Washington State University researchers are using satellites and drones to help local conservation districts monitor areas near rivers and streams to help improve agricultural sustainability.

Alex Fremier.

“The state’s program is really a bottom-up approach, where the state encourages local stewardship to improve riparian areas and monitor them,” said Alexander Fremier, an associate professor in WSU’s School of the Environment (SOE). “Stakeholders, including counties, districts, or landowners, propose areas that they can help improve, then monitor the results of their actions.”

“Google created a platform to access satellite imagery from the entire globe,” Fremier said. “We can start to analyze those images in real-time using simple computer code.”

Amanda Stahl.

“We wanted to see how far we could take the analysis and what level of technical expertise is required for people working on the ground to use it,” said Amanda Stahl, who was an SOE Ph.D. student studying with Fremier. “Riparian areas tend to be very narrow, but new technology provides much more detailed satellite photos that are updated at least once a week.”

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