CofC students get deep into study of harbor

(Dave MacQueen/WCIV)

By Sonya

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) -- Have you ever wondered what the seafloor of the Charleston Harbor is like?

Some students at the College of Charleston have spent their spring break figuring that out.

"We have a very extensive seamap program where we train students how to go collect data, how to process data, analyze it and actually put out data products that people can use whether its for geological purposes or academic type purposes," said Scott Harris, Geosciences Professor at CofC.

A dozen students this week were given the opportunity to use that knowledge in and out of the classroom.

"We went out to Patriots Point and the Army Corps of Engineers had their survey vessel out there, and they were gracious enough to let us take up their time and run some lines," said Jim Niergarth.

Niergarth is a College of Charleston marine biology major. He said "run some lines" is the phrase used for data acquisition.

"So what we did is that they had QPS send out their people and they kind of showed us how QUINCY, their data acquisition package, works."

Quality Positioning Services (QPS), created the cutting-edge software. Using QUINCY, students were able to process data they collected in Charleston Harbor.

"Their suite of software is very unique where it goes from the data collection to the final data output. That has been a very, very critical missing link over the last few decades as we have been getting better and better data acquisition and data processing," Harris said.

And testing out the software allowed Harris and his students to get a different view of the harbor.

"Really I think it is just seeing what is down there. Because, people think of seafloor and they think some big mountains or it's really flat," Niergarth said. "Really it's not. There is a whole lot of feature down there, and to see what those features are is pretty cool. It's also very pretty in colors."

The software, which is still in beta, has only been tested in Houston, New Zealand, and now here in Charleston.{}

"It's really been a training exercise. But, it's also been geologically very interesting, and with the deepening of the harbor coming along and the different projects that are going on there, it's very interesting for everyone involved because we can actually use that data and will be giving it to those different agencies so they can use it," Harris said.

Professor Harris hopes that the course can be offered to more students in the future, because he says the need for hydrographers continues to grow across the world.

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