Coppin State Researchers Investigate Weather

Coppin State Researchers Investigate Weather
Patterns’ Influence on the Middle Passage

BALTIMORE
A  team from Coppin State University is using images from space satellites to investigate how the patterns of winds and ocean currents may have influenced the forced migration of Africans to the Americas. The project began on June 1 and ran through Aug. 31.
Coppin State University has been awarded a grant from National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to fund its space-age exploration project, “The Winds and Currents of the Middle Passage.”
“Our research represents a truly unique attempt to apply space-age science and cutting-edge technology to a compelling historical phenomenon,” said Dr. Douglas Reardon, project director and geographer at Coppin State.
Dr. Roger Davidson, an assistant professor in Coppin State’s history department and an expert on maritime and African American history, as well as Coppin State undergraduate Adam Johnson, are teaming with Reardon on the research project.
The research team worked to gain a better understanding of how environmental conditions influenced the lethality and other aspects of the trans-Atlantic slave trade. To do so, the team used historical records, such as slave ships’ logs and data from NASA satellites that show the speeds and directions of the winds and currents in the mid-Atlantic.
According to Reardon, over the summer, the grant from NASA’s Network Resources and Training Site (NRTS) at Morgan State University enabled the Coppin State team to translate the preliminary research into innovative lessons for geography and other courses.
“I hope we will produce some engaging lessons that demonstrate the tremendous significance of the relationship between human history and the environment,” said Reardon.
Understanding how humans influence the physical environment is central to NASA’s Earth Science Enterprise, he noted, also adding, “I want our work to inspire more Coppin students to take an interest in human dimensions of global environmental change.”
Reardon described the investigation of the winds and currents that carried the slave ships across the Atlantic as part of a larger research agenda called “The Middle Passage Project,” which seeks to use the historic theme as a vehicle to promote interest in geography, earth sciences and environmental change.
Coppin set up a geospatial sciences laboratory to facilitate the research, which requires computers equipped with powerful high-tech software able to analyze the satellite imagery in a geographic information system. 



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