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Virginia Univ. Center brings nation

Valuable land use information ranging from soil makeup to the location of federally protected sites will be a mouse click away when a national geographic research facility opens at West Virginia University.

The National Geospatial Development Center is a partnership involving the Department of Geology and Geography in WVU’s Eberly College of Arts and Sciences and the Natural Resources Conservation Service in the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The center, which is scheduled to open in June, was made possible by $4.34 million that U.S. Sen. Robert C. Byrd, D-W.Va., added to federal legislation. “I am excited about the opportunities that this project presents not only to West Virginians, but also to all Americans,” Byrd said. “For farmers, this means a better understanding of the earth in their fields. For businesses, it means better placed, more focused and improved investments.

“For individuals, it means a more thorough analysis of the soundness of their homes’ foundations,” the senator added. “Utilizing the expertise and technology at the University, this effort will help to improve safety and expand economic opportunity.”

In partnership with NRCS, the Department of Geology and Geography will support the agency’s natural resource business needs through the innovative use of GIS and other technology tools. As a result, NRCS will increase its technology infrastructure to support the delivery of programs in the field.

“WVU, in addition to other NRCS centers, will provide the GIS research and software development tools that NRCS will use to perform its work,” said Trevor Harris, department chairman and co-director of the center. “We’ll be utilizing data from the NRCS data repositories, developing computer tools to analyze the information, and sharing these tools with scientists and decision-makers.”

The center builds on already existing and extensive GIS facilities and faculty expertise in the Department of Geology and Geography, Harris said.

The department is home to the West Virginia GIS Technical Center, which provides valuable support to the state’s GIS enterprise, and has one of the nation’s largest concentrations of faculty who specialize in geographic information science.

Its location at WVU will create research opportunities for graduate students in areas such as virtual reality, remote sensing and Internet GIS. Additional research opportunities will evolve through partnerships with other academic institutions, governmental agencies and the private sector.