Modeling Conservation Priorities


Rebecca Sanborn

Advisor: Tim Clark


My FES master's thesis will develop a model to assist conservation organizations with making prioritization decisions. This work will be primarily GIS-based, and will result in a computer program that will use maps or parcel data, socioeconomic data, environmental data, and a risk assessment to score land units on their importance for conservation.

The risk assessment component of the project will use the software program GEOMOD to predict likelihood of development or change in land cover. GEOMOD uses classified land use data from two time periods to estimate amounts and locations of land use changes in the past, identifies important drivers of that change, and then predicts likelihood of change on grid cells for the future.

While some classified land use data is already available, there is not data from two time periods that uses the same classification scheme. To eliminate variability due to differences in classification by time period, I will classify the land cover from remotely-sensed imagery from 1986 and 2002. The data will eventually be reduced to two classes: forest cover and non-forest.

The risk assessment and prioritization model will assist small land trusts and conservation organizations with the difficult task of identifying and targeting important parcels before they are developed, and with focusing resources where they are most needed.

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20 January 2005