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Dorchester students lift off with drone technology

May 20, 2019

The Horn Point Laboratory (HPL) hosted Dorchester County high school students to explore remote sensing technology with University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science (UMCES) Ph.D. student Anna Windle and partner ShoreRivers. Funded by a Chesapeake Bay Trust Environmental Education Mini Grant, 85 ninth graders from North Dorchester High School travelled to HPL in mid-May to learn how to collect scientific data from new types of technology. Drone mapping workshops were run in conjunction with ShoreRivers’ Students for Streams (S4S) environmental education program where ninth grade biology students investigate local water quality issues in the Chesapeake Bay watershed.

Drone technology provided students a hands-on experience that replicated the innovative research of scientists in their own watershed. By using drones and programming training, students were able to manually and autonomously fly drones to capture aerial images over an enlarged map of Cambridge Creek and North Dorchester High School. This information was used to identify physical, biological, and chemical threats to local water quality. This activity provided students another perspective and technique for identifying key water quality issues which will be implemented in meaningful action projects.

Led by Anna Windle, students gained valuable confidence in handling technology, inspiring them to pursue STEM education in the future.  Anna is completing her PhD in the Silsbe Lab where her research consists of both satellite and drone remote sensing to improve water quality assessment in the Bay. Specialized cameras on these platforms can track harmful sediment and algae in the Bay.  Drones can collect data from an environment more quickly, efficiently, and less destructively than by foot or boat.  Anna in passionate about introducing science, especially earth sciences, to school age people to elevate their appreciation of the possibilities available for careers that can positively impact our planet.