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GI Scientist wins soil conservation award

Buffalo, USA, 14 December 2007 – Chris S. Renschler, Ph.D., associate professor of geography at the University at Buffalo has been awarded the 2007 Young Scholar Award from the Soil and Water Management and Conservation Division of the Soil Science Society of America.

The award recognizes scientists who have made an outstanding contribution in Soil and Water Management and Conservation within seven years of completing their doctorate. Renschler received the award recently at the 2007 annual meeting of the Soil Science Society of America in New Orleans in recognition of his major impact on the management and protection of public lands and water resources.

His research has focused on geo-spatial modelling of natural resources, hydrology, and erosion by linking geographic information systems (GIS), environmental process models and publicly available data sources.
With funding over the past several years from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Forest Service and the U.S. Department of Interior Bureau of Land Management, he has developed and supported a GIS software tool that is helping the U.S. Forest Service to more quickly and accurately assess and mitigate the devastation of soil erosion after wildfires or rangeland fires.

Renschler and his colleagues originally developed the software program called GeoWEPP (Geo-spatial interface for the Water Erosion Prediction Project), to help land managers assess where to target soil and water conservation measures in agricultural lands and forests. At the same time, it also is applicable to various other natural and managed ecosystems, such as grasslands, mining areas or even construction sites. The software available as extensions for ArcGIS 9.x and ArcView 3.x can be downloaded from the site.

More recently, they have added new capabilities to help managers plan their fuel management efforts to reduce the risk of future wildfires and estimate their adverse environmental and economic impacts.

Renschler’s GeoWEPP is used widely by scientists and land managers at numerous government agencies across US. Currently, Renschler is conducting research that takes these software tools and applies them to a much broader range of extreme events in order to better prepare for, and mitigate effects of, environmental change, including land use and climate change.

A research scientist with the National Center for Geographic Information and Analysis at UB, he is a task force member of MCEER’s Remote Sensing Institute. He has is also an author/ co-author of numerous refereed publications and principal investigator on grants approaching $770,000, Renschler earned his doctorate at the University of Bonn in Germany.