Project will use drones to survey wetland
researchers are turning to the air to help monitor wetland habitat conditions.
through a $203,220 Environmental Protection Agency award, the University of
Nebraska–Lincoln's Zhenghong Tang and Wayne Woldt plan to develop a methodology
to use unmanned aircraft systems to conduct dynamic monitoring and precise
assessments of playa wetland habitats. Areas the team plans to focus on include
hydrological conditions, vegetation and energy levels, and wildlife usage in
the Nebraska Rainwater Basin.
the public waterfowl production and wildlife management areas across the basin
will require multiple field trips to complete the data collection during the
spring and fall migratory seasons.
drone flights, the team will use multispectral sensors for detection of soil
moisture levels and mapping of wetland inundation during spring migration
season; thermal imaging cameras and oblique photogrammetry for evaluation of
wildlife use and its distribution on playa wetlands; and 3D imagery for surveys
of plant community conditions, estimations of energy availability and assessments
of vegetation management effectiveness.
The use of
UAS is a huge improvement over the traditional large, plane or ground surveying
methods commonly used. This method will provide improved imaging with greater
resolution and detail in a cost-efficient, timely and flexible manner. The new
surveying tools and applicable protocols will offer wetland managers a greater
understanding of wetland spring inundation conditions. If this method proves
effective, the methodology can be replicated elsewhere. Having this information
for wildlife managers will advance conservation efforts.
timely monitoring and accurate assessment is extremely important for wetland
managers to implement appropriate conservation programs to increase the
quantity and quality of wetlands,” said Jeff Drahota, U.S. Fish and Wildlife
Service biologist with the Rainwater Basin Wetland Management District. “This
Unmanned Aircraft System provides an advanced new tool to conduct more rapid,
precise monitoring and assessment for playa wetlands.”
past, environmental disruptions such as reduction in water flow because of
upstream diversions, sediment, invasive species and poor water quality have
contributed to major losses in playa habitat. By keeping a closer eye on the
situation, wildlife managers will be able to identify threats before they
negatively influence the wetlands or reach a point that will be very costly and
time intensive to restore. With successful adoption of the proposed
methodologies, this project has the potential to transform reactive wildlife
management to a proactive and efficient system.
analyzed during the assessment stage will help close the information gap and
help wildlife managers implement proven restoration practices, choose more
effective treatments and create a better understanding of this delicate
ecosystem throughout its annual cycle.
important to test and verify the innovative UAS methodology in wetland
monitoring and assessment,” Tang said. “This project is a great first step to
an exciting new way to conserve our wetlands.”
Tang is an associate professor of
community and regional planning in the College of Architecture. Woldt is an
associate professor of biological systems engineering. Tang and Woldt are
co-principal investigators on the research project.