Eye on EESI Research

Dan Shapich (photo)

January 2017

Walk into the woods at Penn State's Susquehanna Shale Hills Critical Zone Observatory, and it's hard to miss the science happening around you. Instruments and gages dot the hillsides and stream beds. Trees are numbered with markers and deep pits expose the layers of soil under the ground.

The CZO is part of a National Science Foundation-funded project to study the thin, outer layer of Earth that sustains all human life. Interdisciplinary scientists measure everything from what nutrients trees take from their highest leaves to what happens where soil and bedrock meet deep underground.

Dozens of pieces of equipment help scientists collect geochemical, geomorphological, ecological, LIDAR and soil data from the site. That's a lot of information, and managing it is no small task.

That's where Dan Shapich comes in. Shapich, a data manager with EESI, is tasked with making the voluminous information gathered at the site available to researchers and the public through the CZO's website, http://criticalzone.org/shale-hills/.

"It's a big job," Shapich said.

Since starting at EESI in October, Shapich has been working with research assistant Brandon Forsythe to streamline how data is collected at the CZO, and in updating the website.

"We are streamlining the data so it can go directly from the sensors right to our servers and be automatically displayed without us having to go out there manually and download it," Shapich said.

That will help researchers get their information faster, and ensure the data they collect is online and available to the public.

Shapich previously worked as a programmer in the College of Engineering. He received his undergraduate degree in Information Science Technology and his master's degree in Geospatial Intelligence from Penn State.

He said he was drawn to EESI because of the data being collected at the CZO and the flexibility offered by the position.

"The job offered a nice mix of everything; some programming, some database work, plus some GIS stuff and being able to get out into the field every now and again" he said. "It's sort of a mixture of it all."