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Sensing Change, Remotely

NASA grant funds SDSU research on changes in African land use.
Geography professor Douglas Stow
Geography professor Douglas Stow
Geography professor Douglas Stow is headed to Africa next spring as part of a $1 million NASA grant to study urban transition and its relation to land use and land cover change in Ghana.

The three-year project will identify, map, and quantify land cover and land use change from 2000 to 2010 in four major cities of Ghana and the rural areas surrounding them, including the capital, Accra.

Since work began last fall, Stow’s team has acquired and processed satellite images, demographic and health data. They found “a remarkable amount” of urban expansion and densification between 2001 and 2007 in Kumasi, Ghana’s second largest city.

Quality of life impacts

Stow said the investigators hope to determine cause and effect relative to the land cover and land use change.

“Is urban to rural migration driving land cover and land use change or is land cover and land use change within and around cities influencing the quality of life for urban inhabitants?”

The researchers are also analyzing demographic and health surveys taken in and around Ghana from 1993 through 2008 to for clues to the quality of life implications and health impacts of these shifts, particularly as they affect child and infant mortality rates.

Stow’s co-investigators on the grant include: John Weeks, distinguished professor; Li An, associate professor; and Pete Coulter, research specialist; all from SDSU’s geography department; as well as geography professors from George Washington University and UC Santa Barbara.

Two SDSU doctoral students, two master’s students and one undergraduate are also involved in the project. The postgraduate students will base their dissertations and theses on the research findings.

Teaching award

Many of Stow’s 120-plus peer-reviewed publications have been co-authored with students, who often serve as first author.

In recognition of his mentorship in the field of geography, Stow recently received the SAIC Estes Memorial Teaching Award from the American Society for Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing (ASPRS). The award is named for John (Jack) Estes, who was Stow’s adviser during his master’s and Ph.D. work at UCSB.

At SDSU, Stow was instrumental in establishing a student chapter of ASPRS and facilitating the creation of the Volunteer Hazard Mapping Corps, a group of student volunteers certified to provide remote sensing and GIS support during natural hazard events in San Diego County.

His funded research has emphasized the application of multi-temporal remote sensing image analysis for analyzing land surface changes and dynamics. This has included research on ecosystem processes and habitat monitoring in the Arctic tundra, Mediterranean shrub land, coastal salt marsh landscapes and urban environments.
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