Purchase College Senior Sarah Pawliczak ’13 Earns Prestigious Award

dsesh pseliczakThe Central New York Chapter of the American Society of Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing (ASPRS) recently named Purchase College senior Sarah Pawliczak as 2013 Central New York Chapter Student of the Year. Selected from a pool of candidates across upstate New York, Vermont, and north central Pennsylvania, Pawliczak will officially be honored on May 16 at the Westchester GIS User Group meeting to be held in the natural sciences building at Purchase. Stephen DeGloria, Ph.D., national president of ASPRS will present the award.

According to Ryan Taylor, Ph.D., assistant professor of environmental studies at Purchase, “This award is a first for our college and it represents significant recognition by the professional geospatial community. Sarah’s work in geographic information systems (GIS) and remotely sensed datasets is impressive, and well deserving of the honor.”

A native of Newburgh, NY, Pawliczak will graduate May 17 with a major in environmental studies and a minor in political science. She easily explains what, for most, sounds like highly technical scientific jargon.  “GIS is essentially a mapping system that uses digital data collected from a variety of sources including satellite images. The research, I did for my senior project involved a GIS-based analysis of wetlands in the conterminous U.S. Using geospatial technologies I was able to use  satellite data to detect regional variations in changes in wetland abundance over a 15-year period.” According to Pawliczak’s research, there has been an overall reduction in wetland abundance in the conterminous US since the mid-nineties. “It’s a result of many factors, including agricultural conversion and urban development. The value of GIS is that it allows us to compile and compare enormous data sets and use that information to gain insight and understanding about conditions and factors influencing our environment.” Sarah’s research fits into a bigger movement on the part of government officials and public policy-makers to analyze patterns in ‘big data’ in order that they might make the best informed decisions possible.

Pawliczak says she plans to attend graduate school and hopes to ultimately apply her skills to enhance environmental policy, and she is well on her way. Last year, she applied her GIS knowledge as an intern with the Town of Greenburgh’s Community Development and Conservation. She was invited to continue her work with the department last summer and is still an employee. “I have been producing maps of the town’s different land uses for Greenburgh’s Comprehensive Plan.”

Praising the environmental studies program, she says, “Our professors are passionate, not only about their unique areas of study and teaching, but also about their students. They are committed to helping us figure out which areas ‘click’ for us and encourage us to use those ‘clicks’ to develop individualized approaches in our own research.”

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