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July 8, 2010

Geosciences professor contributes to book on global change

The endowed professor in geosciences at the University of Louisiana at Monroe has contributed a chapter to a book on global climatology that highlights how current research is addressing rapid change in the Caribbean region.

Dr. Sean Chenoweth co-authored chapter five of the book Global Change and Caribbean Vulnerability: Environment, Economy and Society at Risk. He was joined by Dr. Mick Day of the University of Wisconsin-Milwauke in writing the chapter titled “Potential Impacts of Anthropogenic Environmental Change on the Caribbean Karst.” Karst is a landscape created when layers of soluble bedrock are dissolved.

In 1997, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature World Commission on Protected Areas recognized karst landscapes, including those in the Caribbean, as being at risk of degradation and warranting protection.

“The Caribbean is one of the premier karst regions in the world with a limestone area of nearly 130,000 square kilometers, more than half the total land area of the region,” said Chenoweth. “Over 50 percent of the region's population depends upon the karstlands for water supply and agriculture.”

Karst terrains are challenging to human habitation since they possess a broad array of natural hazards, according to Chenoweth. Karst landscapes are vulnerable because of their unique hydrology, with sporadic surface drainage, limited surface water storage and rapid subterranean flow.

“Soils within the karst are often patchy and thin. Karst landscape ecology is adapted to these hydrologic and edaphic constraints, the parameters of which can be altered radically by anthropogenic environmental change,” said Chenoweth. “This dual vulnerability to natural and human-induced hazards renders the karst particularly important regional barometer of environmental well-being.”

The book is published by the University of the West Indies Press, with chapters presented as a series of original, empirical research contributions. The chapters share a common theme of the search for social and economic strategies that focus on the region’s population without further deterioration to its fragile resources. Climate change, sustainable food production systems, urban planning and community development are among the topics covered in the book.

Chenoweth completed his Ph.D. at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee in 2003, specializing in Geomorphology, Remote Sensing and GIS. His remote sensing and GIS projects include the Poverty Point Remote Sensing Project; the Biogeomorphology of Jamaican Cockpit Country; Remote Sensing of Citrus in the Cayo West Special Development Area, Belize; Crop Use Intensity and Landforms of North Korea; and Florida Keys Reef Tract Aerial Survey of Sea Turtles. He serves as faculty advisor to Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, the Catholic Campus Ministry and to Sigma Gamma Epsilon, the National Honor Society for the Earth Sciences at ULM.

The Endowed Professorship in Geology endowment was established to encourage and reward excellence in teaching, learning and research at ULM.

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