by Dan GrunerOur task this week was to begin “ground-truthing” locations on the map to evaluate them for suitability as field study sites. This was basic reconnaissance, otherwise known as exploring (or just mucking about). It’s always exciting to visit new sites. For me, recon missions recall childhood Christmas mornings, with the anticipation of finding treasure in the stacks of wrapped boxes under the tree. What treasure will we find in the marshes and mangroves?
Even with the tremendous leaps we’ve gained from satellite imaging, Google Earth and other technologies, experience on the ground (or in the water) is irreplaceable. Our team must build a network of sites along the lagoons and estuaries of the Florida coast, and ultimately the globe, to understand the causes and consequences of shifts in the range of tropical mangrove species. On this day we probed several mangrove and salt marsh estuaries along the Indian River Lagoon. We tested technologies allowing real-time exploration of satellite imagery while comparing that imagery to landscape and vegetation features we saw on the ground. This was GPS on steroids! By allowing us to optimize site selection and replicate sites all along the coast, these technologies will help us characterize the vegetation of the estuaries and how they’ve changed over time.
But that day our attention was drawn away from new technology to something much older (about 50 million years old): manatees. Click to continue »