TAMPA, Fla. (Sept. 25, 2019) – Researchers with the University of South Florida Libraries Digital Heritage & Humanities Collections (DHHC) are using their expertise to help with recovery efforts on Abaco Island in the Bahamas. By working with Geographical Information Systems (GIS) technology, the USF group is mapping household structures and buildings as they existed prior to Hurricane Dorian’s destruction, in order to help rescue and recovery crews understand what was located there before the storm. This information provided by USF can then assist with efforts to account for missing people and be used going forward in mitigation.
Researchers are using aerial imagery and remote sensing data from satellites to examine island conditions before and after the Category 5 hurricane. They’re then creating a comparative method for digitally mapping identifiable rooftops and building footprints. The team, which includes faculty and graduate students, has already mapped more than 600 structures and shared the information with an applied research center that is making the data available to resource managers and responders on the ground.
“When you have a disaster like this, it can be hard to orient and understand what you are seeing. This can help crews make sense of the piles of destruction they’re encountering,” said DHHC co-director and research associate professor in geosciences, Dr. Lori Collins. “As a preeminent research university, we have the ability and responsibility to help when we can. This is also a way for students to gain valuable, practical experience and a good example of how they’re making an impact globally.”
Researchers will continue their work on the USF campus to map and add to the database, including documenting environmental concerns and important cultural and natural heritage sites that suffered impacts from Dorian. Current images can be found here.
About the University of South Florida
The University of South Florida, established in 1956 and located in Tampa, is a high-impact global research university dedicated to student success. The USF System includes three separately accredited institutions: USF, USF St. Petersburg and USF Sarasota-Manatee. Serving more than 50,000 students, the USF System has an annual budget of $1.8 billion and an annual economic impact of $4.4 billion. USF ranks in the top 25 nationally for research expenditures among public universities, according to the National Science Foundation. In 2018, the Florida Board of Governors designated USF as a Preeminent State Research University, placing USF in the most elite category among the state’s 12 public universities. USF is a member of the American Athletic Conference.