Earth Imaging Journal: Remote Sensing, Satellite Images, Satellite Imagery
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June 21, 2021
Boston University Uses Bluesky Aerial Photomaps to Research Climate Change

Massachusetts, 15 June 2021 – Researchers at Boston University are using high resolution aerial photography to investigate how important coastal ecosystems are responding to climate change. The study focused on an area of salt marsh in Massachusetts which saw an extreme storm event deposit more than 15 years’ worth of sediment onto the marshes. Using high resolution aerial photography from Bluesky researchers were able to examine the deposits in detail recording measurements of deposit’s distribution and total cover.

A second survey of the site has recently been completed by Bluesky to map depressions in the marsh surface, called potholes, which are important indicators of how the salt marsh is responding to rising sea level.

Salt marshes are among the most productive ecosystems providing a range of benefits including carbon sequestration, wildlife habitat and protection from storm surges and flooding. Coastal wetlands are progressively more at risk from the effects of climate change such as increasing carbon dioxide levels and rising temperatures. However, the primary impact is from rising sea level, which salt marshes are extremely vulnerable to due to their low, flat elevation.

“Many scientists believe that salt marshes possess resilience to low level rates of sea level rise because they are able to boost plant productivity with increasing water depth, adding to organic accretion. Likewise increasing periods of inundation will cause greater mineral sedimentation,” commented Professor Duncan M. FitzGerald of the Department of Earth and Environment at Boston University. “However, as the effects of climate change are predicted to include more extreme weather events, it is important that we understand how these events impact this important ecosystem.

“The Bluesky aerial photomaps allow us to observe and measure changes to the salt marsh and from this analysis we can get a better understanding of both short-term impact and the longer-term processes, which can then be used to help inform possible restoration methods,” he continued.

Bluesky Geospatial undertook the original survey of the Parker River Wildlife Refuge in Newburyport, Massachusetts following a period of extended low temperatures, which caused prolonged ice formation, followed by strong winds and an extremely high tide. 300 exposures were captured using a large format, digital aerial photogrammetric camera which were processed to produce seamless coverage of the 130 km2 site at 10 centimeter resolution. The follow up survey was undertaken during early April 2021. The Bluesky aerial photomaps are shared with Boston University for analysis using the ArcMap Geographical Information System (GIS).

 About Bluesky:

 Bluesky acquired Massachusetts-based aerial survey company Col-East in 2017. Col-East has been aerial mapping in the Northeast States for more than 65 years and has a long-established reputation for very high-quality topographic mapping with particular expertise in specialized aerial surveys such as high precision aeronautical mapping requiring highly skilled analysis.

 As well as topographical mapping and aeronautical work, Col-East offered a range of aerial imaging services such as the production of terrain models, orthophotos and volumetrics, providing cost-effective mapping solutions from estates to development sites and complex transportation corridors. Col-East also owned a huge archive of aerial photography that had been captured over many years and dates to 1946. 

 Bluesky International is the leading aerial survey and geographic data company in the UK producing and maintaining seamless digital aerial photography and height data on a national scale in both Great Britain and the Republic of Ireland. Bluesky also undertakes bespoke surveys, including LiDAR, for a range of public and private sector clients.

 Bluesky International operates a range of aircraft and sensors including three Ultracam Eagle Mark 3s, two CityMappers which allows the simultaneous collection of vertical and oblique imagery as well as LiDAR data, and a Galaxy LiDAR which is mounted with a thermal sensor and survey grade camera. These systems put Bluesky International in the enviable position of being able to provide customers with unique and cost-effective geospatial solutions.

As well as being an established and respected aerial survey company Bluesky International is also highly innovative and continually strives to develop new products and services by embracing new technology and methods. This has resulted in the development of some unique products such as the National Tree Map (NTM).

These datasets underpin long term contracts with local and central governments and many major blue-chip companies from a range of market sectors including financial services, utilities, telecoms, web portals, construction and environment.  Bluesky International has offices in the UK, US, Republic of Ireland and a dedicated production centre in India.


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