Application of Remote Sensing Technologies for the Delineation and Assessment of Coastal Marshes and their Constituent Species

About the Project

Objectives | Funding | Background | People


Identify and delineate coastal marshes (CT and north shore of Long Island, NY) and distinguish various types of marsh vegetation using moderate spatial resolution public domain satellite imagery and high spatial resolution commercial remote sensing imagery combined with in situ field studies.  These datasets and protocols will provide coastal resource managers, municipal officials and researchers a standardized baseline inventory of marsh location and extent for current land management and long term monitoring, as well as a set of recommended guidelines for remote sensing data collection for marsh inventory and analysis.

EPA Long Island Sound Study



Coastal wetlands are a critical component of the Long Island Sound ecosystem. However, over the past century, a significant amount of these wetlands has been lost due to development, filling, and dredging, or damaged due to anthropogenic disturbance and modification.  Global sea level rise is also likely to have a significant impact on the condition and health of coastal wetlands, particularly if the wetlands have no place to migrate due to dense coastal development.  In addition to physical loss of marshes, the species composition of marsh communities is changing.  Spartina alterniflora (salt cordgrass) and Spartina patens (salt marsh hay), once the dominant species of New England salt marshes, are being replaced by monocultures of Phragmites australis (common reed) in CT marshes; anecdotal evidence identifies ~50% of tidal and brackish marshes in CT as sites of P. australis invasion.  P. australis outcompetes other marsh species in areas with increased fresh water, nitrogen and sediments and is positively correlated with marsh fragmentation.  In response to the increase of P. australis in many marshes, The Nature Conservancy, the CT DEP and other organizations have instituted efforts (commencing in the 1980s) to restore marsh health, including the eradication of P. australis in some areas.  The response of marshes to eradication has included both an increase of non-Phragmites marsh species and P. australis reinvasion. 

With the mounting pressures on coastal wetland areas, it is becoming increasingly important to identify and inventory the current extent and condition of coastal marshes located on the Long Island Sound estuary, implement a cost effective way to track changes in the condition of wetlands over time, and monitor the effects of habitat restoration and management. 


Dr. Daniel L. Civco, PI
Dr. Civco is an earth resources scientist with considerable experience in remote sensing and GIS applications. He has been involved extensively in research addressing both inland and coastal wetland resources, land use mapping and change analysis, impervious surface detection, and natural resources inventory and analysis. Dr. Civco is Director of the Center for Land use Education And Research at the University of Connecticut, and is the founder of its Laboratory for Earth Resources Information Systems (LERIS)

Dr. Martha Gilmore, PI
Dr. Gilmore is a geologist with expertise on remote sensing of planetary bodies, particularly the relationship between satellite and surface spectral data.  Dr. Gilmore uses her ASD FieldSpec FR portable reflectance spectrometer to collect spectra in the field.

James D. Hurd 
Mr. Hurd is Director of the Laboratory for Earth Resources Information Systems at the University of Connecticut, and will be involved directly in remote sensing data acquisition and analysis. Mr. Hurd has many years of experience in remote sensing data analysis and geospatial data processing and was the principle researcher for the creation of previous Connecticut statewide land cover images in 1990, 1995, and the recently completed four date (1985, 1990, 1995, 2002) land cover change maps.

Emily Hoffhine Wilson
Ms. Wilson has experience with many types of remote sensing data and image processing techniques such as change detection and image classification.  As a NEMO educator, she creates and maintains web sites that integrate information, maps and data.

Sandy Prisloe
Mr. Prisloe is the GeoSpatial Technology Educator for the State of Connecticut. He has many years of experience in GIS and has conducted preliminary wetland studies.