Forest Service helps emerging scientists assess drought impacts in urban forests

Forest Service scientists served as research advisors and collaborators with a team of NASA DEVELOP program participants, helping to guide these early-career environmental scientists through novel research, and to connect their work with local end-users of the science. The project utilized satellite data and air photos to assess drought impacts on urban trees across Houston and Austin, Texas.

DEVELOP 2019DEVELOP is an early-career and student scientist capacity-building program, part of NASA’s Applied Sciences Program. Focused projects bring participants together with scientists in partner organizations, to co-develop research using earth observation data to understand pressing environmental issues. Forest Service scientists at the Eastern Forest Environmental Threat Assessment Center served in this capacity to develop and guide a team project: Analyzing Drought-related Impacts on Urban Tree Inventory Conditions and Recovery in Texas. The project was honored to be named the winner of the program’s national Virtual Poster Session competition. Urban forests provide a myriad of ecosystem services such as pollution reduction, carbon sequestration, and more, but prolonged drought events can interfere with those services and inflict significant damage to tree inventories. To gain insight concerning the effects of the historic 2011 Texas drought, the team partnered with the Texas A&M Forest Service and used satellite imagery paired with high-resolution aerial imagery to understand relationships between general vegetation characteristics and urban tree canopy stress. Team research efforts focused on using the imagery to analyze stress and mortality over time and interpret patterns of urban forest recovery after the historic drought event.


Pictured: NASA DEVELOP program participants presented their research through a poster, a talk, an online map resource, and an award-winning video. Photo by Deb Misch, courtesy of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

External Partners/Collaborators: Andrew Shannon, NASA DEVELOP Program; NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI); Burl Carraway and Rebekah Zehnder, Texas A&M Forest Service.

Contact: Lars Pomara, Ecologist, Eastern Forest Environmental Threat Assessment Center,

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