Clark Labs receives $1.8 million grant to develop land-use software

Clark Labs is the recipient of a two-year, $1.8 million grant from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation to develop a decision support software application for land management.

The new software suite will be built upon Clark Lab’s Land Change Modeler, an application developed for land change analysis, prediction and the examination of impacts on habitat and biodiversity. New elements will include an integrated environment for multi-criteria and multi-objective land allocation planning, enhanced tools for habitat management, adaptation planning tools for climate change (such as the ability to downscale climate projections and assess their impact on crop suitability and species distributions) and the incorporation of ecosystem service valuation procedures developed by the Natural Capital Project in its InVEST toolkit.

The InVEST (Integrated Valuation of Ecosystem Services and Tradeoffs) software is a suite of models that quantify and map the values of ecosystem services in terrestrial, freshwater and marine ecosystems and is designed to inform decisions about natural resource management. Ecosystem services are the benefits humans get from natural systems; and their values can be expressed in monetary terms or in non-market terms, such as the number of people affected, or the intrinsic value of a species. The notion of ecosystem services has recently gained momentum as an important consideration when making land use and investment decisions. The Natural Capital Project, a partnership between the Woods Institute for the Environment at Stanford University, the World Wildlife Fund, the Nature Conservancy and the Institute on the Environment at the University of Minnesota, is developing these models. The addition of InVEST into the evolving tool suite available in the Land Change Modeler will provide significant benefits for decision makers in environmental fields.

“Such conservation and land management tools are desperately needed and it is our hope, through the generosity of the Moore Foundation, to make a significant contribution to this effort.” ~ J. Ronald Eastman, Clark Labs director

Land cover change occurs as a result of many forces and the impacts of such change are wide and far-reaching, particularly for habitat, biodiversity and human populations. A centralized decision support application will analyze such reverberations and provide the capacity, for instance, to evaluate multiple criteria in land change scenarios and provide solutions that consider various objectives. For example, what areas are optimal for timber harvesting with the least impact on biodiversity while maintaining a specified yield of drinking water? How will these ecosystem services be impacted by a continuation of the historic trend in land cover change? What will be the impact of projected changes in precipitation in the year 2050? The decision makers and stakeholders can evaluate the tradeoffs between scenarios, weigh the importance of the criteria and ultimately make well-informed decisions about allocating resources in a rapidly changing environment.

“The significant funding from the Moore Foundation will allow Clark Labs to further develop tools that are at the cutting edge of new discoveries while simultaneously providing multi-generational learning experiences for Clark students and faculty,” said Nancy Budwig, Associate Provost and Dean of Research.

Clark Labs is based within the world-renowned Graduate School of Geography at Clark University and is the developer of the IDRISI GIS and Image Processing software, upon which the Land Change Modeler is built.

“We are privileged to work again with the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation to research and develop tools for the conservation of our environment,” said J. Ronald Eastman, professor of geography at Clark and director of Clark Labs. “Partnering with the researchers at the Natural Capital Project, we have a wonderful opportunity to develop a robust, integrated and user-friendly suite of tools that incorporates our expertise in land cover change with their expertise in ecosystem services.” He further added, “Clark Labs is quite fortunate because we are comprised of a staff with combined expertise in geography and software development. It truly provides us with a rich environment to fully evaluate and test methodologies, algorithms and work flows. Such conservation and land management tools are desperately needed and it is our hope, through the generosity of the Moore Foundation, to make a significant contribution to this effort.”

The Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, established in 2000, seeks to advance environmental conservation and scientific research around the world and improve the quality of life in the San Francisco Bay Area. The Foundation’s Environmental Conservation Program aims at changing the ways in which people use terrestrial, freshwater, and coastal marine ecosystems to conserve critical ecological systems and functions, while allowing sustainable use. For more information, please visit

For further information, please contact Clark Labs at Clark University, Worcester, MA Tel: 508-793-7526.


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