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"Getting a CLEAR Picture"

"Getting a CLEAR Picture"

Cutting-edge technology reveals Connecticut "sprawl"
UConn magazine, Summer 2005

Sometimes statistics can tell a story better than words. The trick is to use them judiciously – just enough to enhance the flavor of a story, not so many that you overwhelm the reader.

In 2005 Jim Smith was hired to write a feature about CLEAR, the Center for Land Use Education and Research at the University of Connecticut. CLEAR performs several kinds of research that employ satellite-based remote sensing and associated geospatial technologies to map, study, characterize and analyze Connecticut’s changing landscape. The data generated by the center’s research may be useful to anyone contemplating any kind of land use – from real estate “developers” to municipal officials.

As Jim researched the complex menu of services CLEAR offers and the dizzying array of cutting-edge remote sensing and imaging tools the center uses, he quickly realized how statistics could help convey CLEAR’s meaning and value. The technologies, though exciting, might have overwhelmed some readers if cataloging them had occupied most of the story. Instead, Jim introduced a municipal official – Jana Butts, a senior planner for the Windham Region Council of Governments(WINCOG) – to endorse CLEAR early in the story.

Jana’s experience allowed him to quickly introduce a concept most readers would be familiar with – “sprawl,” the relentless erosion of forests and historic farmland to accommodate construction. Between 1985 and 2002, CLEAR research revealed, the percentage of WINCOG covered by forests has shrunk from 69 percent to 65 percent. Only four percentage points, but they equaled almost 8,000 acres, an area nine times the size of New York City’s Central Park. 

Click on the link at left to read "Getting a CLEAR Picture" on the UConn magazine website.

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