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ISU/NASA Develop Tool to Track Cheatgrass, Monitor Potential Wildfire Hazard

POCATELLO – Idaho State University and NASA researchers teaming up with the Bureau of Land Management used satellite imagery to identify increased wildfire susceptibility due to the invasion of cheatgrass on rangelands.
The Idaho Disasters III Project Team working at ISU’s GIS TraiISU_NASACheatgrassMapning and Research Center, one of only eight regional NASA DEVELOP Nodes in the United States, created reliable map images that BLM managers can use to identify cheatgrass infested areas. The map covers a large swath of eastern Idaho.
The researchers have been using new imagery collected by the Landsat 8 satellite, a collaboration between NASA and United States Geological Survey, which was launched in February 2013.
“By using Landsat 8 imagery, and classification tree analysis, which is an advanced artificial intelligence routine, we have been able to construct a reliable classification system to identify cheatgrass infestations that is accurate,” said Keith Weber, director of the ISU GIS Center. “This has implications for fire susceptibility. Cheatgrass is driving wildfire on rangelands and we need to identify areas that have heightened susceptibility to wildfire.”
The new maps have a variety of uses. Land managers can use this type of information to plan prescribed fires, fuel treatments, and other wildfire prevention/rehabilitation programs. In addition, the models may be used to assess the overall land health.
“These images are incredibly helpful for us,” said Shelli Mavor, fire ecologist for the BLM Pocatello Field Office. “We can use this tool for burn recovery and habitat restoration. This will also be a very useful tool for sage grouse habitat rehabilitation and planning.”

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Idaho State University Gibson Jack Creek RNA study on how plants process water has implications for climate change, water management

A solar panel sits near the top of a Douglas Fir tree about 70 feet off the ground somewhere on a steep ridge near Gibson Jack Creek, miles from the nearest trailhead.

“You know those things you enjoy as a child sometimes have applications afterwards,” said John Whiting, an Idaho State University geosciences master’s student, who has accompanied a group of ISU researchers to a study site where he climbed the tree and installed the solar panel about a year ago.

“I usually do the tree climbing, because I am most comfortable with it,” Whiting continued, “I am relatively safe and I usually use a harness, but Sarah doesn’t even like watching me install them.”

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Idaho State University Geoscientists Study Volcano Plumes

Work has Applications for Calbuco eruptions

April 28, 2015

Released by Idaho State University
Contact: Shannon Kobs Nawotniak, geosciences assistant professor, 282-4634,

POCATELLO – In the morning on April 23, Idaho State University volcanologists were setting off an artificial volcanic eruption plume in a the ISU Volcanic Simulation Laboratory; later that day, using the knowledge they collected in that lab, these scientists were analyzing Chile’s Calbuco volcano eruption, charting the plume’s characteristics.

ISU geosciences assistant professor Shannon Kobs Nawotniak and geosciences Ph.D. student Meghan Fisher have developed methods of understanding how volcanic eruption plumes behave, using an eruption simulation tank in the lab located in the lower level of the ISU Physical Science Building.

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Pocatello, Idaho, 83209