Inspired by the influence of drone applications in scientific research, my Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) study aimed to improve the accuracy of riverine topographic modeling by testing the use of terrestrial and submerged aquatic ground control points (GCPs) in drone surveys of the Bellamy River Reservoir. Accurate mapping of riverscapes is critical to investigations of before-and-after management activities, such as dam removals, and to better understanding topographic features created by physical, chemical, and biological processes in rivers and watersheds. These studies build on our increasing understanding and quantification of the cycling of chemical and biological substances in rivers and the valuable ecological services that watersheds provide. The evolution of remote sensing, drone technology, and digital elevation models provide an alternative to conventional, labor-intensive ground survey measurements and are of increasing importance for creating topographic products valuable to studies of riverscapes and watershed processes. Land-based GCPs are routinely used to develop highly accurate models; however, in rivers we seek to accurately measure submerged topography, which has been done only in limited environments because of numerous technical challenges. Incorporating submerged GCPs into drone workflows may be a simple yet effective way to improve in-stream topography models. Results of this study are expected to contribute key information for restoration planning for rivers and other aquatic habitats and studies of land use and impacts of human infrastructure, especially dams, in the hopes of creating and maintaining a more sustainable relationship with our natural environment.

Publication Date

Spring 4-11-2020

Journal Title

Inquiry Journal


Kevin Gardner


Durham, NH: Hamel Center for Undergraduate Research, University of New Hampshire

Document Type