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U of M Water Resources Center to bring LiDAR technology, expertise to natural resource managers throughout Minnesota

February 16, 2012

The University of Minnesota Water Resources Center (WRC) is offering statewide workshops designed to put the powerful technology of LiDAR in the hands of Minnesota’s natural resource practitioners beginning March 12.

LiDAR, which stands for Light Detection and Ranging, is a remote sensing technology that uses laser light pulses sent from low-flying aircraft to detect and measure surface features on the earth. Begun in 2009, Minnesota’s LiDAR mapping project, spearheaded by the Minnesota Geospatial Information Office’s Digital Elevation Committee, will be complete when the state’s North-Central Region is mapped this spring. Minnesota is one of only 10 states in the country to complete LiDAR mapping.

LiDAR’s ultra-high-resolution maps are a cost-effective way of helping planners make precise decisions based on multiple scenarios by allowing them to visualize landscape surfaces, map contour lines and manipulate elevation data into 3D models.

Natural resource managers will use LiDAR for wetland mapping, soil conservation and restoration efforts, estimating forest density and structure, and flood control. Engineers can incorporate LiDAR data into computer-aided design (CAD) software when designing things like retention ponds and containment structures. Decision-makers can incorporate LiDAR into geographic information system (GIS) software to help with targeted and cost-effective resource management strategies.

“LiDAR represents a huge dataset that’s very complex, yet very powerful once mastered,” said WRC education coordinator Les Everett, who expects the workshops to reach 300 natural resource managers this year. “Until now, very few people have been trained to use the data to its full capability.”

WRC’s LIDAR workshops begin March 12 and 13 on the university’s St. Paul campus and will continue statewide in cities such as Brainerd, East Grand Forks, Morris, Rochester and Winona. For a complete schedule visit http://tsp.umn.edu/lidar.  Funding for the workshops is made possible by a grant from the Minnesota Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund.

The Water Resources Center is affiliated with the university’s College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences and University of Minnesota Extension.

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