It’s not unusual for cartographers to be asked “But hasn’t the world already been mapped?”
The answer Clark University student Kasyan Green ’21 might have given a year ago is: “No. At least not as far as open space in the city of Worcester is concerned.” Because there are maps, and now, thanks to the power of remote sensing imagery and geographic information science, there are better maps.
The Greater Worcester Land Trust (GWLT), a local nonprofit organization that preserves and protects open space in Worcester County, was looking for an alternative to the open-space map the city had already created. GWLT thought Green, a geography major with an interest in remote sensing and digital mapping, could help.
Green explains that GWLT had appeared on his radar during his first year at Clark.
“I went hiking on one of their properties — Cascading Waters — here in Worcester,” he says. “I then met GWLT’s director, Colin Novick, at an internship fair on campus, and we starting talking about the GIS projects he was working on. I kept in contact and then reached out to him just before starting my sophomore year. I have always found the idea of bridging the gap between urban landscapes and the wilderness really appealing, especially through the lens of conservation.”
Green explains that the city’s map showing open space was parcel-based — that is, each legally defined parcel was coded according to its primary land use, whether residential, manufacturing, open space, etc. This method of classification is appropriate for certain uses, but less effective for identifying the entirety of open space, he says.
Green’s maps took a different approach by disregarding parcel boundaries. Instead, he used satellite imagery and image analysis to detect areas of vegetation — land cover as opposed to land use — and classified each individual image pixel accordingly. This method allowed areas of vegetation within and across parcels to form their own natural boundaries. Among the maps Green created was one showing open space newly identified since 2006 and another that showed open space lost since 2006. Green and GWLT members presented their maps to the Worcester planning office in December 2018.
Green continued his work with GWLT throughout the summer, creating a catalog of documents detailing each of the trust’s open-space properties throughout Worcester County, ranging from under an acre to more than 100 acres. Green creates maps, researches and records property histories, summarizes the conservation restrictions on each parcel, and hikes and canoes around the properties to photograph and document their status.
To navigate his academic journey, Green has relied on guidance from two members of the Geography Department faculty, assistant professor Asha Best and associate professor Rinku Roy Chowdhury, who serve as his major and internship advisers, respectively.
Best, he says, “has really challenged me to consider what I am getting from the experiences I choose to take, and to reflect on how my experiences are shaping what I want to do in the future.”
Roy Chowdhury, he says, “has encouraged me to explore where my interests lie within geography on a much deeper level than I had ever anticipated.”
Funding from Clark is what made Green’s internship possible.
“The opportunity to apply for funding from Clark is incredible — without that, I would not have been able to stay in Worcester to complete an unpaid internship,” says the United Kingdom native. “Thanks to this, I feel more prepared for whatever trail I decide to pursue after Clark.” The map is his to create.