By Michele Tallarita ’12
Jacob Dein ’12 is from Honesdale, Pa., where layers of gas-filled Marcellus shale lie untapped beneath the landscape. Just north of the Poconos, Honesdale awaits the finalization of regulations that will allow gas companies to enter the region and begin drilling. This means that soon, homeowners will have to make a tough decision: reap the profits of allowing wells to permeate their properties, or preserve their backyards from the potentially damaging effects of drilling.
Dein’s honors thesis will help his fellow residents of the Delaware River Basin to make up their minds.
A dual-degree major in civil & environmental engineering and German, Dein developed a geographic information system (GIS) analysis tool that allows users to see the effects of natural gas drilling on their properties. Dein presented his work in March at the American Water Resources Spring Specialty Conference on GIS and Water Resources. His adviser was David Brandes, associate professor of civil and environmental engineering.
Dein’s GIS tool takes the form of a website, maps.lafayette.edu/drillRigor. Dein plans to launch a beta version of the site (meaning that testing and further development will take place) Wednesday, May 30, for people to use for free. Users can search for their properties, choose how many wells to place on the terrain, and run several analyses showing how the wells would impact the habitat, noise level, drinking water, aesthetics, and more. Users can also use the site to determine the optimal location for the placement of a well on their property.
“There could be a lot of impacts, but the ones I’m focusing on are the ones that would be most significant to the landowner,” says Dein. “If you’re strategic about where you put the well pad, you can significantly reduce those impacts.”
He built the website from the ground up, taking on all of the coding himself (though he had some help from Information Technology Services when it came to setting up a server). He says he loved the theoretical aspects of the project, but was determined to keep it practical. “I’ve always tried to remember the big picture,” he says.
At the conference, Dein was delighted to find that scientists, engineers, and other students were excited about his project, asking him for the web address and the date the website would be ready to use. He enjoyed seeing what other students were up to, and was especially pumped about getting a taste of New Orleans, where the conference was located.
A member of the crew team and captain of the ski club during his time at Lafayette, Dein will head to New York City next year to be a civil engineer. He’s certain he’ll use what he’s learned to take on new challenges.
“Every project that I’m working on, I’m always pulling those experiences into new projects,” he says.