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UW Researcher Applies Remote Sensing to Understanding Critical River Environments

February 25, 2011
University of Wyoming researcher Carl Legleiter conducts field measurements on the Platte River in Nebraska. (Brandon Overstreet Photo)

Optical remote sensing technology may yield critical information about the dynamic features of river environments in Wyoming and beyond.

Aided by a $540,000 grant from the Office of Naval Research Young Investigator Program, Carl Legleiter, an assistant professor in the University of Wyoming's Department of Geography, is developing ways to apply optical remote sensing technology to acquire basic data about such features as channel geometry, bed configuration and flow hydraulics.

"Riverine environments are of critical interest in numerous tactical and scientific applications, and yet effective methods to characterize these dynamic features are lacking," he says.  "Acquiring basic data on channel morphology is often infeasible due to logistical constraints, and at times impossible, due to denied access."

He says researchers will develop and evaluate techniques to derive useful information on various channel attributes from image data. They will assess the potential of various sensing technologies for remote mapping of rivers and facilitate the extraction of river information from optical data.

"These research activities will establish an advanced capacity to measure river environments via optical remote sensing, as well as an appreciation of the limitations inherent to this approach," Legleiter says.

Thus far, the research has focused on Soda Butte Creek and the Lamar River in Yellowstone National Park and the Snake River in Grand Teton National Park.

Legleiter joined the UW faculty in 2009. He received B.S. degrees (2002) in earth sciences and mathematical sciences from Montana State University, and a Ph.D. (2008) in geography from the University of California at Santa Barbara.

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