RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Stephanie Spera, an Assistant Professor of Geography and the Environment at the University of Richmond, is set to receive a grant from NASA for a research project that will take place in Brazil.

According to the university, Spera will work in collaboration with the University of Vermont to study the Cerrado frontier.

The Cerrado is a 2-million-kilometer savanna that supports 5% of the world’s biodiversity and accounts for about 20% percent of the country’s land area. With the help of a Land Cover/Land Use Change grant, the project will research the vast ecoregion located in eastern Brazil, aiming to identify land cover and land-use changes.

Specifically, Spera will coordinate the satellite-based mapping of the area and analyze the data to better understand the ecological and socioeconomic impacts of land cover changes.

“We plan to use open-source software and map specific agricultural land covers and determine land-use transitions across this under-protected biodiversity hotspot,” said Spera. “Understanding these land-related changes in the Cerrado and the socioenvironmental drivers of those changes is fundamental when thinking about sustainable agriculture development in South America’s breadbasket.”

Spera has worked at the university since 2019 and is considered an expert on climate change and land use.