Category: Mapping Landscape Changes and Species Distribution
Project Team: Southern Rockies Ecological Forecasting II
Team Location: NASA Langley Research Center – Hampton, Virginia
Tyler M. Rhodes
Dr. Kenton Ross (NASA Langley Research Center)
Emily Adams (Center Lead)
Mule deer are economically and ecologically important to the Southern Rockies; however, their populations are currently on the decline. Mule deer are migratory animals that are capable of traveling a few hundred miles from their summer to winter habitats and therefore require safe, uninterrupted passageways that will allow them to continue migrating without navigating over anthropogenic obstructions such as roads, oil well pads, and fences. Such disturbances have interrupted their migration paths and contributed to mule deer population decline. NASA DEVELOP provided spatial analysis in the form of maps to aid in the conservation of mule deer and their habitats in support of Southern Rockies Landscape Conservation Cooperative (SRLCC) and the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (WAFWA) Mule Deer Working Group. The project encompassed the SRLCC boundary, comprised of land in Idaho, Wyoming, Utah, Colorado, Arizona and New Mexico, from 2011 to 2014. Aqua and Terra Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) data were primarily used to evaluate vegetation phenology and Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) to assess migratory patterns. Terra ASTER data were utilized to create a Digital Elevation Model (DEM) and slope map to aid in determining suitable habitats, additionally, ground temperature and precipitation layers provided by Prism were included. Landsat 5 TM and 8 OLI data were applied to determine current and historical land use, land cover, patch size, and winter to summer connectivity corridors. These factors were incorporated into a species distribution model and mule deer range maps.