Project Title: USGS Drone Flights at Sage Lot Pond

Date: 7/2017-7/2018

Principal Investigator(s): Kevin Kroeger, Sandy Brosnahan, Meagan Gonneea

Affiliations: USGS

Summary: The U.S. Geological Survey in Woods Hole is developing drone technology applications for salt marsh research. Salt marshes are important coastal ecosystems in terms of habitat for birds and fish, recreational opportunities, coastal protection and as a natural carbon sink. Current scientific challenges involve mapping these environments, including their elevation, morphology, and plant composition, at sufficient spatial resolution and coverage. Current field methods are labor intensive, allowing for small spatial coverage, while satellite based products with broad spatial coverage typically have a spatial resolution that is too coarse to resolve important changes that may occur over several meters in fringing wetlands. Our project goal is to evaluate the use of drone based 3-D digital elevation mapping capabilities across coastal wetland platforms, including creeks and ponds, as well as utilize the spectral, or different types of light, signatures of coastal vegetation as in indicator of species composition and plant stress. The salt marsh observatory at Sage Lot Pond run by WBNERR offers unique opportunities to ground-truth aerial mapping technology. We seek to coordinate with WBNERR’s annual vegetation surveys to optimize application of the drone technology.