Jun 222010
Authors: Abel Oshevire

Two CSU geographers received a $155,591 grant from NASA to fund an archaeological project in Mexico.

Steve Leisz and Chris Fisher, along with other researchers from the United States and Mexico, will make use of satellite images to refine prehistoric lake elevation models for the basin and to refine pre-Hispanic agricultural production models for the basin.

The grant will be used to purchase software, satellite data and fund one graduate student for two years for the Lake Patzcuaro Basin Archaeological Project, Leisz said.

With the improved models, Leisz said they would be able to create an improved predictive model of how ancient peoples were able to adapt to continuous changes in climate.

“This information will help inform as to how the Tarascan state reacted to changing lake levels and by extension changing climates of the period between 1350 and 1520,” he added.

Although surveying a pre-Hispanic Mexican city could be challenging, said Jason Bush, an anthropology graduate student who works with Fisher, the project is also exciting. He is glad to have a chance to explore such a fascinating region.

With history’s tendency to repeat itself, Bush said that the ongoing research is relevant to current residents of the region, as well as people around the world.

“Humans have impacted environments in varying degrees for millennia and their responses to environmental change have varied from profound to absurd,” he said.

“We hope that our research of past socio-ecological processes in Mexico can help people make more informed decisions about how to best manage their environment over the long term.”

Leisz and Fisher received the grant on April 30 after their submitted proposal to NASA’s Research Opportunities in Space and Earth Sciences, ROSES, Program was approved.

“We submitted the proposal in May 2009. Our proposal received high marks in a peer review by other experts and as a result NASA chose to award us with the funding we requested,” Leisz said.

“We were very happy to receive the funding as it enables us to pursue the research we had proposed and also provides us with funding for a graduate student,” he added.

There are a few graduate students currently working with Fisher in Mexico who will most likely be considered for the funding.

These students, however, would need to be considered on a case-by-case basis, Leisz said.

“A few qualifications that I know they will need are a background (academic and experiential) in archaeology and a solid grounding in remote sensing theory and practice,” Leisz added.

The grant, which spans two years, will be available on July 1, with fieldwork starting in Mexico this summer.

_Staff Writer Abel Oshevire can be reached at news@collegian.com. _

More about the project

The grant: $155,591 to fund space surveying of Ancient Mexican Societies

The scientists: CSU geographers Steve Leisz and Chris Fisher

The project: Producing satellite images of prehistoric Lake Patzcuaro Basin to recreate and predict elevation models

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