Developing geospatial models in Hawaiian watersheds to mitigate erosion & climate change

Graduate student operating an sUAV
Photo: TCBES graduate student Kimo Melcher pilots a small unmanned aircraft system (sUAS) on the island of Molokaʻi to investigate microtopographic features to develop habitat suitability and erosion models. Photo Credit: Ryan Perroy, UH Hilo

Project's Final Report (December 2019)

Project Summary

As climate change influences rainfall and erosion in coastal areas in Hawaiʻi, adaptation tools will be required to better manage watersheds and local landscapes. This effort will use contemporary remote sensing technologies to collect data and create models that will be used to inform management strategies. A collaborative effort involving community members and resource managers, our project will integrate local observations and remotely sensed data to generate digital elevation models and orthomosaics that will establish baselines and determine present-day erosion rates. After these digital elevation models are created, the next step will be the development of habitat suitability and erosion models. These models can be then used on a local scale to better predict the movement of sediments and locate microtopographic features that can be used to identify areas susceptible to compaction and runoff. The final habitat suitability models will enable the determination of best land use practices (e.g., forest restoration, check dams, agriculture) in specific targeted areas. The outreach component of this project will bring small Unmanned Aerial Systems to local high schools, involving them in workshops, and training a high school student and an undergraduate research intern. The application of these geospatial tools will bring together stakeholders to collaboratively create restoration efforts that integrates local knowledge on natural and cultural resources, planning, and climate change.

Project Collaborators

Graduate Student and Primary Contact

  • Kimo Melcher (, University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo TCBES Program

Faculty Co-advisors

  • Ryan Perroy, Associate Professor, UH Hilo Geography and Environmental Studies, TCBES Program
  • Rebecca Ostertag, Professor, UH Hilo, Biology, TCBES Program

Committee members

  • Natalie Kurashima, Integrated Resources Manager, Natural and Cultural Resources, Kamehameha Schools
  • Jene Michaud, Professor, Geology, University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo

Project Start Date: November 2018
PI-CASC Support Completion Date: December 2019 (project ongoing)

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