River Basins Research Initiative
The River Basins Research Initiative (RBRI) began in 1996 with two students studying a 3 sq. km. watershed, and has grown to become an interdisciplinary study of the Broad and Saluda River Basins that, since 1999, has involved more than 170 student participants and funded by public and private organizations. The long-term goal of this research program is the systematic characterization of both rural and urban watersheds to develop an understanding of the extent of human impact, particularly urbanization, on river systems in the Blue Ridge and Piedmont Provinces of South Carolina . Our research broadly encompasses studies of land cover change and the impact of change on stream hydrology, biogeochemistry, biodiversity, and geomorphology. For more information on RBRI, visit http://rbri.furman.edu.
Appalachian Mapping Project
Ever wonder how mountains form and how long it takes? Back in the 1990s Furman faculty began geologic mapping at 1:24,000-scale in the Inner Piedmont of South Carolina and adjacent North Carolina to try to answer those and related questions. In the intervening years, 40+ students have helped map sixteen 7.5-minute quadrangles (each about 150 square kilometers in area) in order to decipher the origin and history of this part of the Southern Appalachian orogen. That history involves complex polyphase folding and ductile and brittle faulting related to multiple Paleozoic intrusive and collisional tectonic events. Our research also encompasses investigations of the rocks and minerals of the region (via thin section, X-ray, and electron microprobe analysis), which contain clues about the timing of events and the temperatures and pressures of metamorphism.
Logistical and financial support for the field and laboratory study of upstate geology has been provided in 1995-1996 by an NSF-REU grant (Research Experiences for Undergraduates), grants to students through the Furman Advantage program, and the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources-Geological Survey. The SC Survey has published and made available to the public our geologic maps as part of their GQM map series (available on the DNR website).
Sustainability Science Research
Sustainability explores the dynamic relationships among social, economic, and environmental systems so as to enhance the long-term quality of life. In collaboration with the David E. Shi Center for Sustainability, the Earth and Environmental Sciences department conducts several research projects that are sustainability related. The David E. Shi Center for Sustainability fosters innovative academic experiences related to sustainability. The core mission of the David E. Shi Center for Sustainability at Furman University is to promote the study of sustainability both on campus and in the greater community. By working as a connector across disciplines and facilitator across divisions, the Center supports the integration of themes and topics related to sustainability into Furman's academic program through curriculum development and research. Interdisciplinary research in the field of sustainability includes exploration of the dynamics and connections among systems. Faculty and students are studying energy, water, transportation, land, ecological, climate, food, and human systems on campus and in the region. As part of our research agenda, for example, students and faculty are examining perceptions and behaviors related to conservation practices as well as monitoring energy use and water quality on campus and in the greater community.
GIS and Remote Sensing Research
The department introduced GIS and Remote Sensing into curriculum in 2002 and this area has grown significantly since then. Students and faculty involved in research in this area typically study the impacts of land cover changes on the environment at various levels such as hydrologic cycles, water quality, air pollution etc., or study and analyze the spatial and or temporal distribution of various human and environmental elements. Research in this area happens both in class and during summer. Independent student lead term projects during the semesters focus on addressing campus and community needs whereas the summer research projects focus on improving our understanding of how river basins function through GIS based modeling and remote sensing based land use and land cover change studies. Recent student projects have contributed significantly to Furman's commitment to sustainability. More details on projects can be found online.