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West Virginia University researcher hoping to map past, present and future of state in order to preserve, protect


MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (WV News) — Research from West Virginia University is shaping a new understating of the state’s mountainous landscape, and identifying ways to preserve it. 

As WVU’s latest NSF CAREER Award winner, Assistant Professor of Geography Aaron Maxwell will use big data to map what the surface of West Virginia looked like over the last 60 years. The funding includes $636,785 over five years. 

Maxwell will use data analytics and advanced computational methods to extract valuable information from existing geospatial data over wide regions of the state. Through these methods, his research can increase our understanding of natural landscapes and how they change over time. 

“West Virginia is an interesting place to do this type of work because of the rich, complicated history with surface mining and, on a larger scale, with mountaintop mining in the southern region,” Maxwell said in a release. “There have been massive changes in just the lay of the land, flattening mountaintops and filling in valleys. Having older data and new data allows you to look at change to see where there have been gains and losses in elevation.” 

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