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In order to better understand how small scale changes are implemented by land cover/land use decisions by households, farmers, and tourists, we use high spatial resolution satellite data to map, monitor, and model landscape changes for remote islands and connected archipelagos.


  • What spatial and spectral resolutions of commercial satellite data can be fused into a time-series analysis of changes on islands?
  • How can the trajectories of change on islands be used to assess island sustainability and the assessment if ecosystem and goods and services across island ecosystems?


Steve Walsh, Laura Brewington, Yang Shao, Francisco Laso, and Phil Page

This project aims to characterize the human dimension on islands through an image time-series generated from Digital Globe and Planet Labs data, particularly, small-scale agriculture and the rural-urban transition in geographically restricted settings.
 Endangered Galapagos Tortoises are subjected to considerable habitat transformation and fragmentation along their migratory pathways. Forage abundance and patterns of consumption determine individual conditions, size, and fitness, mediated by population dynamics, competition from other individuals, evolutionary trajectories of species and ecosystems, and land cover/land use patterns. For this project, we aim to:

  • Identify regions of remaining native forests in or near the agricultural zone of the Galapagos.
  • Identify the distribution of invasive plant species like Psidium guajava, Rubus niveus, Zygsigum jambos, and Pennisetum purpureum that threaten agricultural lands and adjacent protected areas.
  • Identify the distribution of Erythrina smithiana living fences in Santa Cruz, which might act as an obstacle for migrating tortoise populations.
  • Identify the distribution of economically significant agricultural land cover like cattle ranching pastures, annual crops, tree crops, and cash crops such as coffee.
  • Small-scale agriculture mapping at the farm and parcel level are vastly improved, both in the spatial structure of crop types & their compositional analysis.
  • PlanetScope data provided effective mapping of household farms, small scale agricultural plots, unimproved local roads & trails, invasive plant species, and migration trails of Giant Tortoises as well as barriers to their movement.

This research is funded by National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).