Owasco Lake briefing, Bob Brower

Bob Brower, president of the Owasco Watershed Lake Association, shows how $600,000 from the state will be used for watershed projects and monitoring at Owasco Town Hall on in October 2016.

The future of the Institute for the Application of Geospatial Technology at Cayuga Community College is in question following the resignation of its president and CEO, Bob Brower.

The institute began as a nonprofit organization in 2003, and utilizes Geographic Information Systems (GIS) technology to do things like digital mapping, collecting geospatial data and remote sensing, to name a few. NASA, the U.S. Geological Survey and the state Department of Environmental Conservation have been some of the organization's collaborators. 

Brower has spearheaded IAGT for the last approximately 15 years, but he said he was ready to retire. The organization's board, he added, accepted his resignation at the end of June, but he's still working in a volunteer capacity.

When asked what is next for the organization, Brower said he thinks it makes sense for the board to examine the institute's future.

"I think it's every bit as compelling now as it was 15 years ago," he said. "The advances in the technology have just been astonishing. In other words, I think there's fundamental purpose and service that can still be provided. I think the question is whether it remains viable and still can be a significant part of the campus. I hope so, because I love the people that work up here. I think it's the right place for it, but it could also be regionalized, for example."

Brian Durant, president of Cayuga Community College and chair of the IAGT board, said the main focus for Brower and the institute at this time is finishing up work around Owasco Lake. The state presented the college with a $600,000 grant, which is being used for researching harmful algal blooms as well as implementing specific projects in the watershed to reduce nutrient loading. 

Durant said the board has been meeting in recent months to examine the organization's future, and it likely will continue to consider its next steps over several months. 

"We'll be evaluating what the future looks like, and how it can make sense to figure out how IAGT serves in the current landscape," Durant said. "Once the board completes their due diligence and next steps are identified, decisions will be made on the future, the future of the institute and the future work the institute does."

Cayuga County Legislator Tim Lattimore had expressed concern about the institute's future at the Legislature's full meeting Aug. 22. In a phone interview with The Citizen Monday, Lattimore said with all of the flooding in Texas and the Great Lakes, the technology IAGT offers is valuable at this time. He wants to see the institute remain at CCC.

"You just don't get a federal platform every day, and to let it go would be a major mistake," Lattimore said.

While Durant serves on the IAGT board, he said it's important for the public to understand that IAGT is a separate entity from the college. It's only housed on campus, he said. Students could have the opportunity to do internships and gain experience through the institute, but the college's GIS academic program stands on its own, he added.

The IAGT board is grateful for Brower's work over the years, Durant said. Besides creating multiple mappings of Owasco and Cayuga Lake, IAGT has helped with projects nationwide. One of note included creating a three-dimensional image of ground zero following the 9/11 attacks. The map helped responders survey the stability of the structures and get a bird's-eye view of what remained.

"I believe the institute has a rich history of doing tremendous work and making a great impact," Durant said.

Staff writer Gwendolyn Craig can be reached at (315) 282-2237 or gwendolyn.craig@lee.net. Follow her on Twitter @gwendolynnn1.

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