Advanced Topobathymetric Lidar Remote Sensing for Coastal Ecosystem Structure, Change, and Vulnerability Studies

John Brock
Coastal and Marine Geology Program U.S. Geological Survey National Center Reston, Virginia
Friday, Apr. 1, 2011, 3:00pm
Chase 130

Laser altimetry, inclusive of both topographic and hydrographic surveying, is a type of remote sensing generally known as "Light Detection and Ranging" (lidar) that has undergone rapid development during the last two decades.  Numerous recent studies have verified that current lidar systems, often coupled with passive optical imaging or acoustic sounding, can contribute to a wide range of coastal scientific investigations. The broad applicability of airborne topographic lidar surveying to coastal studies and resource management stems from the capability of this active remote sensing method to map "bald Earth" land surfaces under vegetation in studies of geologic framework and hydrology, and to determine the vertical structure of plant canopies. Near infrared wavelength topographic lidar is an excellent method for the regional mapping of geomorphic change along barrier island beaches and other sandy coasts due to storms or long-term sedimentary processes. Green wavelength bathymetric lidars are of great value in the analysis of changing benthic geomorphology in temperate to tropical regions, and in studies of  coral reef aggradation and ecological function in tropical shallow reef tracts. Moveover, coastal scientists are employing results from multiple source lidar surveys in the creation of coastal societal vulnerability indices aimed at guiding hazard mitigation policies and natural resource management.


John Brock is a Staff Scientist with the US Geological Survey’s Coastal and Marine Geology Program Office at the USGS National Center in Reston, Virginia. His experience in the earth and marine sciences spans more than 30 years and a wide range of geologic terrains and coastal ecosystems. His extensive use of remote sensing in research ranges from satellite ocean color observations through medium resolution terrestrial imaging, to targeted airborne lidar surveys. At the USGS National Center, he heads a large interdisciplinary project focused on multiple time and space scale landscape change and hazards in the Northern Gulf of Mexico, and acts to foster research and natural resource management applications of lidar remote sensing to serve scientific goals across all USGS Mission Areas.