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Research Focus

  • Hyperspectral remote sensing focused upon observations of vegetation (crops, wetlands, aquatic vegetation), surface water, soils and coral reefs
  • Analysis of satellite image data for regional, continental and global land cover characterization (Landsat, SPOT, AVHRR, MODIS, IKONOS, SeaWIFS, etc.)
  • Estimation of biophysical parameters of vegetation (e.g., leaf area index, production, fractional cover)
  • Land cover change assessment
  • Remote sensing as a component of precision agriculture
  • Spatial and contextual analysis of multispectral imagery
  • Commercial applications of remote sensing and GIS
  • Distance education using the Web
  • Remote sensing/GIS integration
  • Spatial modeling using GIS focused upon renewable resources management, environmental hazard assessment and land use/land cover change

Selected Projects


NebraskaView is Nebraska's state node for AmericaView, a nationwide U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) program that focuses on providing easy, low-cost access to remotely-sensed data and promoting remote sensing education, research and applications. Our mission is to ensure that Nebraskans (e.g., state and local agencies, K-16 educators) make the fullest use of geospatial data.

The Center for Advanced Land Management Information Technoligies (CALMIT), University of Nebraska-Lincoln was selected by USGS as the AmericaView site for Nebraska.

Nebraska Gap Analysis Project

Gap Analysis is a national research effort that seeks to identify the degree to which all native plant and animal species and natural communities are, or are not, represented in our present-day mix of conservation lands.

Species-rich areas, vertebrate species and land cover types that are not adequately managed for the long-term maintenance of native species and natural ecosystems constitute conservation "gaps."

The Nebraska Gap Analysis Project is a multi-year effort that involves mapping Nebraska's land cover using satellite remote sensing, comparing distributions of vegetation communities with existing land uses, comparing places of species richness with existing land use and land cover, and development of a statewide biodiversity management strategy. More than two dozen cooperators including academic departments, state agencies, conservation organizations and others are cooperating with CALMIT in the Nebraska GAP project. These include the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, the Nebraska Natural Heritage Program, the University of Nebraska State Museum, and the USDA/Natural Resources Conservation Service. It is anticipated that data produced for the Nebraska GAP project will be useful to many agencies, non-profit organizations and others involved in land management, public policy development, planning and teaching.

Contact: Jim Merchant (

Cooperative Hydrology Study (COHYST)

The Cooperative Hydrology Study (COHYST) is a multi-agency project intended to improve understanding of hydrological conditions in the Platte River.

COHYST involves assemblage and creation of numerous geospatial data layers to be used in modeling and development of a water resources decision support system (DSS).

Contact: Jim Merchant (

Wheat Streak Mosaic (WSM)

Wheat Streak Mosaic
Wheat Streak Mosaic

Wheat streak mosaic (WSM) is the most severe disease of winter wheat in the Great Plains. Estimates indicate WSM causes an average loss to winter wheat of ca. 2% ($6 million, Nebraska; $18 million, Kansas). This mite-vectored virus is a problem in the year following pre-harvest hail damage because resulting volunteer wheat is the primary source of the mite/virus. Understanding mite movement (i.e. virus spread) is critical to predicting the epidemiology of WSM and developing efficient pest management programs. Remote sensing capabilities have the potential to greatly improve our approach to managing this complex problem.

The ultimate goal of this work is to establish WSM risk prediction tools based on pre-harvest hail damage and on virus spread via movement of wheat curl mites.

Contact: Don Rundquist (

Using Remote Sensing to Detect the Presence of Blue-Green Algae

Remote sensing is a useful tool for providing regulatory officials with the data necessary to make decisions regarding recreational waters. In 2005, CALMIT scientists undertook a collaborative effort with the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality aimed at developing a tool to identify lakes where blue-green algae populations are present. The overall purpose was to incorporate those affected lakes into a toxic-algae alert procedure to provide early warnings to the public about the potential danger. This project also served to promote coordination and information sharing about toxic-algae issues among local units of government, lake associations, lake owners, and the public.

Both in-situ (close-range) and remote techniques were employed to detect and quantify in real-time the algal phytoplankton pigment concentration and composition; i.e., chlorophyll-a and phycocyanin in the water column. Two criteria were used to identify lakes and reservoirs with high probability of toxic algae: (a) chlorophyll concentration above 50 mg/m3 and (b) existence of blue green algae (the phycocyanin absorption feature has been used to indicate remotely the presence of blue-green algae). These criteria were tested by analytical assessment of toxic algae and the tests were positive: when the sensor systems indicated high probability of toxins, they were found in water samples. The images below were acquired on June 6, 2005 using CALMIT's AISAEagle hyperspectral imaging system over the Fremont State Lakes in Nebraska. The first image was processed to yield relative densities of algal chlorophyll and the second to highlight (in white) those pixels containing phycocyanin. Lakes with potential for toxin development are easily seen (high chlorophyll amounts and the presence of phycocyanin).

