RESEARCH

 

After studying environmental forest and biology as an undergraduate, in graduate school I became more focused on looking at environmental science through the lens of planning.  Aware of how local and state governing works, I realized during my graduate work and my professional work that a green infrastructure planning coupled with readily available and accessible conservation models can have a broad impact on land use planning and policy development.

Below are examples of some of the grant related work I have participated on as well as student research conducted in collaboration with state agency partners.  Additional work in development will also be listed below, but product deliverables will not be available until approved by the client.

 

Coastal Virginia Ecological Value Assessment

 

 In 2013, the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality Coastal Zone Management Program funded a re-run of the VEVA conservation model developed in 2008 (see link for original grant project information).

“Habitat loss, fragmentation, and degradation are the most significant threats to the nation’s wildlife. Several Virginia agencies have attempted to quantify important habitats and their threats. Specific tools used for this purpose include the Virginia Conservation Lands Need Assessment (VCLNA), developed by the Virginia Natural Heritage Program (VNH) to identify land conservation priorities based on seven geospatial models (CZM grants FY04 Task 93.06, FY05 Task 92.05), and the Virginia Wildlife Action Plan, developed by the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (VDGIF). One component of the VCLNA is the Vulnerability Model, a collaborative effort between Virginia Commonwealth University’s (VCU) Center for Environmental Studies and the VNH to model predicted growth in the landscape. These tools can identify high priority habitats for Virginia’s Species of Greatest Conservation Need, as defined by the Wildlife Action Plan and determine which habitats are likely to be developed within the near future. The VDGIF is proposing to collaborate with VCU and the VNH to update the Vulnerability Model and synthesize existing information into a Priority Conservation Areas spatial dataset for the Coastal Zone of Virginia. Once developed, the team will provide the coastal Planning District Commissions (PDCs) with spatial data for use in their own planning. The team will also create a pilot project in one jurisdiction to evaluate the use of Community Viz software to assist in visualization and decision making using the resulting datasets. A workshop will be held to release the spatial datasets and demonstrate the Community Viz scenarios” (1).

The deliverable output for the second iteration included the development of a survey to assess VEVA use and attitudes toward conservation planning tools, a rerun of the Aquatic Resource Integrity layer (originally created by Virginia Institute of Marine Sciences Center for Coastal Resources Management ), the final model re-run integrating all partner components, and final report.  This data is used to help identify priority areas for conservation for the Virginia Coastal and Estuarine Land Conservation Program (CELCP).  See https://www.deq.virginia.gov/Programs/CoastalZoneManagement/CZMIssuesInitiatives/CoastalEstuarineLandConservationProgram.aspx.

The models are made available to local government and non-profit groups to aid in their conservation and green infrastructure planning efforts.

The GIS models created in 2008 and 2013 are available from the Virginia DEQ Coastal GEMS site and the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries GIS page.  The most recent GIS data and reports are available on my VEVA website.


EPA Urban Waters Small Grant:  A Partnership-Focused Community Greening and Green Infrastructure Plan for the VCU and Richmond Community, 2016

 

The Partnership-Focused Community Greening and Green Infrastructure Plan for the Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) and Richmond Community employed a multi-faceted approach to developing a community greening and green infrastructure plan for the VCU campuses and the Richmond Arts district.  The project included education and outreach, a focused graphic arts semester long project focused class and geospatial mapping technology.

This project was a collaboration with the VCU Center for Environmental Studies and the VCU Office of Sustainability.  The front facing public project website can be found here.  The project deliverables can be accessed at the project website, located here, and include:

Communication Materials:

Graphic design students, as part of a semester long course, developed communication pieces for advertising outreach and greening efforts.  The design pieces are for use on urban runoff and river health messaging materials such as postcards, posters, flyers and digital media.  Available materials include:

  • Drawings
  • Survey cards
  • Postcards
  • Posters

Materials include an instructions document on how to use the Adobe files, Adobe files, fonts and PDFs of material.

Outreach Materials:

Outreach materials include high school environmental science modules on watershed science and urban runoff pollution, a geospatial technology and mapping module using Esri ArcGIS Online, and the field based immersive experience outline, powerpoints and handouts.

Web Tools:


Swamp GIS

 

The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) solicited a proposal to aid in the collection of GIS data to be used as part of the DEQ effort to develop aquatic life use assessment protocols for Class VII waters (swamp) in Virginia.

