Paper No. 10
Presentation Time: 9:00 AM-6:30 PM
USING GIS AND PUBLIC OPINION SURVEYS TO DETERMINE SITE SUITABILITY FOR OFFSHORE WIND TURBINES IN PA-WATERS OF LAKE ERIE IN A FRESHMAN-SOPHOMORE ENVIRONMENTAL RESEARCH METHODS CLASS AT ALLEGHENY COLLEGE, MEADVILLE, PA
Environmental Science and Studies majors at Allegheny College are required to take ENVSC 210, Environmental Research Methods, a second-semester freshman- or sophomore-level course designed as an introduction to both natural and social science methods. The class is project-based, typically with two large projects that demonstrate research methodologies over the course of the semester. It also strives to be relevant, with project topic selection of local and/or temporal significance. Currently, the State of Pennsylvania is in the early stages of considering offshore wind development in PA-waters of Lake Erie. Several developers have expressed development interests and at least two public meetings have been held in the Erie area in the last two years to discuss what offshore wind development might mean for the region. Little data on site suitability or public opinion exist to help support PA law-makers and the public in the decision-making process, however. Students in the Spring 2011 and 2012 classes of ENVSC 210 were involved in every step of project development, including what questions we would address and how we would tackle them. Students had no GIS experience at the start of the project, but learned how to collect, digitize, georeference, and analyze data, including ranking data to create unweighted and weighted overlays with decision criteria explained. We partnered students, divided tasks at the whole-class scale, and relied on upper classmen student TAs with GIS experience to assist in labs and reduce program-based frustrations. Students used 9-15 environmental layers ranging from lake depth to shipwreck locations to aviation and shipping lanes, among others, to create their maps. Their results show two areas of high suitability that match well with public opinions of offshore wind garnered through more than 200 surveys that students designed, facilitated, and then analyzed. These data may help inform the discussion of offshore wind development in PA-waters of Lake Erie, while also developing quantitative research skills in Allegheny Environmental Science students.