Science Application Highlight
Landsat and MODIS: Helping Shorebirds Survive
Shorebird populations are struggling to find wetlands on their epic migrations down the Pacific Flyway, stemming from Alaska and Canada down to South America. As water resources have decreased in the Central Valley of California due to development, agriculture and other land use changes, resting and feeding grounds for migratory birds have decreased.
A team from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology was able to use data from the Moderate Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on-board NASA’s Terra and Aqua satellites, along with data from Landsat to identify areas that could be turned into “pop-up habitats,” where rice fields could be flooded to provide temporary habitats for migrating birds for a couple weeks per year.
To identify areas that would be beneficial “pop-up habitats,” satellite data on the location and timing of surface water was matched with migration patterns of shorebirds collected from the eBird program, a citizen science bird watching program that collects data on bird sightings. The result is the BirdReturns program, a partnership between the Nature Conservancy and the California Rice Commission that compensates rice farmers to flood their rice fields at particular times to provide migratory habitat for shorebirds.
Efforts like this can help land managers better allocate valuable resources, such as water in California, where they are needed when competition for these resources are high.
Terra: the EOS Flagship
Terra explores the connections between Earth's atmosphere, land, snow and ice, ocean, and energy balance to understand Earth's climate and climate change and to map the impact of human activity and natural disasters on communities and ecosystems.
Terra collects data about the Earth’s bio-geochemical and energy systems using five sensors that observe the atmosphere, land surface, oceans, snow and ice, and energy budget. Each sensor has unique features that enable scientists to meet a wide range of science objectives. The five Terra onboard sensors are:
- ASTER, or Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer
- CERES, or Clouds and Earth's Radiant Energy System
- MISR, or Multi-angle Imaging SpectroRadiometer
- MODIS, or Moderate-resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer
- MOPITT, or Measurements of Pollution in the Troposphere
Because Terra's five sensors share a platform, they collect complementary observations of Earth's surface and atmosphere. These varying perspectives of the same event can yield unique insights into the processes that connect Earth's systems.