Maine Impact Week Spotlight: Why is Geospatial Analysis Important?

The University of Maine’s Wheatland Geospatial Lab (WGL) is a space that supports both teaching and research in the School of Forest Resources. Remote sensing and geospatial analysis allows forest managers to map, monitor, and predict changes in forests over time.

According to Tony Guay, remote sensing specialist, WGL’s work has supported the geospatial education, research, and innovation needs of students, Maine’s forest industry sector, and natural resource partners in Maine since 2013.

With changing climates – and therefore changing vegetation and habitats – their research and service is extremely important for WGL’s many partners and stakeholders in Maine.

Significant advances in remote sensing, data analytics, machine learning, artificial intelligence, and geographic information systems (GIS) provide more effective tools than ever before in support of science-based forest and natural resource management..

Logan Kline, graduate student of ecology and environmental science, has been using tools such as unoccupied aerial vehicles (UAV) and automated detection processes in order to monitor colonial seabirds on Maine’s coastal islands. This allows for the understanding of nesting bird populations with the hope to expand so that locals can get in on the action too.

Kline enjoys working in the lab. “Working with the Wheatland Lab has greatly increased my understanding of the technology and software used in my work. I’ll be graduating with a firm grasp on geospatial technologies thanks to WGL,” says Kline.

The geospatial lab has many resources – including access to a licensed commercial pilot and UMaine’s Cessna 172 aircraft. Dave Sandilands, aerial survey pilot and remote sensing technician, coordinates and implements aerial survey flights using the University’s Cessna aircraft and a variety of unoccupied aerial vehicles and sensors.

The Wheatland Geospatial Lab is one of the only academic geospatial analysis labs in the country with access to a University-owned full-size aircraft – enabling large scale aerial survey missions to be conducted entirely in-house.

“These tools provide Maine’s current and future professionals the ability to make informed decisions about the lands they manage as efficiently and safely as possible,” says Sandilands, a former airline pilot. He flies for WGL – contributing to cutting-edge research that benefits natural resource managers across Maine.

Meredith Lewis, graduate student in ecology and environmental science, is grateful for use of this technology, as well as the support from faculty and staff.

“WGL has offered us access to specific programs that have helped expedite our work with UAV-based imagery,” says Lewis. “I have a better understanding of these analytical techniques and that will be an asset to future projects.”

Be sure to tune in on Sept. 30 at 3 p.m. for a live presentation called,Why is Geospatial Analysis Important?to learn more about WGL!

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