1. This activity has benefited from input from faculty educators beyond the author through a review and suggestion process. This review took place as a part of a faculty professional development workshop where groups of faculty reviewed each others' activities and offered feedback and ideas for improvements. To learn more about the process On the Cutting Edge uses for activity review, see http://serc.carleton.edu/NAGTWorkshops/review.html.

This page first made public: Aug 17, 2010

Remote Sensing of Water

Teaching activity developed by John R. Jensen, University of South Carolina.
Activity page submitted by Jerry Griffith, University of Southern Mississippi.


This lab exercise uses GOES and Landsat imagery to introduce applications to water resources, and asks students to develop ideas about some of the ecological/earth science processes involved.


Type and level of course
This is intended as a lab exercise for a junior-senior level course in an introduction to remote sensing applications course (or geological remote sensing course), or it could be used for an upper-level course in hydrology/water resources. The lab and the data sets come from John Jensen, University of South Carolina, and are developed for his textbook, "Remote Sensing of Environment".

Geoscience background assumed in this assignment
Some knowledge of the environmental sciences typical of an earth sciences major (physical geography, weather & climate, earth science) in their junior or senior year.

Basic photo-interpretation skills and knowledge of electomagnetic wavelengths that would be taught in an introductory remote sensing class.

GIS/remote sensing skills/background assumed in this assignment
Photo-interpretation, knowledge of spectral bands of various sensors.

Software required for this assignment/activity:

Time required for students to complete the assignment:
1.5 hours - 2 hours (some done at home)


GIS/remote sensing techniques students learn in this assignment
This lab exercise uses GOES and Landsat imagery to introduce applications to water resources, and asks students to develop ideas about some of the ecological/earth science processes involved. It focuses on photo-interpretation of the satellite imagery which is embedded in the lab. It also helps the student to focus on the remote sensing process itself, and to understand the protocol used when doing a remote sensing application project.

Other content/concepts goals for this activity
The applications discussed in this lab are all related to water resources, and cover a range of areas from oceanography to hydrology. The questions are really small case studies, and include: 1) hurricane effects on algal blooms and phytoplankton in coastal areas, 2) estimating snowpack in the Sierra Nevada, 3) water quality and ecosystem protection in Florida Bay, and 4) Flood Mapping on the Mississippi River.

Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity
The higher order thinking skills required in this exercise include synthesis of information from a variety of earth science fields, the potential for development of hypotheses concerning earth science processes in the case studies, and the organizational thinking involved for determining the propoer steps to take in a remote sensing project.

Description of the activity/assignment

To prepare for this lab, students most likley will have been given background information on various satellite sensors and their wavelengths. They will have a book with them that can remind them of this various information on sensors and what the capabilities and applicationsof of each wavelgnth are. The case studies are: 1) GOES imagery and algal bloom in Cape Hatteras. This study shows a temporal sequence of Hurricane Floyd off the coast of North Carolina, and allows students to see how water quality in the different bays is affected after the sediment flows from inland rivers have affected phytoplankton and algal growth., 2) Estimating snowpack in California. This case study asks students to consider how remote sensing can be used to help determine snowpack and water estimates for the Sierra Nevada, and 3) Preserving water quality in Florida Bay. This case study asks students to consider how remote sensing and the various bands of Landsat imagery can be used to monitor the Everglades region.

It is likley that background information on some of the various processes will need to be given, such as the relationship between heavy runoff from inland areas, and algal growth inestuaries.

Determining whether students have met the goals

Thier lab exercise answers will consist of written text answers, and these are evaluated to see if the student basically understood some basic photointerpretation for the HUrrican/algla bloom case study, and some basic information on which bands will be useful for specific purposes inthe other case studies.
More information about assessment tools and techniques.

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