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February 10, 2017
Chesapeake Conservancy to Highlight Benefits of High-Resolution Dataset at Esri Federal User Conference

Annapolis, Md – The Chesapeake Conservancy will present at the opening plenary of the 2017 Esri Federal User Conference in Washington, D.C. on Feb. 13. The conference will be attended by thousands of the region’s Esri software users, including staff from federal agencies, as well as state and local governments, businesses, and nonprofit organizations. Chesapeake Conservancy Director of Conservation Technology Jeff Allenby and Geospatial Program Manager Cassandra Pallai will present a live demonstration on the production and application of high-resolution land cover data.

The invitation to present follows on the heels of a technology milestone for the restoration of the Chesapeake Bay. In December of 2016, the  Chesapeake Bay Program (CBP) announced the completion of the  Chesapeake Bay High-Resolution Land Cover Project. Chesapeake Conservancy staff spearheaded a yearlong effort, in partnership with the University of Vermont and Worldview Solutions, Inc. to complete  this dataset, which is one meter by one meter resolution land cover data for the nearly 100,000 square miles comprising the Chesapeake Bay watershed and surrounding counties. The data provides detailed categorical information about the landscape, such as where roads, impervious surfaces, and trees exist. What started in 2013 as a pilot grant with Intel has grown into a technology movement that will significantly enhance land management, conservation and restoration prioritization, as well as environmental verification, among other things.

“Presenting at Esri’s Federal User Conference is going to be a powerful platform to highlight the role the Chesapeake Conservancy has been playing in the conservation and restoration movement throughout the Chesapeake,” Allenby said. “We don’t necessarily play a largely public role in our partners’ use of the land cover. We play a supporting role, one where our data is enabling partners, from the federal government to local water keepers, to be able to do their jobs better. The Esri conference is going to be an opportunity for people to see the contributions we are making—to highlight the work we have been doing with our partners and our limitless potential as conservation entrepreneurs—to continue to improve the conservation movement in the Chesapeake and beyond.”

Allenby and Pallai are presenting on advancements in Esri software and Microsoft Azure cloud technology that will be very beneficial to Chesapeake cleanup efforts. The pair aims to show how environmental planning, both in the Chesapeake Bay and outside of the watershed, can benefit from thinking differently about how land is managed. Traditional methods have relied on imprecise information that is slow to produce, but new computing abilities are opening doors to faster turn-around on making data. This means that we can get actionable information quickly, when and where action is needed most. Chesapeake Conservancy has pushed the envelope and merged the application of cutting edge technology with the traditional conservation movement.

Allenby will kick off the demo with a preview of the Chesapeake Conservancy’s work on designing and implementing a faster way to make land cover data. “Our efforts on this front will allow us to detect changes as they’re happening, rather than years after the fact,” says Allenby. Next, Pallai will describe how the land cover and cloud-based improvements for processing time can be applied to the real-world problem of planting riparian buffers in Pennsylvania. “Raw data does not give us the guidance that we need to take management actions; it needs analyzing in context with many datasets to provide information useful to managers,” explains Pallai. “Esri is giving us the chance to highlight how our work on applying technology to guide the Chesapeake Conservancy’s Pennsylvania restoration projects can be scaled to other parts of the watershed.”

The Chesapeake Conservancy’s mission is to strengthen the connection between people and the watershed; conserve the landscapes and special places that sustain the Chesapeake’s unique natural and cultural resources; and restore landscapes, rivers, and habitats in the Chesapeake Bay region. We empower the conservation community with access to the latest data and technology. As principal partner for the National Park Service on the John Smith Chesapeake Trail, we helped create 108 new public access sites and permanently protect some of the Bay’s special places like Werowocomoco, Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge, Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Historical Park, and Fort Monroe National Monument.  www.chesapeakeconservancy.org

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