Unlocking New Insights into Riverscapes with Drone-based Laser Scanners

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New River Symposium

Measurement of physical characteristics across space and time is essential for research and management of aquatic ecosystems. Physical parameters help us quantify and understand channel morphology, aquatic and riparian habitat, biological communities, ecosystem processes, and chemical fluxes, particularly as they relate to potential impacts of environmental change. Accurate measures of physical parameters are key for understanding the links between environmental conditions, aquatic biological diversity, and ecosystem function. This knowledge is particularly important in stream and river systems because biotic indices are used as measures for water quality and to assess the effects of pollution and land-use change. The overall goal of our ongoing research is to develop a methodological framework for collecting and analyzing cm- scale, drone-based laser scanner (DLS) or lidar data, processing that data into spatially continuous maps of topography and vegetation that can be integrated with hydrodynamic models, water quality, and biological data to advance our understanding of riverscapes. These efforts will reveal new insights into riverine ecosystem functioning. Our methods and results will be embedded into the Fusality framework, an online informatics service that uses a unified 3D spatio-temporal information model to ingest, represent, fuse, and portray a range of data.