Team location: Marshall Space Flight Center – University of Alabama Birmingham
Steve Padgett-Vasquez, M.S. (Marshall DEVELOP Center Lead)
Dr. Jeff Luvall, NASA Marshall Space Flight Center (Science Advisor)
Dr. Donna Burnett, University of Alabama at Birmingham (Science Advisor)
Abstract: Alabama’s Cahaba River is among the most biologically diverse rivers in North America. The Cahaba River also supplies water to 20% of Alabama residents. Urban development and surface run-off are detrimental to a river’s health by introducingcontaminants, changing water chemistry, causing temperature fluctuations, and altering water flow. The NASA DEVELOP team from Marshall Space Flight Center-University of Alabama at Birmingham investigated the link between landscape changes and water quality within the watershed. The team utilized Landsat 5 TM from June/July 2000 and April 2004 to process Normal Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) to measure the amount of vegetation within the watershed. Students compiled previously collected in-situ population and biodiversity data pertaining to mussels and benthic macro-invertebrates in the Cahaba Watershed. Mussels and benthic macro-invertebrates, such as Ephemeroptera (mayflies), Plecoptera (stoneflies), and Trichoptera (caddisflies), are particularly sensitive to changes in a river’s ecosystem; therefore, these organisms are viable indicators of significant changes in water quality. By running spatial analyses on the data in the form of Ordinary Kriging, the team analyzed the satellite results in conjunction with the biological data to determine a relationship between local land use practices and conservational concerns within the Cahaba. Areas with urban development along the Cahaba River watershed were found to be associated with low biodiversity in the river. Stream confluences were found to be areas with high levels of biodiversity. Due to seasonal variations of the calculated NDVI, changes in vegetation could not be calculated.
Download the poster PDF here.
Video transcript available here.