Note: The following Preparation Grant Proposal was submitted to NASA by Dr. Sherry Farwell on March 10, 1999 and was subsequently funded.


NASA-EPSCoR Preparation Grant Proposal:
A Collaborative Plan to Engage South Dakota in NASA’s Earth Science Enterprise


       The plan described in this proposal is designed to initiate the construction of a foundation for a nationally competitive, merit-based NASA EPSCoR program in South Dakota. To achieve this goal, our plan is based on six general actions:

        Existing NASA-sponsored programs in South Dakota will be used as the springboard for this proposed planning endeavor. One of these programs is the South Dakota Space Grant Consortium (SDSGC), which was established in 1991 by a Capacity Enhancement Award from the NASA National Space Grant College and Fellowship Program. The Executive Summary of the proposal that led to establishment of the SDSGC contained the following description: "The scientific theme of the Consortium will focus on earth system science. The Earth Observing System (EOS) program is a major NASA initiative, and South Dakota scientists are already playing active roles in this program. We therefore believe South Dakota is in a strong position to make a major thrust in this scientific area."
        Whereas we still accept the preceding thematic proposition, its full realization has been restricted primarily because of a combination of inadequate financial support and limited linkages with potential NASA partners. For example, funds from the Capacity Enhancement Awards to the SDSGC have been used primarily for various student and faculty fellowships, K-12 outreach projects, and small grants for pilot projects in the scientific application of remote sensing. While these funded activities have contributed to the development of certain basic scientific and educational infrastructure in South Dakota, these resources have not been sufficient to initiate a more vigorous and cohesive research partnership with NASA in earth system science. Therefore, the goal of the proposed EPSCoR planning grant is to construct a comprehensive strategic plan that can be funded and implemented for this purpose.

Strategic Plan for a NASA EPSCoR Program in South Dakota
        We submit there are two fundamental areas that require further development in order to utilize remotely-sensed data for sound earth science and resource management decisions. The first requirement is an enhanced system for ground-truthing, i.e., the establishment of quantitative links between fundamental ecosystem processes and remote sensing data. This validation system will need a network of surface-based research sites where simultaneous measurements span scales ranging from fundamental molecular processes, to cellular interactions, to local ecosystem function, to regional observations, and to global assessments. Observational data obtained from these sites by surface and airborne measurements must be integrated into models that can provide a conceptual framework for the synthesis of the related information. Hence, the second requirement is the ability to incorporate the element of reliable prediction into the overall satellite and surface observational network. Coupled modeling tools that can be initialized by such a data network must be developed and tested to satisfy this prediction requirement. It is vital for the university scientific community to work in partnership with NASA personnel on the development of the optimum observational network and the coupled models.
        Consequently, we intend to use the NASA EPSCoR Preparation Grant to form core research teams consisting of NASA scientists, scientists from the EROS Data Center, and faculty/students from the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology, South Dakota State University, and Augustana College. These latter four institutions are members of the SDSGC. Once specific linkages and research programs have been established between NASA and the institutional members of the SDSGC, we will work to identify other suitable participants from the Consortium’s affiliates. These educational affiliates of the SDSGC include Black Hills State University, Cheyenne River Community College, Lower Brule Community College, Oglala Lakota College, Sinte Gleska University, Sisseton Wahpeton Community College, and Sitting Bull College.
        The members of the proposed research team will interact with NASA Centers and scientists to identify critical needs for further calibration and application of both present and future satellite-based remote sensing. They will function collaboratively to identify specific areas in South Dakota where ground-truthing activities will benefit the reliable interpretation of data from NASA EOS systems and their corresponding applications to earth system science, agriculture, forestry, disaster management, and the ecology/hydrology of the Upper Missouri River Basin.

