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Geographic Information Scientist Wins Soil Conservation Award

Release Date: December 14, 2007

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Chris S. Renschler has received the 2007 Young Scholar Award from the Soil and Water Management and Conservation Division of the Soil Science Society of America.

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Chris S. Renschler, Ph.D., associate professor of geography at the University at Buffalo has been awarded the 2007 Young Scholar Award from the Soil and Water Management and Conservation Division of the Soil Science Society of America.

The award recognizes scientists who have made an outstanding contribution in Soil and Water Management and Conservation within seven years of completing their doctorate.

Renschler received the award recently at the 2007 annual meeting of the Soil Science Society of America in New Orleans in recognition of his major impact on the management and protection of public lands and water resources.

His research has focused on geo-spatial modeling of natural resources, hydrology, and erosion by linking geographic information systems (GIS), environmental process models and publicly available data sources.

With funding over the past several years from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Forest Service and the U.S. Department of Interior Bureau of Land Management, he has developed and supported a GIS software tool that is helping the U.S. Forest Service to more quickly and accurately assess and mitigate the devastation of soil erosion after wildfires or rangeland fires.

Renschler and his colleagues originally developed the software program called GeoWEPP (Geo-spatial interface for the Water Erosion Prediction Project), to help land managers assess where to target soil and water conservation measures in agricultural lands and forests. At the same time, it also is applicable to various other natural and managed ecosystems, such as grasslands, mining areas or even construction sites.

More recently, they have added new capabilities to help managers plan their fuel management efforts to reduce the risk of future wildfires and estimate their adverse environmental and economic impacts.

Renschler's GeoWEPP is used widely by scientists and land managers at numerous government agencies, including the Agricultural Research Service and Forest Service of the USDA, the U.S.

Department of Interior, the Bureau of Land Management and other land management agencies for land use planning, environmental analysis and management practice evaluation.

Currently, Renschler is conducting research that takes these software tools and applies them to a much broader range of extreme events in order to better prepare for, and mitigate effects of, environmental change, including land use and climate change.

Renschler also is working with colleagues at MCEER, headquartered at UB, on additional research funded by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to develop a community resilience index for communities along the U.S. Gulf coast that were severely impacted by Hurricanes Rita and Katrina. The index will be based on survey data, publicly available resources and GIS and environmental models.

Renschler's work reflects UB's strategic strength in mitigation and response to extreme events that has been identified in the UB 2020 strategic plan being implemented by the university with the goal of rising among the ranks of the nation's public research universities.

A research scientist with the National Center for Geographic Information and Analysis at UB, he is a task force member of MCEER's Remote Sensing Institute.

The author or co-author of numerous refereed publications and principal investigator on grants approaching $770,000, Renschler earned his doctorate at the University of Bonn in Germany.

In addition to the agencies already mentioned, his research has been funded by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and the Army Corps of Engineers.

The UB Office of the Vice President for Research also has funded his work.

Renschler lives in Amherst.

The University at Buffalo is a premier research-intensive public university, the largest and most comprehensive campus in the State University of New York. UB's more than 28,000 students pursue their academic interests through more than 300 undergraduate, graduate and professional degree programs. Founded in 1846, the University at Buffalo is a member of the Association of American Universities.

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