School of Social Sciences Stars
Associate Professor, Geography and Global Studies, Director of CIGA
Dr. Clark has been awarded a three-year, $604,000 NASA grant within the Earth Science department’s HyspIRI Preparatory Airborne Activities and Associated Science program.
The Hyperspectral Infrared Imager (HyspIRI) is a satellite currently being considered by NASA to improve our ability to map and monitor the Earth’s ecosystems and and provide timely information on natural disasters. In contrast to existing Earth-observation satellites, which typically provide images using energy from a few regions of the spectrum (e.g., visible light), HypIRI will be a “hyperspectral” sensor that provides images using energy from hundreds of spectral slices. These images extend beyond what human eyes can sense to include shortwave to thermal energy. This technology should allow more detailed and accurate mapping of the Earth’s surface through time, however there is a need to demonstrate this capability in support of the HyspIRI mission. To do this, Dr. Clark and other researchers in the preparatory science program will use images from NASA’s airborne hyperspectral sensor (AVIRIS) acquired from a jet to simulate images that would be acquired from HyspIRI. A NASA team, based in the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, will fly the jet in three transects in California, multiple times per year. Dr. Clark research will focus on mapping California’s natural ecosystems from the imagery, and this series of images within a year will provide valuable information on plant seasonality, such as the changing of leaf color, that can help discern different vegetation types. He hopes to show that HyspIRI will allow more detailed mapping of California’s diverse flora relative to what is possible with conventional satellites. In support of his research, Dr. Clark will hire students to help with the collection of ground data and with image processing and analysis in his research lab, the Center for Interdisciplinary Geospatial Analysis (CIGA).
Dr. Clark is an associate professor in the Geography and Global Studies Department and director of CIGA. He focuses on teaching the department’s geospatial technology courses, including geographic information systems (GIS) and remote sensing. Dr. Clark has a strong research interest in applying this technology to applications in terrestrial ecology, conservation science, and land-use change. His recent research activities have focused on regional- to continental-scale mapping and analysis of land change in Latin America and the Caribbean as part of a five-year collaborative National Science Foundation grant. In support of this project, Dr. Clark developed a mapping methodology that allows the estimation of land change at municipality scales over the last decade. To date, Dr. Clark and his project team have published thirteen papers that use these land-cover maps to investigate the underlying drivers of change, such as economic globalization, human migration and interactions with climate and landform.
Associate Professor, Environmental Studies and Planning
In June, Dr. Caroline Christian and the Department of Environmental Studies and Planning (ENSP) at Sonoma State University (SSU) was awarded an anonymous donation of $75,000 to launch a research project to support Sonoma County's State Parks as they transition to new management by local non-profit and governmental organizations. Up to 70 State Parks were slated for closure in 2011, including five in Sonoma County. The parks have been threatened with closure by the State of California due to the current budget crisis.
With passage of legislation (AB42) drafted by Assemblyman Jared Huffman, the five Sonoma County parks on the closure list were allowed to stay open and be operated by local non-profits and agencies. In Sonoma County, a coalition of 16 organizations, known as the Parks Alliance of Sonoma County, stepped forward in a grassroots effort to keep five parks accessible by the public, at least temporarily. The five Sonoma parks amount to approximately 15,000 acres and thousands of people visit them every year from all over the world.
Christian and her research team will look for "best practices" for local parks management and have until February to complete a report that they hope will lead to novel ways to run the parks over the long-term. The team will produce a set of "lessons learned" based on peer-reviewed literature on the privatization of public parks, and multi-stakeholder management of protected areas and historical sites.
"Although the disaster of park closure was averted, at least for now,"says Dr. Christian, "long-term solutions are required to keep parks open and accessible to the public."
"The last thing we want to see is parks shut down, especially ones that are at the core of our community’s identity and economic and environmental well-being."
Besides Christian, the team includes Dr. Claudia Luke (Director, SSU Field Stations and Nature Preserves), Sara Moore (Project Coordinator), and environmental studies student assistants Noelle Fletcher, Niki Shmatovich, Megan Foster, and Christine Kuehn.
Christian says as management responsibility is passed down from the state to different local organizations, greater community involvement will be needed.
The major work includes a survey of the new park managers - finding what barriers and challenges they face and what models can be developed to manage them effectively. A workshop will be held in October for key park managers and local government representatives to review SSU's findings and discuss a strategic plan for funding and operating parks using a more diversified approach.
The parks and the local organizations currently responsible for their operation are: Annadel State Park (Sonoma County Regional Parks), Austin Creek State Recreation Area (Stewards of the Coast and Redwoods), Jack London State Historic Park (Valley of the Moon Natural History Association), Petaluma Adobe State Historic Park (Sonoma Petaluma State Historic Park Association),
Sugarloaf Ridge State Park (Sonoma Ecology Center [lead] with Valley of the Moon Observatory Association; United Camps, Conferences, and Retreats; Valley of the Moon Natural History Association; and Sonoma County Trails Council).
Dr. Christian is a conservation scientist and an associate professor in the Department of Environmental Studies and Planning at Sonoma State University. Her research focuses on key issues in conservation and restoration science, and the use of applied systems to test fundamental ideas in ecology. Much of her current research evaluates the effectiveness of different techniques used for managing exotic vegetation in grassland and streamside plant communities. As a former scientist with The Nature Conservancy, she brings extensive practical experience in land conservation and management. She works closely with local non-profit organizations to implement science-based conservation planning and land management.