Coronavirus Cases at Public Colleges

A New York Times survey of public four-year colleges and private institutions that compete in Division I sports or is a member of an elite group of research universities, revealed at least 6,600 cases tied to about 270 colleges over the course of the pandemic. 

Confirmed coronavirus cases on college campuses, New York Times, July 29, 2020

Confirmed coronavirus cases on college campuses, New York Times, July 29, 2020

Colleges affected near Vassar include the U.S. Military Academy at West Point (89 cases), SUNY New Paltz (31 cases), and SUNY Purchase (12 cases).  For those of you attuned to the challenges of capturing accurate data, the NYT article discloses all of those it encountered in the article. The takeaway is that the numbers are almost certainly undercounted. It’s also important to note that most colleges surveyed have not yet begun their Fall semesters (though some are starting early), suggesting that many of the infections reported occurred before most campuses were shut down in March. 

Like many other colleges, Vassar is taking extraordinary steps to reduce the risk of infection as some students, staff, and faculty return to campus. However, as President Bradley and college administrators across the country acknowledge, there is a risk that each of us assumes by being on campus, and we have a responsibility to each other to abide by an agreed upon set of standards that have been established through consultation with medical and public health professionals. (See the Community Care Pledge – See Covid-19 Updates, 6/29/2020 – A Message From the President Regarding Plans for the Fall.)

Meanwhile, it is important to recognize that essential maintenance staff have remained working to maintain the campus throughout the pandemic; a debt of gratitude is owed to them as all essential workers and health care workers.

For more information about Vassar’s reopening plans and other updates regarding Coronavirus, visit https://www.vassar.edu/coronavirus-updates/

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Repost: On GIS, modesty & the problem of racial privilege

Diversity map image from Esri.com

Image: https://www.esri.com/about/newsroom/arcnews/racism-social-justice-and-gis/

Charles Convis of Esri’s Conservation Program and co-founder of the Society for Conservation GIS (SCGIS) posted a thoughtful and heartfelt post on GeoNet, Esri’s user community site, in light of the protests in the US and throughout the world calling all of us in positions of relative privilege to become aware of it, the advantages it conveys to us, and to adjust our thinking, behavior, cultural norms, and laws. He begins: 

Like many commentators & historians I’ve listened to, I agree that 2020 will be an historic year, probably the most impactful in my 66 year life. Many of the reasons are bad ones, though some of the most important reasons are good ones, such the widest national protests ever and the beginning of important yet difficult national conversations and institutional changes.

One of these conversations is about racial privilege, an assumed set of comfort and safety features for a dominant culture that they never talk about, but that are obvious and problematic for other cultures. 

Read the full post here. This will be the first in a series Charles will continue to work on and post up on GeoNet in the coming weeks called an “Inclusive History of Conservation GIS”. Continue reading

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Spring 2019 Web Mapping Class Projects Focus on Local Challenges and Opportunities

Investigating the Impacts of Redlining in Poughkeepsie, N.Y. by James Gibson on behalf of Hudson River Housing.

Investigating the Impacts of Redlining in Poughkeepsie, N.Y. by James Gibson on behalf of Hudson River Housing.

GEOG 228 (Web Mapping: Advanced Approaches to Publishing) is a half-unit course offered during the Spring semester, which introduces students to creating web maps, map apps, story maps, and other emerging applications on the ArcGIS Online. These applications offer new opportunities to publicize and share spatial data. Building on skills learned in GEOG 220 (Cartography) and GEOG 224 (GIS), students in GEOG 228 gain further experience with GIS, learn effective ways of communicating spatial data to an online audience, and have the opportunity to explore special topics. 

Coordinating with the Office of Community Engaged Learning, students worked with Professor Mary Ann Cunningham and the following community partners to devise a question, locate data, and created an app or story map in ArcGIS Online.

Tree City? Why not Bee City? Storymap created by Thomas Schindelman for the Environmental Co-op at Vassar Barns.

Tree City? Why not Bee City? Storymap created by Thomas Schindelman for the Environmental Co-op at Vassar Barns.

All student projects can be viewed on the course project site

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Road Condition Mapping for Local Municipalities

by Rebecca Odell (Geography ’20)

Village of Wappingers Falls Pavement Condition Index Map

Village of Wappingers Falls Pavement Condition Index Map. Click to view full size.

As part of my internship at the Dutchess County Transportation Council (DCTC), my project was to map road quality data from past internships completed by students from Cornell University. When I first started, there was no process in place to map this data in ArcMap, and it needed to be changed in order to be compatible.

My main obstacles were that the data was not recorded in a way that was compatible with GIS, and that the roads in the Cornell data and the ArcMap data were not divided in the same way. I learned a lot about formatting data that was not made with ArcMap in mind. I also figured out how to link the divided streets in the Cornell data with sections of streets already mapped in ArcMap.

My experimentations led to a process which is now being used to finish making pavement quality maps for local governments. Maps have been completed for Beacon and Poughkeepsie, which have bigger populations and therefore more roads than most of the other municipalities. I also made maps for the Village of Fishkill, the Town of Fishkill, and Wappingers Falls. Maps allow for easy and intuitive visual comparison, which will enable local governments to make informed decisions about which road repairs to prioritize.

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Office of Community Engaged Learning Placements

Adele Birkenes (Geography, 2020) is working with the Office of Community Engaged Learing (OCEL) this year to support community GIS work, and created this map of CEL placements in and around Poughkeepsie. Alternatively, you can view the larger map or see the OCEL blog (click “Opportunities”) if you prefer to scan the list of placements rather than browse them in the map. 

Continue reading

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Estimating Pesticide Exposure and Premature Mortality by Parkinson’s Disease in Washington State

By Mariah Caballero (Biology, Geography ’19)

I spent my summer at Washington State University’s Elson S. Floyd School of Medicine in Spokane, WA. I was collaborating with researchers in the Community Health and Spatial Epidemiology (CHaSE) Lab on a project that was born of my interest in environmental health and spatial analyses. I proposed a project based on agricultural chemical exposure and premature mortality by Parkinson’s Disease in Washington State. This relationship has been well-documented1, but had not been explored in Washington State, in which Parkinson’s Disease is among the highest in the nation. Continue reading

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Cartography final projects

The Cartography class (GEOG/ESCI 220) completed another excellent set of final projects in December 2017. The aim of these projects was to convey important findings in maps and graphs, in a way that demonstrates excellent cartographic practices. 

(Click on slides to advance; open in a new tab to view larger image.) 

I have added files from 2016, as well. If you notice a map missing, I don’t have the final PDF, unfortunately!

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Class projects from GIS: Spatial Analysis

Students in GEOG/ESCI 224 (GIS: Spatial analysis) presented their final projects at the end of the semester. They demonstrated an excellent range of analytical approaches, combining quantitative analysis and aesthetic design for communication.

(Click on image to advance through slides. Open an image in a new tab for larger view)

 

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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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