Biology Students Trained to Use GPS/GNSS Technology

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Biology students at Virginia Highlands Community College recently received hands-on training using geospatial technology to gather scientific data at TVA’s South Holston Weir Dam.

The training session was scheduled as part of Expanding Geospatial Technician Education Through Virginia’s Community Colleges (GeoTEd), an initiative coordinated by the Virginia Space Grant Consortium. GeoTEd’s goal is to introduce students and faculty to geospatial technology and enhance the use of the technology in the workforce.

Project partners include the Virginia Community College System (VCCS), Virginia Western Community College, Thomas Nelson Community College, Southwest Virginia Community College, and the Virginia Geospatial Extension Program in the College of Natural Resources at Virginia Tech. The National Science Foundation provided funding for the project through its Advanced Technological Education program.

VHCC students participating in the salamander research project, which is led by Professor Kevin Hamed, met at the weir dam to learn how to use hand-held devices equipped with external antennas. The devices use both global positioning system (GPS) and global navigation satellite system (GNSS) technology to track salamanders that were tagged with transponders during an earlier phase of their research.

The technology will allow students to record the exact location of salamanders, log their favorite nesting sites, and document seasonal data. The ongoing research is providing valuable clues about nesting and migration habits that can help TVA make land-management decisions. Students were trained to use the GPS/GNSS devices by David Webb of Virginia Western Community College, Cherie Aukland of Thomas Nelson Community College, and Sandy Stephenson of Southwest Virginia Community College.

VHCC previously used GPS/GNSS technology to map campus trees and create a campus navigation app.

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