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Southern Miss Center of Higher Learning Engages Counterdrug Technologies PDF Print E-mail
Monday, September 22, 2008
Contact Tammy Stafford - 228.688.7663   

While the University of Southern Mississippi’s Center of Higher Learning, located at the John C. Stennis Space Center, is known for its educational and workforce development offerings, two applied technology programs, Geospatial Applications and Visualization, also call CHL their home. 

Over the last year, the Geospatial Applications Lab has updated a computer-based system to assist in the decision-making process for counterdrug technologies that aid the Mississippi National Guard and the Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics. 

The heart of the system is a map showing the areas in the state most likely for outdoor growth of marijuana. The Geo Lab produced this map by coupling two cutting-edge technologies, Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and an Artificial Neural Network (ANN).

Jim Matthews, director of the CHL Geospatial Applications Laboratory, said, “This technology highlights areas with the highest potential for marijuana cultivation and has proven very useful in the strategic planning to eliminate marijuana.” 

The ANN is supplied with a large number of GIS themes such as demographics, roads, topography and land cover as well as data about marijuana growth. By testing the themes to see which ones have the potential to separate growth sites from the random locations, the ANN produces a map that shows the similarity of every point in the state to the characteristics of where marijuana has been grown in the past. 

The Office of National Drug Control Policy, an organization of the federal government, has shown interest in the process as a way to estimate domestic marijuana production. By identifying areas where marijuana is most likely and least likely to be grown, ONDCP can conduct statistical surveys to estimate its production. 

“Producing counterdrug information is just one of the ways this technology can be utilized. It also has promising wide-spread applications to the analysis of many types of spatial data,” said Joe Swaykos, director of the Center of Higher Learning.

For additional information about geospatial technologies, course offerings, visualization capabilities or other activities, contact the Center of Higher Learning at 228.688.7663.

This photo shows Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics agents investigating an outdoor marijuana grow site in Mississippi. (Submitted Photo)

This map of California shows the results of an analysis for California. Hot colors (red) show the areas most likely for cultivation, while cold (blue) shows areas least likely. Commonly, the historical plot locations are superimposed on the predictive map to identify new areas that are likely for cultivation. (Center of Higher Learning Graphic)

About The University of Southern Mississippi
The University of Southern Mississippi, founded in 1910, is a comprehensive doctoral and research-extensive university fulfilling its mission of being a leading university in engaging and empowering individuals to transform lives and communities. In a tradition of leadership for student development, Southern Miss is educating a 21st century work force providing intellectual capital, cultural enrichment and innovation to Mississippi and the world. Southern Miss is located in Hattiesburg, Miss., with an additional campus and teaching and research sites on the Mississippi Gulf Coast.  Further information is found at

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