Coastal Mapping, Monitoring & Geodetic Surveys

Coastal Mapping, Monitoring & Geodetic Surveys

Collection, analysis, and interpretation of geospatial data helps us understand and monitor our changing coasts, enhance coastal resilience, and inform coastal management and resource decisions. Coastal regions are increasingly threatened by a number of hazards, including hurricanes, tsunamis, Nor’easters, dune and bluff erosion, and sea-level rise. Preparing for and responding to these threats requires accurate, up-to-date geospatial data (i.e., map data and information with spatial coordinates) to analyze coastal change, predict inundation under various storm and sea level rise scenarios, design evacuation routes, implement protection strategies, and effectively manage our coasts. Unfortunately, the coastal zone is one of the most challenging areas in which to collect geospatial information—especially in the nearshore zone, where breaking waves, wind, surf, suspended sediment, and rapid morphological change can impede even the most advanced surveying and mapping technologies.

Researchers working on projects within this theme are investigating new mapping and monitoring technologies, ranging from unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) to autonomous boats, light detection and ranging (lidar), hyperspectral imagery, satellite imagery, and global navigation satellite systems (GNSS) to address these challenges. CIMERS-affiliated faculty and students are using the data to create seamless topographic-bathymetric models, monitor shoreline change and erosion, model hurricane and tsunami inundation, map benthic habitats, and a range of other applications. The results of this research are being used by NOAA NOS and other agencies to support safe marine navigation, monitor harmful algal blooms, map coral reef ecosystems, and prepare for hurricanes, oil spills and other events. Because of the critical nature of coastal geospatial data in supporting policies and management decisions, a related focus area within this theme is uncertainty analysis. Researchers are developing new tools and algorithms for quantifying uncertainty in geospatial data and derived information, including inundation models, coastal erosion, and nearshore bathymetry. A critical aspect of this work involves investigating new methods of communicating uncertainty information to managers and policymakers.

Seafloor reflectance mapping for the U.S. Virgin Islands

Unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) were used to map benthic habitats, including coral reef habitats, and inform coastal management decisions. More than 48,000 UAS images over St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands, were used to develop seafloor orthomosaics and bathymetric digital elevation models (DEMs).

Online Datasets