ESRI-Sponsored Research at BRIT
The core mission of BRIT’s GIS program is to gather and analyze geospatial and spatiotemporal data that help advance our understanding of Earth’s biodiversity. A key component of this mission is the dissemination of the data in formats that are of value not only for continuing research but also to help the general public understand and visualize the data.
BRIT researchers, educators, and staff often use ESRI (Environmental Systems Research Institute) GIS products, such as ArcGIS, to assist in the analysis and dissemination of data. Most of these products were generously provided through an ESRI Conservation Program grant, allowing us to analyze geospatial data and enhance project reports, scientific publications, as well as interpretive exhibits. The staff uses ESRI products to create dynamic maps that help identify regions of interest or particular sites to conduct field studies, to create 2D images of ecological plot data, and to denote the occurrence of plant collections.
Our team has been conducting intensive field research for the past several years within the United States, Europe, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Brazil, and Peru to obtain detailed information on various forested, riparian, prairie, wetland, and agricultural areas. These include the vast wetlands of the Amazon, conservation of native Peruvian Andean crops, Andean cloud forests, and global apple orchards. GIS tools are crucial to fully investigate the implications of distributions and anomalies at smaller regional scales and how they can be scaled up to reflect larger patterns of biodiversity and climate change. In doing so, BRIT collaborates with a variety of organizations (e.g., World Wildlife Fund, Conservation International, San Diego Zoo, University of San Marcos in Lima, Universidad Nacional Amazonica Madre de Dios, La Molina University Lima, University of Papua New Guinea, National Herbarium of Papua New Guinea, National Herbarium of the Solomon Islands). In these international locations, BRIT teams work with local communities to help document, describe, and discover the diversity of flora and fauna of these pristine areas. In Peru, the work that we completed on wetlands within the department of Madre de Dios assisted the government in the creation of laws that have assisted in preserving these areas.
On a more domestic front, BRIT is working to analyze Texas wetland plant assemblages as they vary across geographic zones. This information is being compiled for intended use by Texas wetland professionals such as consultants, delineators, mitigation bankers, and regulatory bodies in hopes of providing more meaningful tools for field assessments than are currently available in this area. In addition to this project, BRIT plans to extensively survey its new campus. Researchers, staff, interns, and volunteers are working on sampling and cataloging the vegetation around and on top of our new LEED-certified building. This will allow us to document the spatial and temporal ecological succession of both native and invasive plants in a newly-planted landscape. Informational maps and analyses created in the process will be shared not only with the scientific community, but also with the local community and government leaders in effort to educate all stakeholders on the usage of these areas to encourage and develop plans for better, sustainable management in an urban community. Both of these projects will rely heavily on GIS and are made possible in large part by the ESRI-sponsored ArcGIS software.