Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2015

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Aerospace Engineering Sciences

First Advisor

William Emery

Second Advisor

Jeffrey Thayer

Third Advisor

Xinzhao Chu

Fourth Advisor

Peter Pilewskie

Fifth Advisor

Carol Wessman


The change, reduction, or extinction of species is a major issue currently facing the Earth. Efforts are underway to measure, monitor, and protect habitats that contain high species diversity. Remote sensing technology shows extreme value for monitoring species diversity by mapping ecosystems and using those land cover maps or other derived data as proxies to species number and distribution. The National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON) Airborne Observation Platform (AOP) consists of remote sensing instruments such as an imaging spectrometer, a full-waveform lidar, and a high-resolution color camera. AOP collected data over the Ordway-Swisher Biological Station (OSBS) in May 2014. A majority of the OSBS site is covered by the Sandhill ecosystem, which contains a very high diversity of vegetation species and is a native habitat for several threatened fauna species. The research presented here investigates ways to analyze the AOP data to map ecosystems at the OSBS site. The research attempts to leverage the high spatial resolution data and study the variability of the data within a ground plot scale along with integrating data from the different sensors. Mathematical features are derived from the data and brought into a decision tree classification algorithm (rpart), in order to create an ecosystem map for the site. The hyperspectral and lidar features serve as proxies for chemical, functional, and structural differences in the vegetation types for each of the ecosystems. K-folds cross validation shows a training accuracy of 91%, a validation accuracy of 78%, and a 66% accuracy using independent ground validation. The results presented here represent an important contribution to utilizing integrated hyperspectral and lidar remote sensing data for ecosystem mapping, by relating the spatial variability of the data within a ground plot scale to a collection of vegetation types that make up a given ecosystem.