Research

Areas of expertise at NRAC include:

  • GIS based planning and decision-making support
  • Watershed-based analysis and applications
  • Land cover mapping
  • Landscape analysis, wildlife modeling, recreation
  • Local, state, regional GIS data development
  • Natural resource management, energy issues, economic development
  • Economic development and environmental sustainability
  • Remote Sensing:
    • Airborne and Terrestrial LiDAR
    • Aerial photography
    • Hyperspectral imaging

Research links:

Highlights of current and recent NRAC projects:

Upper Shavers Fork, WV, Natural Stream and Fish Passage Restoration

Project Funding: WV Division of Natural Resources, WV Department of Environmental Protection, Eastern Brook Trout Joint Venture, Natural Resources Conservation Service, Tygart Valley Conservation District
NRAC Project Contact: Paul Kinder

Mini_ShaversFork
NRAC provides planning, technical, geospatial, and project management support to the WV DNR Stream Restoration Program and its many partners. The goals of this project are to holistically assess the fishery conditions of the Upper Shavers Fork watershed, plan for, and implement stream habitat and fish passage restoration primarily focusing on native brook trout population sustainability. Thus far, three important fish passage projects have been completed at Beaver Creek, Lamothe Hollow, and Oats Run. Between these fish passage projects, four miles of in-stream habitat restoration was completed by NRCS and Tygart Valley Conservation District.

Southern Coalfields LiDAR Project

Project Funding: WV Department of Environmental Protection
NRAC Project Contact: Paul Kinder

mini_DEPLidar
The goal of the project was to provide the WV state government with high resolution airborne LiDAR data suitable for use by a wide array of industries and professionals. Selected products produced from these datasets include digital elevation models, canopy height models, hydraulic and hydrologic models, planimetric and contour mapping, as well as volume calculations for natural resource stockpiles. Other unique benefits of the data have been to geo-rectify and scale sub-surface mine maps, detect previously undocumented salt mine portals, and locate non-permitted ‘wildcat’ mines. Multiple-pulse airborne LiDAR was the preferred technology for this endeavor, as previous attempts with other methods were not able to penetrate the forest canopies. To date, NRAC has flown over 62,000 miles to collect 5,000,000+ acres within West Virginia, principally focused on the southern coalfields.

Alternative Futures for the Mountaintop Removal-Valley Fill Mining Region of West Virginia

Project Funding: EPA
NRAC Project Contact: Michael Strager, Aaron Maxwell

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This research is part of an ongoing effort to develop a technical tool to improve reliability of mine permitting decisions in the Central Appalachians, related to regional and watershed-scale impacts. The research quantifies mining thresholds as they relate to ecological impairment downstream. The data are incorprorated into a Geographic Information Systems based alternative futures modeling system, used to efficiently reach scientifically based management decisions. Additional project investigators: Todd Petty, Paul Ziemkiewicz.

Development of a Spatially Explicit Surface Coal Mining Predictive Model

Project Funding: The Nature Conservancy
NRAC Project Contact: Michael Strager, Jacquelyn Strager

Mini_CoalPrediction2
The goal of this project is to create a spatially explicit model for the Appalachian Landscape Conservation Cooperative region predicting the future spatial extent of surface coal mining under alternative coal production scenarios through the year 2035. To accomplish this goal we combined GIS spatial analysis, a Random Forest predictive model, and econometric regression with the best available data.

Central WV Geologic Study, Webster County, WV

Project Funding: Energy Corporation America
NRAC Project Contact: Paul Kinder
Project Web Page: Link

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The goal of this project is to perform detailed sub- surface analysis and mapping using 3D seismic data. Seismic attributes will be applied to enhance the visibility of critical structural features (faults, fractures, and folds) for better understanding the hydrocarbon system: migration pathway, trapping geometry, and sealing capacity. Airborne LiDAR is the best technology available to provide this data needed to perform this analysis.

Long Term Environmental and Economic Impacts of Coal Liquefaction in China coal

Project Funding: Various
NRAC Project Contact: Jerald J. Fletcher, Qingyun Sun
Project Web Page: US-China Energy Center

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The Shenhua Group Corporation is developing the world’s first commercial coal liquefaction facility to transform coal into diesel fuel and gasoline in the Inner Mongolia Province of China. This facility will showcase the positive aspects of coal liquefaction technologies but the scale of the development raises environmental concerns as well. Under the US-China Bilateral Agreement, West Virginia University (WVU) and Shenhua Group Corporation are to conduct an assessment of the long-term impacts of the development and operation of the coal liquefaction facility on the ecology, environment, and economy of the most affected region in China. Collaboration between the research team at WVU and the Shenhua Group Corporation will provide a rich and reliable database on the impacts of implementing commercial coal liquefaction technologies on the economy, on environmental quality, and on the overall ecology of the area surrounding the facility.

Dyke Marsh Wildlife Preserve, Washington, DC

Project Funding: University of Maryland
NRAC Project Contact: Paul Kinder
Project Web Page: Link

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The goal of this project is to determine the vegetation structure and land area of the Dyke Marsh Wildlife Preserve as the National Park Service looks to restore the marsh. Additionally, researchers will use this work to establish methods for utilizing LiDAR technologies to understand natural resources.

