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May 29, 1997

UPB gets earth science grant

NASA's Mission to Planet Earth Program has awarded Assad Panah, professor of geology and environmental science at Pitt's Bradford campus (UPB), a $60,000 grant to conduct a cross-disciplinary literacy workshop on earth system science.

UPB is one of only 12 schools in the nation to receive the grant, the purpose of which is to help teachers develop a better understanding of earth's processes.

"The course provides hands-on training and experience in applied environmental problem-solving through field studies, labs and utilization of space-based technology," Panah said.

Both polar-orbiting and geostationary satellite data will be used in the workshop. UPB's Telonics Remote Imaging System (TIRIS) will digitally enhance the satellite data to produce detailed color composites of the Earth that students will use to monitor and assess environmental processes, especially climate change.

Participants will use real-time data from satellites to survey floods, study earthquakes, map oil spills, locate hot spots in forest fires and even collect information that can be used to help predict outbreaks of disease-carrying mosquitoes.

Teamed with information collected by aircraft and ground observers, such satellite data can help scientists better understand environmental changes and their consequences, and determine how human activities have contributed to those changes.

"Data collected from space and ground stations are essential to humans making informed decisions about protecting their environment," Panah said. "This new field is maturing rapidly, driven by our concern for economic growth and environmental conservation." The one-week course will involve 12 students working toward teaching degrees at accredited colleges or in alternative certification programs, and four experienced teachers from the Bradford area. This year's workshop will be Aug. 2-8. It will be repeated in 1998 and 1999.

In addition to Panah, UPB faculty who will teach during the workshop are: Edgar Hopkins, associate professor of geology and environmental science; John Chandler, assistant professor of biology; Joanne Burgert, director of teacher education, and Marietta Frank, coordinator of teacher education.

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