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Assignment #2

Project Topic #1:   

The first project that interests me focuses on the Dead Zone found in the Gulf of Mexico off the coasts of Louisiana every summer.  This area of water is so aptly named for the fact that the level of oxygen is so depleted within this area, that it cannot support marine life.  At its largest, the Dead Zone has been measured at roughly 8,000 square miles almost the equivalent of the size of New Jersey.  Marine biologists and oceanographers blame the massive Dead Zone on the mixtures of phosphorus, nitrogen, and other chemicals from factories and farms along the Mississippi that are deposited into the Gulf of Mexico in excess every Spring.  These chemicals accelerate the growth and population size of algae blooms in the Gulf of Mexico which feed of the oxygen found in the water.  Fish flee the area swimming great distances to escape the hypoxia water.  Bottom dwellers such as crabs and snails die unable to escape the waters quickly enough.  This creates not only environmental problems but also commercial problems for the fishing industries found along the coast.       

Researchers have found that the type and amount of pollutants percolating into the Mississippi vary depending on the source.  Factories are often the producers of phosphorous pollutants while farms and residential homes contribute large amounts of nitrogen fertilizers to the water.  In my project I plan to research land use along the Mississippi River to show the number of potential land plots that contribute to the creation of the Dead Zone. I also plan to research possible floodplains along the Mississippi River.  Areas susceptible to flooding in the spring often contain high amounts of contaminants from the soil which mix in with the Mississippi.   

4 geographic/spatial questions:

-  Would I be able to find individual parcels within counties along the Mississippi?

-  Would it be too complicated to do individual parcels from every county and if so would it be just as useful to show general land  cover?

-  Will it be a problem if floodplain data crosses state and county borders and is a part of two different data sets for one area?

- Will it be difficult to work with watershed data given that the watershed for the Mississippi River is extremely complex and vast? 

4 references:

The American Association for the Advancment of Science

Dan Ferber's Keeping the Stygian Waters at Bay

Reducing Hypoxia in the Gulf of Mexico

The Gulf of Mexico Dead Zone

Existing GIS data sources:

- U.S Census of Agriculture

- Environmental Protection Agency

 Project Topic # 2:

My second project of interest focuses on beach/dune degradation of the Outer Banks barrier islands of North Carolina. The Outer Banks have been an incredibly popular tourist attraction for many years. Because of this numerous people have constructed homes there as well as local commercial businesses. This construction has severely affected and expedited the natural sediment redistribution cycle of the barrier islands caused naturally by wave action and longshore currents. Constructing along the beaches has destroyed natural barriers to erosion by flattening sand dunes and uprooting important coastal vegetation. Inland transportation has also upset the careful balance of natural erosion because of the need to build jetties which upset longshore currents and sand deposition.  I would like to map the historical retreat of the Outer Banks beaches and show that the increased presence of human construction on and around the islands has greatly increased the level of erosion and is affecting not only the beaches but the inland estuaries as well. 

4 spatial/geographic questions:

-  Will I be able to find and use historical data to make maps of the positions of the islands in the past?

-  Should I focus on one island in specific so that I could possibly show individual buildings as well as areas of vegetation and dunes?

-  Is it possible to graph ocean currents or wave patterns?

-  Would it be better to compare one island with a naturally preserved coastline such as Ocracoke Island to another island with construction such as Hatterass Island?

4 references:

- Effects of Hard Stabilization on Dry Beach Width for New Jersey

U.S Geological Survey

- Managing Coastal Erosion

- Techniques for GIS Modeling of Coastal Dunes

Existing GIS data:

- Techniques for GIS Modeling of Coastal Dunes Techniques for GIS Modeling of Coastal Dunes

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