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GIS Lab Coordinator Lauded for Adirondack Wetlands Mapping

The coordinator of the geographic information system laboratory at SUNY Plattsburgh was honored by the Adirondack Research Consortium for her contributions to the long-term sustainability of the Adirondack Park.

Eileen Allen received the 2016 Elizabeth Thorndike Adirondack Achievement Award at the 23rd annual Conference on the Adirondacks held May 25-26 in Lake Placid. Allen, an instructor in the Center for Earth and Environmental Science and a 1977 graduate of the environmental science program, specializes in geographic information system mapping technologies. She has worked in the Remote Sensing Laboratory since 1984 and has been mapping wetlands and watersheds in the Adirondacks since 1991. 

With ARC Since Late ’90s

Her involvement with the consortium began in the late 1990s. She has served as its secretary/treasurer since 2003.

It’s been her work at the college in partnership with the Adirondack Park Agency and the Department of Environmental Conservation to digitally map wetlands that won her the recognition with the ARC.

“We are pleased to recognize this pioneering research, which continues to benefit the Adirondack community and embodies the spirit of this award,” said Dan Spada, president of the ARC. In addition to her undergraduate degree, Allen earned her master’s in natural resources at SUNY Plattsburgh in 1987 and is one of the first certified GIS professionals in New York state.

The award is named for Dr. Elizabeth Thorndike in recognition of her contributions to the consortium and the Adirondack community. Thorndike has spent her professional career in the nonprofit and education sectors and in public policy positions concerned with the environment at the local, state and national levels.

Thorndike Instrumental

Allen cited Thorndike as one of the reasons the award was so meaningful.

“Liz Thorndike is an amazing person and one of my heroes,” Allen said. “She is full of energy, is brilliant, has vision, is dedicated, is hard working, and has taught me so much. With her guidance, the Adirondack Research Consortium became a not-for-profit, changing it from a ‘hobby group’ to a group that has been able to garner financial support to follow through with its mission.

“The Adirondack Research Consortium represents the principles that I feel are so important. It is a multidisciplinary group, and we have found at our yearly conference that many people see the same issues but approach them very differently — finding common ground among disciplines is unusual,” she said.

Many of Allen’s mapping projects have involved the creation of detailed digital watershed and wetland databases from aerial photographs and USGS topographic maps. With the APA and Environmental Protection Agency, she participated in several projects to digitally map the major river basins in the Adirondacks. According to the consortium, these nationally awarded projects have contributed significantly to the available digital resource information that is the basis of many of the current research projects going on in the Adirondacks today.

Doing What She is Passionate About

Ever humble, Allen joked that she thinks the consortium may have given the award “to the wrong person.”

“I’ve just done what I’ve been passionate about — teaching, remote sensing, GIS, working with students, learning new things, seeking other points of view, weaving together multiple perspectives to understand issues. These are all things that I absolutely have to do,” she said. “I’ve always enjoyed being a ‘worker bee’ that helps facilitate and get things done. It’s hard to think that should be rewarded.

“My good fortune has been that I’ve had wonderful mentors. Dr. Donald Bogucki even came out of retirement to speak at the awards ceremony,” Allen said. “I have been able to work in areas that encourage learning throughout my life.”

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