Date of Award

Spring 2023

Project Type


Program or Major

Earth and Environmental Sciences

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

First Advisor

Gregg E Moore

Second Advisor

Barrett N Rock

Third Advisor

Catherine Overson


Salt marshes are coastal wetlands flooded regularly by saltwater tides and terrestrial runoff. They are highly productive and dynamic ecosystems that provide many benefits to the environment and humans. These benefits are at risk by many natural and anthropogenic drivers that are affecting the distribution of their vegetation species. Previous research shows that salt marsh vegetation around New England has been shifting from less flood-tolerant species to more flood-tolerant species in recent decades. Monitoring these ecosystems can be helpful in providing policymakers with the information they need to promote mitigation and restoration efforts for these environments. Remote sensing is one way to monitor these ecosystems because of its ability to quickly capture continuous data over a landscape. Unfortunately, historical remote sensing data over many New Hampshire salt marshes are either non-existent, temporally sparse, or suffer from poor spatial resolutions larger than most species' vegetation patch widths. Thus, the research presented here explored remote sensing technologies such as unoccupied aerial vehicles (UAVs) (also known as unmanned aerial vehicles) and a sub-pixel analysis classifier capable of mapping current and historical vegetation at a finer scale. We also explored how to better educate our next generation of conservationists, land managers, scientists, and members of the general public about the importance of salt marshes by integrating geospatial science technologies into STEM education classrooms at the high school level. Our overarching findings showed that UAVs can be useful for mapping species within a New Hampshire salt marsh, subpixel analysis can be useful for classifying historical salt marsh species groupings and mapping them relative to changes in local sea levels, and geospatial technology and interactive learning tools can be useful within high school classrooms to help inspire current and future STEM learning with particular emphasis on salt marsh science.

Available for download on Wednesday, June 05, 2024