U of Minnesota launches lidar workshops
Modules will focus on conservation applications of 3D technology
by Sam Pfeifle
February 15, 2012
ST. PAUL, Minn. – The State of Minnesota is just wrapping up
lidar collection that will encompass nearly all of its 87,014 square miles.
That’s great. But does anyone know how to actually use that data?
The University of Minnesota’s Water Resources Center is at
least one group that’s working on that. In March, the group will begin a
grant-funded series of workshops that focus on Conservation Applications of Lidar, with topics ranging from
the very basics of using lidar data in the first place to an advanced course on
wetlands mapping. The courses are scheduled out through August,
are generally either a half for full day, and cost no more than $60 for the opening
two-day course. Costs are offset by the $180,000 grant from Minnesota’s
lottery-fueled Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund (see the grant proposal here).
“These are hands-on workshops,” said project coordinator Ann
Lewandowski in an interview with SPAR. “We’re really targeting the public
sector, the county conservation people at whatever level … How do you use this
lidar data that’s freely available across the state?”
Instructors include Joel Nelson from UM’s Department of Soil
Water and Climate; Pete Cooper, Peter Mead, and Lea Holter from USDA-NRCS;
and Joe Knight, Paul Bolstad, and Andrew Jenks of UM’s Department of Forest
Resources. Attendees are expected to have at least an intermediate knowledge of
ArcGIS and everyone has to take the “101” basics course before diving into any
of the other modules.
But what’s the central selling point here? “Mostly it’s
speed,” said Lewandowski. “You can
do the work in your office, where before you could only do it out in the field.
When we look at things like where should we be putting our buffer strips or our
holding ponds, or whatever kinds of erosion control or water protection actions
we want to install,” lidar can make the decision-making more efficient and
For example, “With the terrain analysis module, you can look
at, for each pixel, how much area drains to that point and how steep is it
there,” said Lewandowski, “so once you’ve got a map of that, you have a map of
where the gully is forming, and now you can come up with a map in your office
of all the gullies in your watershed, and then go out in the field and look at
It’s not going to replace all terrestrial surveying, of
course, but lidar provides opportunity for pre-engineering, comparing different
sites, and figuring out which sites to pursue first. “That’s going to make you
a lot more efficient and a lot more targeted,” she said.
This might be something other states or universities can
replicate as well. Lewandowski will be preparing a poster about the project for
the National Water Conference, to be held May 20 through 24 in Portland, Ore.