Date of Graduation

Spring 5-20-2021

Document Access

Project/Capstone - Global access

Degree Name

Master of Science in Environmental Management (MSEM)


College of Arts and Sciences


Environmental Management

First Advisor

John Callaway


Salt marshes in the San Francisco Bay area provide essential ecosystem services from critical habitat to buffering coastal flooding and are the focus of substantial ecological restoration, necessitating improved restoration monitoring approaches. Metrics such as land cover classification, bare ground elevation, and vegetation height provide an understanding of the functionality and health of tidal wetlands. Unlike traditional monitoring methods, which rely on time and labor-intensive field surveys or macroscale remote sensing techniques, unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) provide site specific high spatial resolution data that is comparable to satellite and manned aircraft derived imagery. I compared published literature and provided primary data analysis to evaluate the ability for UAS to provide useful monitoring metrics for salt marsh restoration. I employ UAS derived point cloud data to analyze 3-dimensional (3D) data and find that UAS data can provide elevation and hydrological modeling in addition to vegetation height metrics. My comparative review findings suggest that UAS technologies can be deployed towards salt marsh monitoring using multiple approaches to increase overall accuracy of these collected data. Using basic visible spectrum data, I achieved an overall accuracy of 73% land cover classification, and with more powerful sensors and computing, upwards of 90% accuracy can be achieved. UAS provide a temporarily flexible way to collect data, providing restoration ecologists more options and freedom to target specific temporal environmental characteristics. With functional data acquisition capabilities and a greater flexibility in temporal resolution, UAS show promise as a practical tool for salt marsh restoration monitoring.