St. Olaf College | News

Earth sciences journal publishes findings of St. Olaf research course

CanadianJournal2013New300x388The Canadian Journal of Earth Sciences recently published the collaborative research efforts of Professor of Biology and Environmental Studies Charles Umbanhowar Jr. and students in his Landscape and Regional Change in the Arctic course.

Umbanhowar and students were interested in documenting changes in the arctic landscape associated with global warming. The team focused on a region in northern Manitoba and compared satellite imagery with aerial photos from the 1950s.

By tracing the outlines of water bodies and areas of bare soil with GIS software, they were able to analyze changes in the number, size, and location of the water bodies and barren areas.

“We found that small ponds are disappearing (drying) and at the same time barren areas are also rapidly disappearing as they become covered with plants, which we suggested was indicative of warmer and wetter conditions,” says Umbanhowar.

The research-centered course held the goal of achieving publication from early on. Umbanhowar served as technical support to students as they analyzed different images and eventually combined their research into a single paper.

“It is still quite unusual for an undergraduate research course to result in a publication,” says Umbanhowar. “But there may be no better way to learn science than by actually doing it.”