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Feature Article

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The Snake River is a central component of Grand Teton National Park, and this dynamic fluvial system plays a key role in shaping the landscape and creating diverse aquatic and terrestrial habitat. The river’s complexity and propensity for change make effective characterization of this resource difficult, however, and conventional, ground-based methods are simply inadequate. Remote sensing provides an appealing alternative approach that could facilitate resource management while providing novel insight on the factors controlling channel form and behavior. In this study, we evaluate the potential to measure the morphology and dynamics of a large, complex river system such as the Snake using optical image data. Initially, we made use of existing, publicly available images and basic digital aerial photography acquired in August 2010. Analysis to date has focused on estimating flow depths from these data, and preliminary results indicate that remote bathymetric mapping is feasible but not highly accurate, with important constraints related to the limited radiometric resolution of these data sets. Additional, more sophisticated hyperspectral data are scheduled for collection in 2011, along with further field work.