Shawna Dark and Danielle Bram
Like everything else in the sunny Southland, its wetlands are unique. “Wetlands are really dynamic in Southern California,” said CSUN geographer Shawna Dark. “You’ll have periods of drought where you won’t have as many, followed by periods of tremendous rainfall, where everything seems like a wetland.”
What they do share with wetlands in other regions is enough to keep Dark, project partner Danielle Bram and their team of highly-skilled students up at night: fragility. Encroaching development can destroy wetlands, which provide natural flood control, pollution filtration, vegetation and wildlife habitat.
The seasonal nature of Southern California’s wetlands makes comprehensive mapping critical; they can’t be saved if they can’t be found.
However, until CSUN was hand-pickeda few years ago by the federal National Wetlands Inventory (NWI) as “the primary mapping hub” for Southern California, very little wetland mapping ever had been done in the region.
Now, under the auspices of Northridge’s Center for Geographic Studies and its Geography Department, the Dark/Bram team is mapping the entire south coast region—documenting every stream, creek, pond, estuary and marine environment by location and size.
Funded by a $427,000 grant from several local agencies, the team uses sophisticated Geographic Information Systems (GIS) software to automate the process.
“The NWI couldn’t have chosen a better place than CSUN,” Dark said. “We have a fantastic lab, we have all the facilities, and we have fantastic students who can do this work.”
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