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Research group using Leica Geosystems

Mapping large land areas and determining conservation priorities may now be easier for conservationists in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, thanks to a new course that teaches students how to integrate Geographic Information Systems (GIS) technology and remote sensing principles into conservation projects.

In the course, “Satellite Image Analysis for Conservation (UERJ),” taught at the Universidade do Estado do Rio de Janeiro, South American conservationists are learning how to use ERDAS IMAGINE® software to incorporate satellite image layers to expedite intensive studies of restricted areas and cover large land areas. Mapping vast areas is crucial to South America because, owing to economic constraints, most countries cannot afford to update their land maps regularly, so these become inaccurate and outdated. “The technology taught in the course will help conservationists maintain accurate and updated land maps,” said Clinton Jenkins, course instructor.

The class is a mixture of graduate students, wildlife biologists, botanists and conservation organization workers. With the technology learned, students can apply the theory and principles to their respective conservation projects, which include such issues as rain forest preservation, wildlife preservation and urbanization. Students can also create maps that more accurately depict such features as vegetation, hydrology, road and river placement and wildlife presence than would be found on traditional maps. In turn, these robust maps can be used to help secure funding for future conservationist projects.

Using IMAGINE Professional® software, Jenkins is teaching students the principles of remote sensing, image enhancement, rectification, classification and accuracy assessment. As a prerequisite, Jenkins taught the basic functionalities of the ERDAS IMAGINE software such as how to use the IMAGINE Viewer to view different types of imagery (Landsat, AVHRR, SPOT and IKONOS).