Virgin Islands Ecological Forecasting – NASA DEVELOP Summer 2017 @ Ames

Virgin Islands Ecological Forecasting – NASA DEVELOP Summer 2017 @ Ames


If someone asks you what your paradise looks like, what would you say? If something like “this” is your kind of paradise, “this” is a U.S. Virgin Islands. The collection of U.S. Virgin Islands in the Caribbean Sea is home to highly diverse terrestrial and marine ecosystems, making it an attractive destination for tourism. Because of this tourism development has grown a lot within the past 50 years. A big concern about development is the influx of dirt and contaminants which would otherwise be absorbed or filtered by natural habitats Imagine this as a watershed. The U.S. Virgin Islands get a lot of rain So these pollutants get flushed into the ocean and are unhealthy for nearshore plants and animals All right Let’s first understand how development is managed on the Island. The department of planning and natural resources is in charge of issuing permits for new development. So, land-use varies across the span of each island. Our mission is to quantify land use change and its environmental impacts on St. John and St. Thomas We are in search of coastal habitats that are at most risk for degradation. We’re also looking for areas that have changed significantly>>>DR. SMITH: We need technologies that allow us to take one broad snapshot, and then analyze that to understand how it changed their career over time>>>ERICA: These are Nasa Earth observations Think of them as a toolset to capture how an area changes over time Plus, up-to-Date satellite imagery helps the U.S. Virgin Islands picture environmental changes as they occur. They can monitor their coasts from above in order to improve decision-making on the ground. We looked at photos from Landsat 5, Landsat 8, and Sentinel-2 When we look at a collection of these photos over time we can start to see trends and predict how land will change in the future. In applying what we know about the islands coastal waters, We can identify near shore habitats that are endangered because of increased development. Different pieces of the Islands landscape actually interact with each other and recognizing this blends better plans for the future. Using our analysis, the Department of Planning will be able to better connect how human impact on land affects environments both on land and at sea. The U.S. Virgin Islands can use information about what’s happening on their land to develop sustainably, making sure your paradise still looks like this for forever.

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