Landscape Architecture Student Helps National Park Service Prepare for Solar Eclipse

Landscape Architecture Student Helps National Park Service Prepare for Solar Eclipse

By Kerry McCulloug...

July 19, 2017

Austin Arens at work

Basking in the shadow of the moon of a total solar eclipse is a rare experience not encountered by most Nebraskans (at least not since June 30, 1954, according to NASA). This total solar eclipse is projected to grace the skies again August 21, 2017. For most, this is a once in a lifetime opportunity to see a spectacular solar/lunar anomaly with its national border-to-border path trajectory. In preparation for this event, many entities including the National Park Service are gearing up for huge crowds and creating events especially designed to celebrate this rare celestial occasion. Among the event collaborators assisting the National Park Service are students from the College of Architecture’s Landscape Architecture program.

Earlier this year, the Midwest Regional Office for the National Park Service contacted the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL)’s Landscape Architecture Program Director Kim Wilson about establishing a long-term partnership for various engagement and service learning projects. The first need identified was for a landscape architecture student to create Geographic Information System (GIS) based maps for the upcoming solar eclipse event planned at the Homestead National Monument of America, outside of Beatrice, Nebraska. The National Park Service needed someone who had Adobe Creative Suite and AutoCAD skills and could create a base plan map for the current 160-acre property as well as subsequent map variations for events including the upcoming solar eclipse that would include special occasion details such as designated areas for parking, tents, vendors, first aid, bathrooms, and the like.

When Wilson approached landscape architecture student Austin Arens about the summer project with the National Park Service, Arens knew it was an opportunity too big to pass up. With Wilson’s guidance, Arens submitted a UCARE (Undergraduate Creative Activities and Research Experience) program proposal for project funding which was accepted.

Arens has spent the last several months utilizing aerial photographs and GIS data and entering them into AutoCAD to create more accurate and graphically pleasing maps for Homestead National Monument. These maps will be used to aid event transportation and logistics.

Additionally, Arens is the Great Plains Chapter American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) volunteer coordinator for the Homestead Monument eclipse event. Student members will be present all day helping with miscellaneous park event needs.

The festival event organizers at Homestead National Monument have planned special programing such as presentations from visitors from all over the country including NASA, Planetary Society's Bill Nye and PBS Kid’s Ready Jet Go’s Dr. Amy. Festival activities at Homestead National Monument start August 19th and run through the 21st. For more details regarding event scheduling, visit their web page.  

Numerous solar eclipse events are planned all along the eclipse trajectory.  From an eclipse trajectory map, the reader can see Homestead National Monument is right on the eclipse line and is a prime location with a large open landscape, perfect for an unobstructed view. The first stage of the eclipse will happen at approximately 11:30 am with totality at 1:02 pm, with the last stage ending around 2:30 pm. The Homestead National Monument will experience a solar eclipse with one of the longest times of totality between 2 minutes and 35 sec and 2 minutes 38 seconds depending on exact location.

Arens was also quick to point out in addition to sunscreen, make sure to pick up approved solar eclipse eye protection to prevent limited or total blindness. Every total eclipse of the sun begins and ends with a partial eclipse. The partial phases require eye projection for safe viewing.  

Anyone wishing to assist with these event efforts or world like to learn more about the eclipse and events surrounding its occurrence are encouraged to visit the Homestead National Monument website.