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Drone use for environmental monitoring studied in Great Plains Research

Posted April 23, 2015

Natural resource managers may soon have a new tool to use in monitoring the river habitats of endangered and threatened wildlife species: drones.

A team of scientists found that small unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) equipped with a digital camera can effectively take images of emerging sandbars. Those pictures, combined with a photogrammetry software, show promise for delivering accurate results.

“Experimental Flights Using a Small Unmanned Aircraft System for Mapping Emergent Sandbars,” by Paul Kinzel, Mark Bauer, Mark Feller, Christopher Holmquist-Jonson and Todd Peterson is in the latest issue of Great Plains Research.

“Technical developments in UAS hardware, sensors, post-processing software and workflow are rapidly advancing,” the authors write, “and have the potential to provide scientists with cost-effective mapping and imaging tools for environmental monitoring, including river applications.”

Other articles in the issue focus on social and natural sciences.

> The past decade has seen an explosive growth in renewable energy industries in North Dakota. Randal C. Coon, Nancy M. Hodur, Dean A. Bangsund and Siew Hoon Lim examine the economic impact to the state in “Contributions of Renewable Energy Industries to the Local Economy in North Dakota.”

> Wild fruits traditionally used by the Lakota in South Dakota are still used today for many of the same purposes, though some of those customs might be waning as discussed in “Contemporary Use of Wild Fruits by the Lakota in South Dakota and Implications for Cultural Identity” by Joanita M. Kant, Gary E. Larson, Suzette R. Burckhard, Bruce W. Berdanier and Richard T. Meyers.

> “Avian Use of Black-Tailed Prairie Dog Colonies in Shortgrass Prairie” by James D. Ray, Mark C. Wallace and Rachel E. McCaffrey looks at how prairie dog populations affect bird populations in shortgrass and mixed-grass prairies.

> To better facilitate accuracy and efficiency in scientific data for conservation programs, Lionel Leston, Nicola Koper and Patricia Rosa evaluated techniques used in estimating detectability of prairie songbirds in “Perceptibility of Prairie Songbirds Using Double-Observer Point Counts.”

> Jason A. DeBoer, Joseph J. Fontaine, Chrisotpher J. Chizinski and Kevin L. Pope discovered that the life-history of walleye in a highly variable environment exhibited traits more typical of a short-lived life-history strategy as featured in their article “Masked Expression of Life-History Traits in a Highly Variable Environment.”

> Determining how Phragmites australis, an aggressive grass species that can take over native vegetation, can withstand fertilization, water fluctuation and warmer and cooler temperatures throughout the Great Plains is the focus of “Responses of Common Reed (Phragmites australis) to Nitrogen and Temperature Manipulations” by Phililp M. Mykleby, Tala Awada, John D. Lenters, Saadia Bihmidine, Adam J. Yarina and Stephen L. Young.

A copy of Great Plains Research is available via Project MUSE and in print from the University of Nebraska Press as an individual copy or as a subscription. Visit for more information.

Source: University of Nebraska-Lincoln

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