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SU Environmental Researchers Earn $555,000 in Grants

SALISBURY, MD---From charting the rainforests of the Amazon to stretches of old growth forests in Worcester and Wicomico counties, Salisbury University faculty recently received some $555,000 in scientific research grants.

Dr. Jill Caviglia-Harris of the Economics and Finance Department along with faculty from North Carolina State University (NC State) and the University of California-Santa Barbara (UCSB) were awarded a $530,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to continue their study of the Amazon.  This is Caviglia-Harris’ third National Science Foundation grant since her dissertation on land use patterns in deforested areas of the Amazon in 1996.

The grant will allow an interdisciplinary team faculty and student researchers from SU, NC State and UCSB to conduct the fourth in a series of interviews from selected families now living on the deforested Amazon frontier.

The information collected from these households is matched using geographical information systems with remote sensing data, allowing the researchers to gain a visual picture of the ongoing transformation occurring in the region’s forests. The ongoing project serves as a record of welfare and land use patterns among frontier inhabitants.

The greater number of years of data we have allows us to better run the models we want to run,” said Caviglia-Harris.

Dan Harris of the Geography and Geosciences Department also participates in the interdisciplinary study, collecting global positioning data for satellite images that, when overlaid, will allow researchers to compare frontier growth in the same four-year intervals as the interviews.

Closer to home, Drs. Joan Maloof and Judith Stribling of the Biological Sciences Department, along with Dr. Alexis Aguilar of the Geography and Geosciences Department and Dr. Michael Lewis of the History Department, recently received a $25,000 grant from The Nature Conservancy to study the history of original forest landscapes in the Nassawango Creek Watershed near Snow Hill, MD.

The conservancy “would like eventually to restore the forests it owns to their original conditions—but what are those original conditions?” said Maloof.

By locating and studying the oldest forest tracts in that area, SU researchers hope to assist the conservancy in determining what plants and animals were native to the Nassawango area prior to colonial settlement. Faculty and students are using several different methods in this research, including land grant records, correspondence from early settlers, modern global positioning data and field research.

“It’s like forest forensics,” said Maloof.

In addition to land owned by The Nature Conservancy and the State of Maryland, researchers are interested in studying any private property within the Pocomoke watershed that may have been left undisturbed over many centuries.

“Generally, these old forests will have some very large trees of different varieties, and there will be rotting logs on the floor of the forests,” said Maloof.

Anyone who believes they may own a stretch of older woodland and would allow researchers on the property is asked to e-mail Maloof at

For more information call 410-543-6030 or visit the SU Web site at