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Mapping Coastal Change Using Unmanned Aerial Systems: A Pilot Study

Pilot Study to Evaluate Coastal Change Using Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS)


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Beaches and marshes provide critical habitat for many species of concern, including the piping plover, a shorebird which is endangered in parts of its range and threatened in others. These coastal environments also support tourism and recreation, and provide important services such as protecting infrastructure from wave inundation. Extreme storms and sea-level rise can alter these habitats, with implications for the species and communities that rely on them. This project seeks to test the utility of Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) for mapping and monitoring changes in coastal ecosystems. UAS provide a low-cost, low-risk means of acquiring high-resolution data when compared to on-the-ground fieldwork or traditional above-ground surveying [...]

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Co-Investigator :
E. Robert Thieler, David Remsen
Principal Investigator :
Erika Lentz
Funding Agency :
Northeast CSC
CMS Group :
Climate Adaptation Science Centers (CASC) Program

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“Acadia National Park, Maine - Credit: Kristi Rugg, NPS”
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Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) are a new and relatively untapped resource for coastal surveying within the USGS and the scientific community, and offer a number of advantages over ground-based surveys and manned aerial systems, including the ability to rapidly deploy and efficiently collect remote sensing data and derive high-resolution elevations over variable terrain. The project is designed to provide a low-risk, low-cost means to explore the utility of UAS for coastal mapping on beaches and marshes, and develop methodology and capacity to acquire, process, and analyze data. The collaborative project brings together USGS scientists and technical staff with Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL) researchers and students, and will support both research and education through coursework including observational biodiversity and informatics, system design, and both field and laboratory collaboration.

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