Developing Rapid, Cost-effective Methods for Evaluating Coastal Biodiversity and Resilience (2018-2019)

Coastal habitats such as oyster reefs, salt marshes, seagrass and mangroves are essential for resilient communities, but under threat from sea-level rise and acute anthropogenic disturbance. Our understanding of coastal ecosystem response to these impacts is limited. Current methods for obtaining population and community metrics to assess habitat health in both natural and restored areas are generally restricted in scope, often destructive to the habitat and costly in time and effort. Novel methods using drone-based remote sensing would benefit international, national and regional organizations, both governmental and nongovernmental, that are actively engaged in coastal management.

This Bass Connections project team worked with governmental and nongovernmental organizations to create tools for conservation practices. Initial research expanded on ongoing work to establish the best sensors (targeted spectral bands) that are most useful for delineating shoreline and estuarine habitats in North Carolina, which include salt marsh, oyster reef and seagrass. The team outfitted small unoccupied aerial systems (or unmanned aerial systems [UAS]) with survey-grade, multispectral and high-resolution optical sensors. Team members established what population metrics can be extracted from drone photography beyond aerial extent and elevations of the habitats. This provided a field technique and software workflow to process drone-collected spatial data and extract ecosystem health and resilience metrics. 

Once the methodology was refined, the project team tested these techniques along mangrove shorelines, in collaboration with the World Wildlife Fund. After obtaining permission to use UAS by the Belize government, the team traveled to Belize with the necessary aircraft systems and sensors to image mangrove shorelines.

Timing

Summer 2018 – Spring 2019  

Team Outputs

Developing Rapid, Cost-effective Methods for Evaluating Coastal Biodiversity and Resilience (poster by Kelly Dobroski, Claire Atkins-Davis, Alexandra DiGiacomo, Virginia Pan, David Johnston, Stephen Roady, Justin Ridge, presented at Bass Connections Showcase, Duke University, April 17, 2019)

Video

A Day in the Field

Duke Bass Connections Port Honduras Marine Reserve, Belize

Reflections

How Drones Can Help Researchers Investigate and Protect Coastal Ecosystems (Kelly Dobroski)

This Team in the News

A New Perspective on the World’s Marine Life

Meet the 2019 Recipients of Bass Connections Student Research Awards

Donor Support Spurs Interdisciplinary Research on Pressing Global Challenges

See related team, Developing Rapid Remote Assessments of Oyster Reef Health and Biodiversity (2019-2020).

Coastal scenes

Team Leaders

  • David Johnston, Nicholas School of the Environment-Marine Science and Conservation
  • Justin Ridge, Nicholas School of the Environment-Marine Science and Conservation
  • Stephen Roady, Duke Law

/graduate Team Members

  • Claire Atkins-Davis, Master of Environmental Management, Coastal Environmental Management, Geospatial Analysis
  • Kelly Dobroski, Master of Environmental Management, Coastal Environmental Management, Geospatial Analysis

/undergraduate Team Members

  • Alexandra DiGiacomo, Biology (BS)
  • Virginia Pan, Electrical & Computer Egr(BSE)

/zcommunity Team Members

  • Nadia Bood, World Wildlife Fund-Guatemala/Mesoamerica
  • Carolyn Currin, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)
  • Denise Garcia, Southern Environmental Association, Belize
  • Daniel Govoni, North Carolina Division of Coastal Management
  • Celia Mahung, Toledo Institute for Development and Environment, Belize
  • Shaun Martin, World Wildlife Fund
  • Ryan Moore, Toledo Institute for Development and Environment, Belize
  • Arreini Palacio Morgan, Southern Environmental Association, Belize
  • Roberto Pott, World Wildlife Fund Belize
  • Brandon Puckett, North Carolina Division of Coastal Management
  • Leomir Santoya, Sarteneja Alliance for Conservation and Development, Belize
  • Aurelie Shapiro, World Wildlife Fund, Germany
  • Joel Verde, Sarteneja Alliance for Conservation and Development, Belize