Date of Award

Spring 2001

Project Type


Program or Major

Natural Resources

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

First Advisor

Barrett N Rock


Landsat-7 Enhanced Thematic Mapper satellite imagery was used to model Bicknell's Thrush (Catharus bicknelli) distribution in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. The proof-of-concept was established for using satellite imagery in species-habitat modeling, where for the first time imagery spectral features were used to estimate a species-habitat model variable. The model predicted rising probabilities of thrush presence with decreasing dominant vegetation height, increasing elevation, and decreasing distance to nearest Fir Sapling cover type. To solve the model at all locations required regressor estimates at every pixel, which were not available for the dominant vegetation height and elevation variables. Topographically normalized imagery features Normalized Difference Vegetation Index and Band 1 (blue) were used to estimate dominant vegetation height using multiple linear regression; and a Digital Elevation Model was used to estimate elevation. Distance to nearest Fir Sapling cover type was obtained for each pixel from a land cover map specifically constructed for this project.

The Bicknell's Thrush habitat model was derived using logistic regression, which produced the probability of detecting a singing male based on the pattern of model covariates. Model validation using Bicknell's Thrush data not used in model calibration, revealed that the model accurately estimated thrush presence at probabilities ranging from 0 to <0.40 and from 0.50 to <0.60. Probabilities from 0.40 to <0.50 and greater than 0.60 significantly underestimated and overestimated presence, respectively.

Applying the model to the study area illuminated an important implication for Bicknell's Thrush conservation. The model predicted increasing numbers of presences and increasing relative density with rising elevation, with which exists a concomitant decrease in land area. Greater land area of lower density habitats may account for more total individuals and reproductive output than higher density less abundant land area. Efforts to conserve areas of highest individual density under the assumption that density reflects habitat quality could target the smallest fraction of the total population.