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Analysis of Katrina's health, environmental effects to be aided by website with layers of data

DURHAM, N.C. -- Duke University environmental scientists are amassing large overlays of Geographical Information System (GIS) data for a website that public health and environmental experts will use to assess effects of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans and elsewhere in the stricken Gulf region.

That information includes "flooded areas, the locations of medical facilities, police stations, fire stations and industrial facilities, warehouses that might be flooded out, agricultural operations, refineries and oil pipelines, among other things," said project leader Marie Lynn Miranda. "There's just layer upon layer of different kinds of data that, when geographically correlated, could aid assessment of hazards and the process of recovery," she said.

Miranda is an associate professor at Duke's Nicholas School of the Environment and Earth Sciences, and is a principal investigator and does GIS mapping for mercury at Duke's Superfund Basic Research Center. She also directs the Children's Environmental Health Initiative, which uses GIS technology to help authorities evaluate childhood exposures to various contaminants in North Carolina.

The Katrina data are being integrated by Miranda's GIS programmer and Duke alumna Sharon Edwards.

GIS technology combines various kinds of maps, satellite images and other information to provide investigators insights and connections that might not be recognized if the components were considered separately. Another advantage is that the information is all spatially referenced, meaning that all the information is connected to a particular geographic location.

Miranda's involvement resulted from a Labor Day conference call with officials at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) in Research Triangle Park, who are creating the website as part of its initial response to a national effort to assess the large array of potential toxic contaminants in the floodwaters.

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Contact: Monte Basgall
monte.basgall@duke.edu
919-681-8057
Duke University
8-Sep-2005


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