Date of this Version
Understanding and perceiving the natural world is a key part of management, policy, conservation, and inevitably for our future. Increased demand on natural resources has heightened the importance of documenting ecosystem changes, and knowledge-sharing to foster awareness. The advancement of digital technologies has improved the efficiency of passive monitoring, connectivity among systems, and expanded the potential for innovative and communicative approaches. From technological progression, time-lapse imagery has emerged a valuable tool to capture and depict natural systems. I sought to enhance our understanding of a water-stressed system by analyzing imagery, in addition to integrating images with data visualization to illustrate the complexity of a river basin in central Nebraska. Image analysis was used to quantify wetland water inundation and vegetation phenology. These measurements from visible changes were combined with less visible data from additional passive monitoring to examine the relationship between vegetation phenology and bat activity, as well as wetland inundation and water quality. Moreover, time-lapse data sequences were constructed by integrating time-lapse imagery with data visualization in an interactive digital framework to examine the applications for communicating social-ecological dynamics. Findings suggest vegetation phenology was differentially associated with seasonal bat activity, possibly related to migratory versus resident life history strategies. In regards to examining wetland hydrology, water inundation was found to be correlated with nitrate, dissolved oxygen, and DEA, and negatively correlated with water temperature, indicating the importance of understanding water levels. AEM-RDA analysis identified several significant temporal patterns occurring with the wetland as well as the river site. Similarities between river and wetland patterns were suggestive of regional conditions driving fluctuations, while discrepancies were indicative of structural, biological, and local differences within individual sites. In examining communicative applications, time-lapse data sequences depicted a range of ecological dynamics while linking visible and invisible occurrences. The framework shows potential to offer a tangible context with explanatory content to aid in understanding environmental changes that are often too subtle to see or beyond the temporal scale of unaided human observation. Overall, cumulative findings suggest time-lapse imagery is of dual utility and has high potential for collecting data and illustrating ecological dynamics.
Advisor: Craig R. Allen