Geology Department Takes Over Army Geographic Info SystemJan. 26, 1998
Suppose a commercial developer needs information on where to build a mall. Instead of paying a consultant for advice, the developer could visit Baylor University's new geographic information site.
Baylor geology doctoral candidates Bruce Byars and Steve Clamons and geology undergraduate Scott Cherry recently took over development of an internationally recognized Geographic Information System (GIS) called Geographic Resource Analysis Support System (GRASS).
GRASS analyzes space-related information for science, engineering, business and land use planning. The many uses of the system include terrain analysis, subdivision planning, crop distribution, marketing demographics, and natural resource studies.
Anyone can download GRASS from Baylor's web site to their computer at no cost, according to Dr. Cleavy McKnight, assistant professor of geology at Baylor. He said GRASS is particularly useful because it can display and analyze aerial photographs, satellite images and maps.
NASA, the Department of Agriculture and the National Parks Service represent U. S. agencies that use GRASS for various projects. Byars said the web site records more than 1,200 daily hits from universities and organizations in more than 30 countries.
GRASS represents the world's fifth-largest GIS and maintains the latest research developments, said Dr. Bob Lozar, principal investigator for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' Construction Engineering Research Laboratory (CERL), which developed the system in 1982. He said that Baylor has made an impressive commitment.
"Baylor has been willing to take on the labor-intensive responsibilities of documentation, development and distribution," Lozar said.
Budget cuts forced CERL to stop development of GRASS and to find an academic institution to take on support of the system. The Baylor geology department took advantage of the opportunity.
Byars and Clamons have already updated CERL's 4.1 version of GRASS to 4.2 and will release version 5.0 later this year. The students also provide technical support for all GRASS users.
Byars and Clamons intend to publish academic papers on the project, and a trade publication called GIS World will feature GRASS in its February issue. Student and faculty interest led Byars and Clamons to develop a multimedia presentation on using the system in the classroom and for research.
McKnight and Dr. Donald Greene, professor of geology at Baylor, serve as advisers for the GRASS project, but Byars and Clamons run the program while Cherry administers the program's web site.
For more information contact McKnight at 710-4934.