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USGS Hosts Northern Gulf of Mexico Land-Cover Characterization Workshop at the University of New Orleans, Louisiana

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meeting attendees
Above: Several meeting attendees took a small-plane flight to select potential pilot-study sites for an integrated investigation of Louisiana's coastal wetlands. Clockwise from top left: Shea Penland (UNO-PIES), John Brock (USGS), John Barras (USGS), Nate Herold (NOAA), Brady Couvillion (IAP Worldwide Services), Emily Klipp (Jacobs Technology), Amar Nayegandhi (ETI Professionals), Mike Miner (UNO-PIES), and Luis Martinez (UNO-PIES). Photograph by Kathryn Smith. [larger version]

wetlands of Louisiana
Above: Coastal wetlands of Louisiana have received national attention due to rapid wetland loss over the past century. Under the NGOM project, a team of scientists will work to better understand the causes and consequences of these wetland changes. Photograph by Kathryn Smith. [larger version]

The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) hosted the Northern Gulf of Mexico Land-Cover Characterization Workshop on November 14-16, 2007, in New Orleans, Louisiana. The Pontchartrain Institute for Environmental Sciences (PIES) of the University of New Orleans (UNO) provided space for the workshop. The primary workshop objective was to educate attendees on regional efforts that involve land-cover characterization, including land-cover mapping, wetland-loss studies, and landscape modeling. The workshop provided an excellent opportunity to learn about current and future efforts in land-cover characterization with a regional perspective, and to enhance collaboration for the Northern Gulf of Mexico (NGOM) Ecosystem Change and Hazard Susceptibility Project. The workshop was organized by Kathryn Smith, USGS Florida Integrated Science Center (FISC), with assistance from the advisory committee: John Brock, USGS FISC; Shea Penland, UNO-PIES; Karen Ramsey, UNO-PIES; John Barras, USGS National Wetlands Research Center (NWRC); Amar Nayegandhi, ETI Professionals, contracted to FISC; Emily Klipp, Jacobs Technology, contracted to FISC; and Dawn Lavoie, USGS Gulf of Mexico Science Coordinator.

The first day began with Lavoie introducing the importance of land-cover-characterization studies and the role of USGS research in the northern Gulf of Mexico region. The introduction was followed by presentations on capabilities and previous investigations by scientists working in the region. Topics included land-loss mapping, presented by Penland and Barras; shoreline mapping, presented by Maryellen Sault, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA); land-cover mapping, presented by Joyce Fry, USGS Earth Resources Observation and Science (EROS) Data Center, and Nate Herold, NOAA; lidar (light detection and ranging) applications to vegetation mapping, presented by Nayegandhi; hurricane impacts on coastal vegetation, presented by John Kupfer, University of South Carolina; and wetland modeling, presented by Glenn Guntenspergen, USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center (PWRC).

The second day began with discussions on collaboration and goals for the NGOM project subtasks, with Brock introducing the NGOM project and his vision for a coordinated project plan. The meeting was the first time many scientists working on the NGOM study had met in person to discuss subtask goals and products. Four subtasks within the NGOM project include research related to land-cover characterization, from land-cover mapping to wetland-loss studies to wetland modeling. The interrelated research plans will benefit from close coordination and integration. Workshop discussions were intended to inform participants of the activities in the other subtasks, increase collaboration, and improve communication. In addition, sites for pilot studies in fiscal year 2008 (FY08) were selected to focus research objectives and foster collaboration. The second day ended with a 2-hr small-aircraft flight over the Louisiana marsh, during which some of the meeting attendees viewed potential pilot-study areas.

At the conclusion of the meeting, the scientists—having gained new insight into the research of their colleagues—made preparations for FY08 research and outlined plans for further collaborative efforts. With the identification of study areas, scientists could focus on pilot studies at sites where individual datasets overlap and permit collaborative analyses. Study sites in the Mississippi River Delta and in southwestern Louisiana’s coastal Chenier Plain were selected as pilot sites for land-cover mapping. The process of bringing together USGS scientists and outside experts improves overall communication and facilitates the integration of scientific endeavor. Scientific ventures benefit from the innovative ideas of colleagues and a more comprehensive view of the ecosystem.

Related Web Sites
Northern Gulf of Mexico (NGOM) Ecosystem Change and Hazard Susceptibility
USGS (U.S. Geological Survey)

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