Geospatial Technology Being Used in Biology Courses

Biology students at Virginia Highlands Community College are using geospatial technology to map tree species on campus and to document reptile and VHCC Assistant Professor Kevin Hamed recently participated in an extensive one-week Regional Geospatial Institute that provided training using geographic information systems (GIS), global positioning systems (GPS), and remote sensing. He is now incorporating the technology into his biology courses.

Students enrolled in Plant Life of Virginia this fall are using GPS technology to map all the trees on the VHCC campus that are native species. The exercise is giving students experience using technology and identifying species, Hamed said, adding that the finished product will be a valuable tool for updating the VHCC Master Landscape Plan.

The new technology will also be used by General Biology students next spring to create a mobile app that will track reptile and amphibian life throughout the region, Hamed said. Community members can download the app on their smartphones and use it to take photos of turtles, snakes, frogs, lizards and salamanders they see. The app will record the exact location the animal was spotted and, once the information is compiled, students will have a valuable database of reptile and amphibian life in our region.

Hamed said he also plans to use the technology in March when Coastal Ecology students travel to Mississippi’s Gulf Coast Research Laboratory for a one-week study of marine life.

Nineteen community college faculty and three high school teachers participated in the training provided through the Expanding Geospatial Technician Education(GeoTEd) project. GeoTEd is coordinated by the Virginia Space Grant Consortium. Partners include the Virginia Community College System (VCCS), Virginia Western Community College, Thomas Nelson Community College, Southwest Virginia Community College, J. Sergeant Reynolds Community College, and the Virginia Geospatial Extension Program in the College of Natural Resources at Virginia Tech. The National Science Foundation provided funding through its Advanced Technological Education program.