Jon Walt defends thesis using remote sensing to map invasive plants
On June 28, 2022, graduate student Jonathan Walt defended his thesis, titled "Mapping the Spread of Invasive Species in Michigan Wetlands using Remote Sensing". His committee members included Dr. Sean Woznicki of AWRI, Dr. Kin Ma from the Geography & Sustainable Planning Department, and Dr. Jennifer Moore from the Biology Department.
Invasive species cause many issues in wetlands because they change soil chemistry and how water flows and create large uniform stands that reduce the amount of native plants and animals in the area. Jon used publicly available satellite imagery and statistical programs to model the extent of Phragmites australis (common reed), an invasive species that dominates many wetlands in Michigan. His models used remotely sensed data from radar and multispectral satellites along with maps of hydric soils and topography. This model classifies the extent of Phragmites in wetlands, with the best model correctly identifying Phragmites stands 90% of the time. Overall, this approach demonstrates that publicly available satellite imagery can be used to model and update models of Phragmites in a large study region, like the Lower Peninsula of Michigan.
Jon now works for the State of Michigan as an Environmental Quality Analyst with the Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) in their Water Resources Division, out of their Gaylord office. This position reviews permit applications to alter or construct inland lakes and streams, wetlands, high risk erosion areas, and critical dune habitats.
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