Contact: Anatoly Gitelson (

Remote Sensing of Western-Caribbean Coral Communities

The UNL work involving remote sensing of coral communities was begun in 1996 by Don Rundquist and Anatoly Gitelson, along with CALMIT Faculty Fellow John Schalles (Creighton University), when the group collected reflectance spectra for selected coral features in the Northern Gulf of Aqaba (Near Eilat, Israel).

In 1997, the group returned to the Gulf of Aqaba and collected additional spectra. Subsequently, along with CALMIT Faculty Fellow Merlin Lawson, the group has collected coral spectra in-situ at Roatan Island, Honduras each spring semester during 2000-2005. Through the intervening years, CALMIT staff and students have worked to standardize the data collection protocol for measuring the spectral response of coral species. We consider the adoption of a dual-fiber-optic spectrometer to be advantageous in developing replicated 'spectral libraries' under diverse environmental conditions. In 2000, Sunil Narumalani, along with his student Jill Maeder, began investigating IKONOS images of Roatan in an effort to classify the benthic features of the Roatan coastal zone. In April 2005, CALMIT scientists deployed our Piper Saratoga to Roatan, Honduras, to conduct low altitude aerial remote sensing of spectra data over the coral reefs. Our platform utilizes the AISA-Eagle (AE) Hyperspectral Imager (VNIR) with 512 programmable spectral channels at a spatial resolution of 1 and 2 meters.

A second, continuing thrust of CALMIT's research in the Caribbean has been the identification and mapping of benthic habitats, using IKONOS and QuickBird imagery. Associated with this effort is the work of Professor Narumalani and his doctoral student Deepak Mishra, who have characterized the vertical diffuse attenuation coefficient for downwelling irradiance in coastal waters and high resolution ocean color remote sensing of benthic habitats (see Fact Sheet).

Contacts: Don Rundquist (, Sunil Narumalani(, Merlin Lawson(

Niobrara River Watershed

The Niobrara River watershed covers a large area in northern Nebraska, and neighboring parts of South Dakota and Wyoming, and is an important component of statewide natural resources management. Under ongoing agreements with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (BoR), the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission are charged with the development of management plans for various BoR projects in the Niobrara River watershed in Nebraska. A detailed delineation of land use and land cover patterns was needed in order to define and implement effective management strategies.

Contact: Jim Merchant (

Carbon Sequestion Program (CSP)

The Carbon Sequestion Program is studding how to remove atmospheric carbon dioxide by removing it from the atmosphere and increasing the amount of carbon stored (sequestered) in soil. A key issue, therefore, is the degree to which production agriculture can contribute to this mitigation. Their studies focus on determining the potential for carbon storage in dryland and irrigated cropping systems in the north-central U.S.A and the factors that govern carbon sequestration. With recent funding from the Department of Energy, we have established a state-of the-art field research facility at the University of Nebraska Agricultural Research and Development Center near Mead, Nebraska.

Effigy Mounds Landcover Classification

Three historical parks in the mid-western United States, Effigy Mounds National Monument (EFMO), northeastern Iowa, Wilson's Creek National Battlefield (WICR), southwestern Missouri, and Pipestone National Monument (PIPE), southwestern Minnesota are faced with the pressure of anthropological changes in the landscape surrounding them. The issue of how to manage the landscape of a U S National Monument dedicated to preserving a historical theme is the focus of this study. The U S National Park Service is collaborating with UNL-CALMIT to document land use/land cover changes in these parks during the last 60 years to facilitate management decisions for the protection of America's heritage.

Contact: Sunil Narumalani (

Nebraska Army National Guard

The Nebraska Army National Guard (NE ARNG) recognizes the importance of managing the nation's natural resources to prevent environmental degradation and to create a sustainable training environment that facilitates the military mission. Collecting accurate natural resource information is vital for the foundation and implementation of an Integrated Training Area Management (ITAM) Program and the Integrated Natural Resources Management Plan (INRMP). It is also important that information is collected on pest and invasive species for use as the foundation for the INRMP Pest and Invasive Species Management Plan (PISMP). The NE ARNG is cooperatively working with CALMIT to execute a survey of flora and fauna located in three training sites.

Contact: Sunil Narumalani (

Noxious Weeds Inventory and Mapping at Capulin Volcano National Monument

The National Park Service needs to identify and delineate areas of noxious weeds within Capulin Volcano National Monument and Fort Union National Monument, New Mexico, and within a portion of Lake Meredith National Recreation Area, Texas. CALMIT will use satellite imagery, aerial photos, and GPS technology to aid in inventory surveys and mapping of these areas. The National Park Service will use this information to assess the effectiveness of ongoing weed management actions and to complete NEPA compliance for the weed management program.

Contact: Sunil Narumalani (