APPLICATION OF GEOGRAPHIC INFORMATION SYSTEM (GIS) IN ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCE AND SUSTAINABLE AGRICULTURE EDUCATION

G. Ozbay1, S. Sriharan2, C. Fan3, A. Prakash4, F. San Juan5

1Delaware State University (UNITED STATES)
2Virginia State University (UNITED STATES)
3Morgan State University (UNITED STATES)
4University of Alaska at Fairbanks (UNITED STATES)
5Elizabeth City State University (UNITED STATES)
Delaware State University (DSU) and its partner institutions (Virginia State University (VSU), Morgan State University (MSU), University of Alaska at Fairbanks (UAF) and Elizabeth City State University (ECSU)) have been working together over a decade to enhance the technology application, use of innovative teaching tools, and student active learning via internships to enhance teaching and student learning in Agricultural, Biological, Environmental, and Climate Change Sciences. Delaware State University and partner institutions collaborated to expand the technology-based education by incorporating Geographic Information System (GIS) and Global Positioning System (GPS) to promote student learning in environmental and agricultural sciences funded by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).

Objectives of this collaborative program are to:
(i) develop/enhance new courses related to GIS and Remote Sensing (RS) applications and use GIS component into existing courses,
(ii) enhance teaching and research capabilities of faculty and staff from DSU and partner institutions by using GIS and RS in agriculture and natural resources courses and research through student and faculty development workshops,
(iii) enhance retention of minority undergraduates in GIS and RS courses through their participation in training programs and summer internship programs at participating institutions, and federal and state agencies,
(iv) educate farmers and provide hands-on training to the farmers and extension agents on GIS and to promote GIS applications by farmers, and
(v) provide opportunities for information exchange, hands-on training, networking, and professional development.

The program focused on preparing a pipeline of minority task force with skills in GIS to increase efficiency in agricultural production, sustainable agriculture, and environmental science (i.e. improved farm layout, reduction in application of pesticides, pest management, watershed, wetlands). The applications of pesticides can be reduced by applying them in only areas of infestation through remote control technology, thereby contributing to clean environment and quality of life in rural America. This effort includes providing science-based knowledge and education to improve management of soil and water resources , wildlife habitat and tracking, and enhance the environmental quality. The courses offered in this program include introductory to advanced GIS and RS courses and integrated agricultural and environmental courses with GIS and RS in all participating institutions. Along with the classes, workshops were offered on each university campus to provide hands-on learning opportunity and enhance skill set among students, staff, and faculty members in GIS and RS. Student trainees presented their classroom projects during the local, regional, and national conferences. In order to enhance students’ retention in GIS and RS courses, students from all collaborating institutions attended four weeks student, staff, and faculty training workshop and internship hosted by UAF learning about GIS and RS and their applications in research focusing on ocean circulation, wild fires, wildlife tracking, geothermal exploration, oil shale fire, land cover, and creek geomorphology. This program promoted active recruitment of faculty and staff from minority institutions and development of partnerships, farmers training with GIS software and application of smart phones in management of farms.