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Boisi Center for Religion and American Public Life

Ways of Knowing: Field Science in the 21st Century

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Noah Snyder, Boston College
Date: February 4, 2009
Time: 12:00 PM - 1:15 PM
Location: Boisi Center, 24 Quincy Road


Geology is a field-based science. In the 18th and 19th centuries, broadly trained naturalists developed the modern discipline by observing earth features and processes. As geomorphologist, Snyder studies the evolution of landscapes, primarily through topographical observations. River erosion, transport and deposition -- these processes respond to changes in climate, land use and tectonics. Using data collected with a laser-based elevation mapping system deployed from airplanes, Snyder analyzes the changes in these geological areas. The surveys done by air yield high-resolution digital elevation models: raster representations of the landscape with a 1-meter grid scale. These datasets allow scientists to visualize landscapes and quantify processes in new ways. However, on-the-ground fieldwork is essential to developing new insights into how rivers work. In this talk, Snyder will explore how the modern geomorphologist combines high technology with field measurements and observations to gain knowledge about earth processes and history. In particular, he will use examples from his research in rivers in coastal Maine and Death Valley, California.

photo of Noah Snyder

Noah Snyder is an Assistant Professor in Boston College's department of Geology and Geophysics. He holds a PhD in geology from Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a BS from Bates College, Lewiston, ME. Snyder's research focuses on understanding how rivers respond to perturbations, ranging from long-term changes in tectonics or climate to short-term changes in management style or land use. In addition to field measurements and mapping of stream morphology, tools used for his research include numerical modeling, and analysis of digital elevation data and remote-sensing imagery using state-of-the-art computer hardware and software.