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SDSU graduate student honoured for scientific paper

A South Dakota State University student has won a prestigious award in her field of research — and urban taxpayers may benefit.

Research associate Pravara Thanapura of SDSU’s Engineering Resource Center, a Ph.D. student in geospatial science and engineering, won the award for proposing an improved method for accurately estimating runoff index in urban areas.

The peer-reviewed paper won third place in the competition for the ESRI Award for Best Scientific Paper in GIS. ESRI, founded as Environmental Systems Research Institute in 1969, is a world leader in geographic information systems software.

Thanapura’s paper, “Mapping Urban Land Cover Using QuickBird NDVI and GIS Spatial Modeling for Runoff Coefficient Determination,” was originally published in the January 2007 issue of Photogrammetric Engineering & Remote Sensing (PE&RS). Photogrammetric Engineering & Remote Sensing is the official journal of the American Society for Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing (ASPRS).

The paper was also the sole winner of the 2006 BAE Systems award for the best student paper contest in a national and international competition of the 2006 ASPRS annual conference in Reno, Nev.

Thanapura said that determining “runoff index” is a critical step in calculating runoff volumes and peak discharge for the two most widely used urban rainfall runoff models. Accurately estimating runoff index is critical in drainage design and analysis.

Thanapura said conventional ground-based methods for estimating runoff index are time-consuming and labor-intensive, since they require detailed information about land use/land cover, as well as soil data. She said one alternative is to use remote sensing and GIS technologies to provide spatial input information needed for estimating runoff index values.

Thanapura’s proposed solution is the composite runoff index geographic model, which she developed at SDSU in 2005-2006. The model allows for repeatability and consistency of results by removing human error factors, increases speed, and potentially reduces costs in estimating runoff index values. She believes the method provides an effective and efficient methodology in drainage design, analysis, and water management for small and mid-sized watersheds in urban ungaged areas.

“The end products could benefit engineers in designing minor drainage structures such as sized culverts and sewer pipes to effectively remove storm water out of an area. That, in turn, could help prevent local and downstream flooding and thus could enhance public safety, economic development, and quality of life for urban taxpayers,” Thanapura said.

Thanapura will attend the award presentation at the ASPRS 2008 Annual Conference in Portland, Ore., in April.