Landscape Architecture senior receives $2K grant from the CANR Undergraduate Research Program to support research on erosion

Amanda Wakefield, a senior majoring in Landscape Architecture at the MSU School of Planning, Design and Construction, received a $2,000 grant from the MSU College of Agriculture and Natural Resources Undergraduate Research Program fund.

January 8, 2019

Professional image of Amanda Wakefield.
Amanda Wakefield, a senior majoring in Landscape Architecture, received a $2,000 grant from the MSU College of Agriculture and Natural Resources Undergraduate Research Program fund.

Amanda Wakefield, a senior majoring in Landscape Architecture at the MSU School of Planning, Design and Construction, received a $2,000 grant from the MSU College of Agriculture and Natural Resources Undergraduate Research Program fund.  

Wakefield’s study focuses on measuring erosion along the Red Cedar River Corridor. She is developing a data measurement protocol to measure soil erosion issues using advanced technology, such as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs: commonly known as drones) with Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) sensors.

“The financial support gained through the undergraduate research fund will allow me to learn more about these advanced technologies through training in the form of workshops. This funding will also provide the opportunity to purchase materials for research, and cover the cost of travel to collect data” Wakefield said.

“Overall, this funding creates an opportunity for me to focus on quantifying changes in environmental systems, and creating methodologies to better combat that change.”

Wakefield will receive the money in spring 2019 to begin her research.

“In anticipation for the future conditions that climate change will ensue on the landscape, it is important to look at how we can create data that reflects riverine processes, and help create planning tools to help designers and planners mitigate ecosystem loss,” she said.

Wakefield continued, “By studying water management, soil erosion and sediment control, we are able to quantify the areas of intervention, and direct immediate attention to these areas. In terms of living symbiotically with nature, the more we understand the world around us, the more we can work with it, rather than against it, ensuring a better built and natural environment for all.”

“Honestly, I am extremely passionate about watershed management, and water planning because there are so many opportunities for improvement. And, where better to study water and land management than a land grant university in a state surrounded by water,” she said.

Wakefield currently works at Landscape Services as an assistant to the landscape architects within MSU’s Infrastructure, Planning and Facilities, which is what motivated her research topic.

“When IPF began looking at restoring the banks of the Red Cedar River, I was able to be a part of committee meetings and see how planning is done on a university level,” she said.

“As the planning process has continued, I have been able to gain valuable experience working with a diversity of professional backgrounds. This experience made me interested in storm water management, riverine systems, soil erosion and sediment management.”

The data collection process will include multiple scenarios, such as a dry or wet condition, and a condition right after heavy rain and/or snow. Wakefield said her anticipated outcome includes utilizing UAVs to improve the results of landscape erosion analysis with several advanced measurements.

“As the LiDAR sensor will generate more precise three-dimensional information about the landscape structure of the study area, including its surface characteristics, the outcome of this study will provide more accurate data sets to monitor and/or predict soil erosion along the riparian buffer,” Wakefield said.

“The implication of this study will indicate materials and waterfront property’s design impact on erosion. The result will also help future environmental management plans as a decision-making tool to prevent potential erosion issues.”  

In order to be eligible for funding, CANR students must have a minimum 2.5 GPA, be highly motivated, inquisitive, committed and self-disciplined, and have an MSU faculty member agree to mentor their project.

Jun-Hyun Kim, PhD, associate professor and program director of the Landscape Architecture Program, is Wakefield’s project mentor.

After graduation, in fall 2019, Wakefield said she plans to continue on to pursue a Master’s in environmental design from SPDC, and follow that by pursuing a PhD or getting a job in a research-driven landscape architecture firm.

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