The DEQ is tasked with the regulatory assessment of all waters in Virginia.  Due to the ecological nature of swamp waters, criteria used to assess free flowing streams are often not applicable to assess swamp waters.  The Virginia Water Resources Research Center Academic Advisory Committee has worked with the DEQ’s swamp assessment protocols to “1) to improve the agency’s protocol for correctly classifying waters as swamps, and thus correctly identify which waters should be assessed using Class VII criteria (rather than criteria for Class III waters); and 2) to develop an effective protocol for evaluating aquatic life use in Class VII waters” (2).  “Data that describe in-stream and landscape conditions (e.g. the BHP and GIS-derived data) will be evaluated to determine whether they correspond with aquatic communities and water quality in a manner that makes them effective for classifying systems as swamps” (3).

The proposal was accepted and the GIS work conducted included a variety of spatial landscape level assessments.

Final project deliverables were provided to the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality.  The product outputs are being used as part of the protocol development.  The cartographic and methodology report outputs were used as part of the final report to the Academic Advisory Committee.  The report is in DRAFT format and may be available by request to Andrew Garey, PhD, Team Leader for the Water Monitoring Division at the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality.

GIS specific deliverables include:

  • Delineation of watershed boundaries using filled Digital Elevation Model (DEM) data. Download, fill and mosaic data to create a base elevation layer for study area.
  • Gradient of stream course within watershed
  • Total relief of watershed.
  • Slope within the entire watershed as well as the mean and median slope values for each delineated watershed.
  • Total area and type of soil within each delineated watershed.
  • Quantification of total area and type of land cover types within each watershed using the VGIN land cover dataset.
  • Land cover change analysis over the past 10 years in the delineated watershed.
  • Area of VDOT road right of way found within each watershed
  • Number and surface area of impoundments within each watershed and distances to study sites
  • Repeat of tasks C through I in watershed area within 1 km from monitoring station.
  • Repeat of above analysis at distances of 50, 100 and 200m from stream channels within each watershed
  • Cartographic out and presentation material development

(2)  Garey, Andrew.  2019.  DRAFT Development of Aquatic Life Use Assessment Protocols for Class VII Waters in Virginia.  Publication of the Virginia Water Resources Research Center.

 


 

DEQ SALT Management Planning

 

The Salt Management Strategy Development (SaMS) “aims to prepare a strategy that is capable of achieving the target chloride (salt) loads identified in the Accotink Creek TMDL and that proactively addresses salt application in the broader surrounding region. The SaMS intends to accomplish this while fostering collaboration among all stakeholder groups involved in or impacted by snow and ice management to encourage long-term support for improved practices that protect public safety and lessen environmental, infrastructure and public health effects” (3).

In 2019, DEQ staff working on the SaMS management strategy requested help from VCU Center for Environmental Studies to conduct a GIS analysis of the Accontink Creek watershed and surrounding Northern Virginia watershed areas.  Angela Hanretty, under my supervision, collaborated with Will Isenberg in the DEQ Office of Watershed Programs and Ecology to conduct a landscape assessment to aid in SaMS working group meetings.

The project deliverables included GIS data and presentation materials detailing the relative proportion of land use characteristics in the Northern Virginia study area.  Land use categories included:

  • Proportional area of land use types in the defined watershed/study area/by county and city, defined as:
  • Transportation
  • Residential Areas
  • Commercial/Industrial Areas
  • Mixed Use (combinations of Commercial, Residential, Agricultural)
  • Open Space/Parks
  • Special Development Areas
  • Proportional area of impervious surfaces broken calculated for categories listed in objective 1 for entire study area, including for each City and County in study area, for Accotink watershed, and for HUC 10 boundaries that fall within the study area.

Final compiled results were presented at the May 2019 SaMS working group meeting in Northern Virginia and delivered to the DEQ.  An interactive ArcGIS Online story map and website are in development.

 


DEQ Spatial Analysis of Ion Conductivity Trends in Virginia Streams

As part of the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality’s (DEQ) mandate to administer state and federal obligations of improving and protecting Virginia’s streams and water uses, the DEQ conducts targeted and probabilistic water monitoring throughout the state.  The DEQ develops a water quality monitoring plan to aid in planning efforts (2).  The DEQ has long term water quality data and was interested in conducting an assessment to identify possible trends in landscape and data.

The spatial analysis of ion conductivity trends in Virginia Streams was an independent study project undertaken by Joseph Rhodes, under my supervision, and the water monitoring division of the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality.  The DEQ coordinators for this project were Robert Stewart and Andrew Garey, PhD.

The DEQ has approximately 400 water quality monitoring sites in Virginia.  This study focused on high priority sites exhibiting steady increases in ion conductivity over time.  A total of 96 out of the 400 sites were analyzed to be used as part of a DEQ trend analysis.  The landscape characterization effort included the delineation of watershed boundaries, historic and current land cover assessments, current and historic population and housing census data, and total area of road right of way coverage within the delineated watersheds.

The final report and data were provided to the DEQ for their trend analysis work in May of 2019.

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