Undergraduate Researchers

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USC Spatial faculty put a high priority on involving undergraduate students in their research. Our student not only gain valuable research experience, but also directly contribute to the creation of new knowledge as scholars in their own right.

Here are some highlights from this fall semester:

Dr. Travis Longcore leads a research group on light pollution and protected areas. Ben Banet (Interdisciplinary Studies) and Harrison Knapp (GeoDesign) are using satellite data to measure wasted light escaping upwards from within and around the 400+ units managed by the US National Park Service, with special attention to three southern California Parks (Channel Island National Park, Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, and Cabrillo National Monument). Eliza Dewar-Gutierrez (GeoDesign) and Julia Fruithandler (GeoDesign) are using satellite-measured night lights data that have been processed to identify boats to describe the spatial and temporal dynamics of brightly-illuminated fishing vessels offshore from nesting habitats of seabirds in the Channel Island National Park and other locations on the Pacific Coast. Lisa Cortright (GeoDesign), Camille Verendia (Environmental Science and Health) and Jasper McEvoy (Environmental Studies) are deploying GIS technologies to support an inventory of the outdoor lighting at Wrigley Marine Science Center on Catalina Island to make recommendations to reduce the impacts of lighting on the local terrestrial and marine ecology.

Dr. Su Jin Lee is working with Lauren Mullarkey-Williams (Policy, Planning and Development; Spatial Studies), Monica Finnstrom (Environmental Studies;MS GIST Progressive Degree), and Kevin Mercy (Interdisciplinary Archaeology; HSGI) on how municipal policies or city ordinances have affected land cover changes, especially focusing on trees. They have selected 30 cities in Los Angeles County and are examining land use policies, tree ordinances, and water usage policies to gain a better understanding of how urbanism and development change the natural environment.

Dr. Darren Ruddell and Dr. Jennifer Swift, together with participants from the USC Keck School of Medicine, are leading students on a skin cancer prevention program named “SunSmart.” Launched over eight years ago, this project educates elementary school children on the importance of safe sun exposure behaviors. Utilizing spatially informed data-driven techniques, USC Spatial students are determining the sunniest locations on and around elementary school campuses, designing responsive and environmentally beneficial shade structures, and beginning the permitting and building process of the shade structure intervention. This GeoDesign project, working with Bright Elementary School in South Los Angeles is the first of its kind and aims to create a model for how projects should utilize readily available resources and data to aid in informed building decisions. Spatial analyses utilized a variety of software platforms which include ESRI’s GeoPlanner, ArcMap and ArcGIS Pro, Google’s SketchUp, Autodesk’s Revit and Climate Consultant 6.0 to aid our analyses and design of the shade structures.

Dr. John Wilson and Research Specialist Beau MacDonald are working with Alex Chen (GeoDesign) and Erin Erickson (Sociology; Spatial Studies) to investigate census-tract level data to explore, map, and analyze county-wide residential population density over five-year intervals. To accurately reflect the changes, researchers using this type of data must account for any adjustments made to boundaries of reporting units. The team interpolated and redistributed data between changing geometries using areal interpolation and weighting and are exploring dasymetric mapping techniques. They are also devising methods to visualize the patterns and animate the results. Further work this year incorporates residential parcels and data elements that relate to health, transportation, and sustainability.

To learn more about future research opportunities, please contact USC Spatial Managing Director Susan Kamei.

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