Space-based ornithology - studying bird migration and environmental change in North America

J. A. Smith, Jill L. Deppe

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


Natural fluctuations in the availability of critical stopover sites coupled with anthropogenic destruction of wetlands, land-use change, and anticipated losses due to climate change present migratory birds with a formidable challenge. Space based technology in concert with bird migration modeling and geographical information analysis yields new opportunities to shed light on the distribution and movement of organisms on the planet and their sensitivity to human disturbances and environmental changes. At the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, we are creating ecological forecasting tools for science and application users to address the consequences of loss of wetlands, flooding, drought or other natural disasters such as hurricanes on avian biodiversity and bird migration. We use an individual-based bird biophysical migration model, driven by remotely sensed land surface data, climate and hydrologic data, and biological field observations to study migratory bird responses to environmental change in North America. Simulation allows us to study bird migration across multiple scales and can be linked to mechanistic processes describing the time and energy budget states of migrating birds. We illustrate our approach by simulating the spring migration of pectoral sandpipers from the Gulf of Mexico to Alaska. Mean stopover length and trajectory patterns are consistent with field observations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationRemote Sensing for Agriculture, Ecosystems, and Hydrology X
StatePublished - 2008

Publication series

NameProceedings of SPIE - The International Society for Optical Engineering
ISSN (Print)0277-786X


  • INHS
  • Satellite remote sensing
  • Habitat suitability analysis
  • Environmental change
  • Bird migration modeling

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Electronic, Optical and Magnetic Materials
  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Applied Mathematics
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering
  • Computer Science Applications


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