Environmental Science Grant

March 26, 2012

By Barbara LeBlanc

Saint Anselm College will take part in a statewide, environmental research and education project that will be funded by a five-year, $20 million grant from the National Science Foundation.

Gov. John Lynch and University of New Hampshire President Mark Huddleston unveiled the project March 26, saying the grant will support a team of researchers from UNH, Dartmouth College, and Plymouth State University, as well as Saint Anselm.

The grant will fund research meant to better understand the impact of humans and land use on the environment. The project also provides new education and training opportunities in science, engineering, mathematics and technology, which is necessary for a highly skilled state workforce that advances economic development and employment. The University of New Hampshire will lead the project.

Saint Anselm College physics Professor David Guerra, Ph.D., is a member of the team focusing on New Hampshire forests. Guerra's team will collect data from an aircraft remote sensing system, called hyperspectral sensing, to measure changes in the forest cover. Guerra will then analyze the data and algorithms. Another group will research the effects that forest management has on water systems. Together, the groups' results will quantify the effects of cutting trees for access roads, cell phone towers, or wind turbines in addition to other land uses.

The environmental data, combined with data about housing and demographics will help policy makers determine the tradeoffs among different land use and will inform the development of strategies to adapt to the challenges of changes in land use and climate variability.

Guerra's research grant is for the second, third, and fourth years in which the heart of the research is completed. A Saint Anselm student will assist Guerra on this project.

By studying the health of various forests, some used for foresting and others such as National Parks for recreation, the group will learn the effects of different land use. Partnerships with industry will focus on research and development of new technologies in the areas of energy, biomass, and sensor development.

The project, administered by the NH EPSCoR program at UNH and advised by the Statewide EPSCoR Committee, includes a substantive workforce development effort with partners at Keene State College, White Mountains Community College, and Great Bay Community College, with science education and research experiences for K-12 teachers and students, and community college faculty and students. Students will receive scholarships to science camp, internships for undergraduate research and transfer incentives to complete a four-year college degree.