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UW Researchers Identify Invasive Plants With Drones And Satellites

Utah State University

Researchers at the University of Wyoming are working to identify invasive plants using drones and satellites.

Invasive plant extension specialist Dan Tekiela said invasive grasses in Wyoming create fuel that makes fires larger. He said they also decrease biodiversity and hurt the ecosystem, which can harm agriculture.

Tekiela said the plants are hard to identify.

"Often by the time we find a new invasive plant population, it's already such a large scale, large size, that the likelihood of us truly eradicating that population is really slim," he said.

Tekiela said drone and satellite images allow his team to look at more locations. By looking at the ground through different colors of light, they can pick out invasive species from naturally occurring plants.

"We've been working with dalmatian toadflax, which is a really problematic invader in Wyoming that has yellow flowers," he said. "We thought maybe because it has somewhat of a unique vegetation, unique flowering pattern, that we could leverage that to be able to pick it out on the landscape from other things using sensors."

Tekiela said finding the invasive species earlier will stop them from spreading further.

Have a question about this story? Please contact the reporter, Ashley Piccone, at apiccone@uwyo.edu.

Ashley is a PhD student in Astronomy and Physics at UW. She loves to communicate science and does so with WPM, on the Astrobites blog, and through outreach events. She was born in Colorado and got her BS in Engineering Physics at Colorado School of Mines. Ashley loves hiking and backpacking during Wyoming days and the clear starry skies at night!

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