (CCA) in the Hudson Valley


Renewable Hudson Area of Focus

Renewable Highlands is working to help transition the Hudson Highlands region towards environmentally conscious energy consumption by informing local municipalities of the benefits of Community Choice Aggregation (CCA) and asking for their support.  With enough municipalities involved, Renewable Highlands will provide assistance in obtaining and reviewing proposals from qualified energy suppliers, choosing a contract, and implementing the program.  By choosing to participate, municipal leaders give their constituents an option for saving money, stabilizing rates and supporting renewable energy.  At Renewable Highlands’ request, the Vassar GIS Lab recently created a custom map of the region in which the organization intends to appeal to communities (shown above).  Other CCA initiatives in the Hudson Valley include Citizens for Local Power in Ulster County, and Sustainable Westchester.   Continue reading

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