Thursday, June 7, 2012

Landsat images help UW Lab School students learn about Africa’s natural diversity and environmental issues

With the help of Landsat images, 17 seventh and eighth grade students learned about Africa’s immense natural resource diversity and some of its environmental problems. Tim Blum and Cady McClurg, social science teachers, wanted to introduce their students “to the idea that a study of Africa ought not to dwell on the concept of the circle of life” as popularized in Hollywood movies.  However, they did not want students “locked into the concept that Africa is just one disaster after another.”

Students saw how large, mechanized wheat farms near the Masai Mara National Reserve (Kenya) reduced the natural grasslands that are crucial habitats for wildebeests; increasing population have cleared all but 1,500 acres of the original 250,000 acres of intact forest (Rwanda) and converted them to tea plantations; agricultural operations have expanded 10-fold in the Dakhla Oasis region (Egypt) that rely on waters from deep aquifers that cannot be easily recharged;  how 34 years of Kampala’s growth (Uganda) impacted adjacent forests and wetlands resulting in eutrophication of lakes (figure); growth of Moroccan cities along the Atlantic coastline; and how construction of dams resulted in less inflow and more aquatic plants in Ichkeul Lake (Tunisia).  Commenting on the value of these images Tim said “[they] helped my students grasp the idea that Africa is a very diverse continent.”

Landsat Images (the longest operating satellite remote sensing program) in this presentation were obtained from USGS and NASA websites (agencies jointly responsible for operating Landsat satellites).

These images contain a wealth of information that can be a valuable teaching resource used for to educate students about the environment and the changes caused by nature and humans.

This outreach activity was conducted on 22 May 2012 by WyomingView coordinator Ramesh Sivanpillai as part of AmericaView’s Earth Observation Day activities aimed at introducing teachers and students to remote sensing science and applications.

Image sources:
USGS: http://landsat.usgs.gov/gallery.php
NASA: http://landsat.gsfc.nasa.gov/image