Cumulative Hydrologic Impacts of Coal Mining using HSPF

Project Funding: West Virginia Division of Environmental Protection
NRAC Project Contact: Sam Lamont

mini_hspf_Lamont
The continuous, process-based watershed model HSPF (Hydrologic Simulation Program FORTRAN) is integrated into the ArcMap 10.1 desktop framework to support impact analyses of stream water quality (TDS and Sulfate) and quantity relating to coal mining in West Virginia and to support the permit review process for WVDEP personnel. HSPF is currently calibrated to two heavily-impacted pilot study watersheds whose outlets are defined by water quality sampling points (trend stations), with the goal of including over 230 trend station watersheds throughout the mining region of the state. A custom toolbar has been built to support pre- and post-mine scenario analyses within ArcMap 10.1.

Stream Statistics Calculator for West Virginia

Project Funding: West Virginia Division of Environmental Protection
NRAC Project Contact: Sam Lamont

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A suite of annual and seasonal stream flow statistics are calculated for stream reaches throughout the state based on published USGS methodology for WVDEP NPDES permit reviewing personnel. A new stream line and catchment dataset is created using the latest 9m DEM and the open source TauDEM software. Finally, a calculator has been built within ArcMap 10.1 to support updating of the flow statistics as new trend station observations become available.

Development of USGS StreamStats Web-based Application for West Virginia

Project Funding: USGS
NRAC Project Contact: Sam Lamont

Mini_webStreamStats_Lamont
The purpose of this project is to include West Virginia in the USGS-supported online web-based GIS application StreamStats. This application “provides users with access to an assortment of analytical tools that are useful for water-resources planning and management, and for engineering design applications, such as the design of bridges.” (http://water.usgs.gov/osw/streamstats/)

Pocohontas County Water Resources Mapping Tool

Project Funding: Downstream Strategies
NRAC Project Contact: Vishesh Maskey
Project Web Page: Link

pocomapping
NRAC has provided application development support for the Pocohontas County Water Resources Management Plan, including development of an interactive mapping tool. Click here to access the online Water Resources Mapping Tool.

Enhancing Water Resources GIS Datasets for West Virginia

Project Funding: WV Department of Environmental Protection
NRAC Project Contact: Jacquelyn Strager
Project Web Page: Link

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The West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection requires consistent statewide stream codes to support current regulatory activities. WVDEP also requires statewide delineated stream segment-level watersheds. This project has fulfilled these two requirements by providing enhanced water resources GIS datasets for statewide coded streams and stream segment-level watersheds with accompanying documentation to WVDEP.

Assessment of Natural Assets in the Appalachian Region: Water Resources, Forest Resources

Project Funding: Appalachian Regional Commission
NRAC Project Contact: Michael Strager, Jacquelyn Strager
Project Web Page: Final report (Water Resources) Link Final report (Forest Resources) Link

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NRAC participated in two extended assessments of natural resource based assets in the Appalachian Region: Water Resources and Forest Resources. Both projects involved a detailed inventory and analysis of natural resources across the area served by the Appalachian Regional Commission. NRAC provided GIS data development, resource metric calculations, and development of a related decision support system for the two projects. Additional project cooperators include Downstream Strategies, the Regional Research Institute, the National Network of Forest Practitioners, the WV GIS Technical Center, the WVU Division of Forestry and Natural Resources, and the Northeast Regional Center for Rural Development.

Gap Analysis of Biodiversity for West Virginia

Project Funding: USGS
NRAC Project Contact: Jacquelyn Strager, Charles Yuill
Project Web Page: WV-GAP Land Cover Data (Link)

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The West Virginia Gap Analysis Project, completed in 2001, was a collaborative effort between West Virginia University’s Natural Resource Analysis Center, the West Virginia Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit, the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources, and the Biological Resources Division of the US Geological Survey. WV-GAP mapped the distribution of over 300 native vertebrate wildlife species in the state, based on an extensive wildlife-habitat relationship database, range maps, and land cover mapping. Final products include the wildlife distribution maps, land cover for WV, and an analysis of biodiversity protection “gaps” in the state. Contact J. Strager for final datasets, final report, and more information. A companion project was also completed by NRAC for the Central Appalachian states (WV, MD, PA, VA, DE, NJ).

Development of the Watershed Characterization and Modeling System (WCMS) and Cumulative Hydrologic Impact Assessment (CHIA) tools

Project Funding: WV Department of Environmental Protection
NRAC Project Contact: Michael Strager, Jerald J. Fletcher
Project Web Page: Link

mini_wcms
The development of the WCMS has been an ongoing effort at NRAC for many years. The Watershed Characterization and Modeling System (WCMS) Extension for ArcGIS was developed to bring spatial data and water quality modeling to the desktop of West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection (WVDEP) personnel. The current version of WCMS provides watershed and water quality modeling components for meeting common WVDEP tasks. WCMS combines a wide variety of spatial data layers with hydrological and water quality modeling concepts to aid in decision making and management of water resources.