Featured GIS Projects

How does the Southeast region of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service use GIS? Check out a curated list of GIS projects below!

Mapping Beach Mice Habitat

Scampering among the dunes on a small barrier island along the northwest coast of Florida, south of Pensacola, is a small, light colored mouse called the Perdido Key beach mouse (Peromyscus polionotus trissyllepsis). Beach mice are a group of Peromyscus that have adapted to making their living in and among the coastal dune systems in Florida and Alabama. In all, there are eight subspecies, of which six are federally listed and one is presumed extinct. According to the 2006 Designation of Critical Habitat Final Rule, loss of habitat and resulting fragmentation is the greatest threat to the subspecies. Furthermore, it states that for the conservation of the subspecies we need to establish large connected tracts of land that provide all the habitat components (primary, secondary, and scrub dunes) necessary for the long-term survival of the species.

A map showing beach mouse habitat in green polygons along a beach.

Geomorphon reclassified dunes from aerial imagery. Image by Paul Lang, USFWS.

To that end we are attempting to map the coastal dune system with respect to the habitat components of beach mice habitat using data and imagery collected by satellites in space (remotely sensed data). Existing land cover data falls short both in resolution (way too course) and in classification (way too general). Therefore, by using data and imagery collected from ​airplanes (remotely sensed data) our primary goal is to develop a high-resolution habitat map that we can use to help inform and guide conservation actions implemented for the recovery this species. Our secondary goal is to develop a ​methodology ​for which we can ​​apply this same process to the other beach mice subspecies ranges and ​to ​look at ​changes ​in habitat ​over time​, particularly in the wake of tropical storm events.

A 3D model of elevation.

Digital terrain model in 3D for beach mouse habitat. Image by Paul Lang, USFWS.

By employing object-based image analysis (OBIA) on high-resolution aerial imagery we are able to look at the diversity of the coastal dune habitat, defined by the mosaic of sand and vegetation. Defining these objects then allows us to ​map areas of habitat with similar characteristics of this mosaic. Once the objects are identified​ they are then classified as primary, secondary or scrub dune habitat based on ​the ​​characteristics of the pixels​ of the imagery within each of these objects.

We are also using highly-accurate laser-based, remotely sensed data, known as LiDAR, to help ​us ​a create 3-D view (called digital terrain models​ or DTM) of the coastal dune system​. ​Because ​we ​can “see” the dunes in 3-D, we are able to do some really cool things like map​ping​ dune footprints​ and dune fields​; identifying areas that do not get inundated during tropical storm events​, etc​​. All of this put together helps us to get a better understanding of beach mice habitat across the landscape and as a result better address recovery of these species​.

South Atlantic LCC Blueprint 2.1

Logo for the South Atlantic Landscape Conservation Cooperative

The South Atlantic Conservation Blueprint is a living spatial plan to conserve natural and cultural resources for future generations. It identifies opportunities for shared conservation action, prioritizing the lands and waters of the South Atlantic based on natural and cultural resource indicator models and a connectivity analysis.

Blueprint 2.1, released in August 2016, is a totally data-driven plan based on terrestrial, freshwater, marine, cultural and cross-ecosystem indicators. It uses the current condition of those indicators to prioritize the most important areas for shared action to to sustain natural and cultural resources across the South Atlantic geography. Through a connectivity analysis, the Blueprint also identifies corridors that link coastal and inland areas and span climate gradients. So far, more than 400 people from over 100 organizations have actively participated in developing the Blueprint. To learn more about the Blueprint, visit the Blueprint page. To learn more about the indicators, visit the indicator page.

A map of the Southeastern United States showing priority areas for conservation.

South Atlantic Landscape Conservation Cooperative, Conservation Blueprint 2.1.

The lands and waters of the South Atlantic are changing rapidly. Climate change, urban growth, and increasing human demands on resources are reshaping the landscape. While these forces cut across political and jurisdictional boundaries, the conservation community does not have a consistent cross-boundary, cross-organization plan for how to respond. The South Atlantic Conservation Blueprint is that plan.

In Blueprint 2.1, we’ve worked especially hard to improve the overall Blueprint documentation. Here are just a few of those improvements in the documentation:

  • All the intermediary layers (indicators, ecosystem scores, corridors, etc.) are available with metadata on the Conservation Planning Atlas (CPA) in the Blueprint 2.1 Data Gallery.
  • All the indicator layers now have a known issues section. Did you find a problem with an indicator during a review session or as part of a revision team? If it couldn’t be fixed, then it’s in the known issues session. If you don’t see it, or would like to point out a new issue, feel free to email the South Atlantic LCC Science Coordinator at rua@southatlanticlcc.org.
  • Improved legends for all Blueprint layers on the Conservation Planning Atlas. Based on your feedback and review by multiple staff of your cooperative, we’ve improved the wording for all legends.
  • All the changes and improvements in documentation have been reviewed by multiple people to ensure they’re both technically correct and easily understood.
  • Want to see everything in one place? All this improved documentation on the Blueprint is also available as a single pdf. If you find any problems with the pdf, email our user support and communications expert at hilary_morris@fws.gov

Mottled Duck Decision Support Tool

The Gulf Coast Joint Venture (GCJV) region provides valuable habitat for wintering and resident waterfowl species. The mottled duck (Anas fulvigula) is a resident species associated with coastal marsh habitat, a habitat that has significantly declined throughout the GCJV. This decline is a result of several factors, some of which include urbanization, subsidence, sea level rise, altered hydrology due to canal and levee construction, and the spread of invasive species. This loss and fragmentation of habitat has raised concerns about the mottled duck population within the GCJV region, specifically the loss of suitable nesting and brood-rearing habitat (Wilson 2007). Strategies to increase mottled duck populations are primarily based on efforts to increase nest success and brood survival. This is primarily done by either preserving or creating landscapes that contain suitable nesting and brood-rearing habitat in the appropriate spatial configuration.

A map of the gulf coast showing areas the joint venture is working in all along the coast.

Gulf Coast Joint Ventury boundary. Map by Mark Parr, USFWS.

Researchers at Texas A&M, Kingsville, along with GCJV staff, have developed a Decision Support Tool (DST) designed to aid land managers in: (1) identifying currently suitable nesting (grassland) and brood-rearing (non-saline marsh) habitat, (2) areas where grassland establishment would be beneficial for nesting mottled ducks, and (3) areas where wetland enhancement would be beneficial for brood-rearing activities of mottled ducks.

Parameters for identifying suitable nesting habitat included land cover type, size of nesting patch, edge-to-interior ratio of nesting patches, and distance of nesting patch to suitable brood-rearing habitat. Parameters used to identify suitable brood-rearing habitat included wetland type, hydroperiod (the number of years out of 9 years that a habitat patch was inundated), and distance of brood-rearing patch to suitable nesting habitat.

A map of the gulf coast showing areas likely to support mottled duck breeding in very bright colors (purple, red, orange, yellow).

Currently suitable nesting habitat. Map by Mark Parr, USFWS.

To maximize the biological return from conservation investment, the DST prioritizes both suitable nesting and brood-rearing habitat. This prioritization was based on the density of both suitable nesting and brood-rearing habitat within 1 mile of each habitat type, the distance of each habitat type from the other, and the hydroperiod of a given brood-rearing habitat.