Metta Nicholson

Investigating the strength of remote sensing technologies in analyzing wetland biodiversity

Wetlands are habitats valued for their ecosystem services, nutrient cycling abilities, biodiversity, and buffering capacity, but have been rapidly declining since the eighteenth century. Only recent efforts have attempted to address wetland decline, and such large-scale analyses of wetland composition face complications regarding the difficulty of site access and the impacts that direct field investigations can have on vulnerable species. To address these difficulties, remote sensing tools can be used to map and analyze wetland vegetation. However, wetland biodiversity indicators from remote sensing data remain limited in strength and are heavily context-dependent. My project will work to fill this gap by analyzing the effects of two important confounding issuesdominance of alien species and woody vegetationon our ability to predict wetland biodiversity using satellite images, focusing on a unique national-scale sample of 1138 USA wetland sites. Although previous work has shown that both factors may affect spectral properties of wetlands, their effects on remote sensing indicators of biodiversity have not been thoroughly explored, especially at such a large and comprehensive scale.

Message to Sponsor

Thank you to the Rose Hills Foundation for funding my research this summer! I was so grateful to have the opportunity to perform in-depth research on a topic that is of great interest to me. My research experience this summer has encouraged me to pursue a thesis project during my senior year and solidified my desire to go to grad school after I finish my undergraduate degree. This experience has also enhanced my ability to communicate my research to a broad audience and work with others to achieve a common goal. I hope that research will continue to play an important role in my future, and I am so glad that SURF and the Rose Hills Foundation provided me with this incredible opportunity.
  • Major: Molecular Environmental Biology
  • Sponsor: Rose Hills Experience
  • Mentor: Iryna Dronova