Rationale for Ground-Truthing and Model Validation Activities in South Dakota
      South Dakota has many features that make it an ideal place for ground-truthing of remote sensing data and for model validation activities. It is a state of relatively large land expanses, low human populations, and climatic extremes. A significant geographic feature is the Missouri River, which flows through the central and southeastern portions of the state. Topographic features range from the isolated complex orographic terrain and pine forests of the Black Hills to the relatively flat grassland plains and wetland mosaic of the prairie pothole region. Seasonal variation is also large, ranging from extremely cold winters to hot wet summers that are separated by unpredictable springs and warm dry fall weather. In addition, South Dakota exhibits a large annual variability that certainly justifies its notoriety as a land of extremes. Climate records indicate periodic, prolonged drought followed by persistent patterns of wet weather and severe floods. Here, one spring rain, one early frost, one hailstorm, or one late winter snowstorm can mean the difference between the survival and death of organisms and vegetation that depend on the land. Therefore, like most of the Northern Great Plains, South Dakota is poised on the knife-edge of climate and global change. Therefore, a fundamental characteristic of South Dakota is the presence of sharp gradients in temperature, moisture, landscapes, and vegetative ground cover over quite short spatial distances. These diverse features provide an excellent environment both for ground-based calibration of remotely-sensed data and for exercising coupled models over a wide range of conditions, which are still logistically convenient and accessible.
        Our long-range plan for the NASA EPSCoR program is to establish five primary field measurement and calibration sites in South Dakota. These intensive observational sites will be located in unique landscapes representing a mountainous ponderosa pine forest, a shrubland/brushland ecosystem, a native prairie grassland, an agricultural cropland, and a prairie pothole wetland. The first year of the planning grant will be used to assemble a collaborative, multidisciplinary research team that will focus on the prairie pothole region.

An Initial Research Site in the Prairie Pothole Wetlands
      The Northern Great Plains (especially eastern South and North Dakota, western Minnesota, northern Iowa and south-central Canada) have a high density of closed topologic depressions. These depressions, or potholes, were formed during the last glaciation period as the glaciers retreated and left a vast number of depressions of various sizes in the glacial till. Approximately 950,000 of these pothole wetlands occur in eastern South Dakota where they cover over 2,100,000 acres. Individual potholes are typically small and shallow, 60% are less than 0.5 acres and only 5% are larger than 5 acres. These wetland basins are comprised of seasonal, semi-permanent, and permanent ponds. The smaller depressions briefly fill with water following precipitation events while the larger depressions closer to the water table are recharged from this more continuous source.
        The ecological and economic importances of these wetlands are growing both in public and scientific awareness. For example, these North American prairie potholes produce from 50-80% of the continent’s waterfowl. As holding ponds, these wetlands reflect and record the dynamic events that occur across this ecosystem. These wetlands also have important hydrological functions including the maintenance of ground water supplies, the processing of runoff to maintain regional water quality, the reduction of salinity to maintain soil fertility, the holding of water for the mitigation of floods, etc. Therefore, they are significant components in the overall hydrology of the Upper Missouri River Basin.
        Human activity affects these wetlands indirectly through land use changes and through fertilization and pesticide applications to surrounding croplands and pastures. These potholes are also impacted directly as a result of channelization and drainage. It has been estimated that drainage has resulted in the significant loss of original pothole wetlands; for example, Iowa has lost 99%, North Dakota 60%, and South Dakota 35%. Because of an extended precipitation pattern during the past few years, the remaining potholes in South Dakota are as full as ever recorded and may be as full as any time in the last 100 years. This means we now have a rare opportunity to establish end-member measurements for the calibration of coupled ecological/hydrological models and remotely-sensed data. We submit that the variability of types, land-use, and nutrient status of these South Dakota potholes, combined with their small size and easy accessibility, provides an ideal natural laboratory for developing and testing satellite remote sensing technology for this important wetland system.

Example NASA EPSCoR Research Projects of Relevance to the Ecological, Environmental, and Hydrological Study of Northern Prairie Wetlands in South Dakota

The Upper Missouri River Basin Pilot Project (UMRBPP)
      This UMRBPP research program at the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology is funded by NASA’s ESE as part of the GEWEX Continental-Scale-International Project (GCIP). It is designed to implement some of the background hydrological studies that will be needed to support the pending GCIP Enhanced Observational Period in the Large Scale Area-Northwest (LSA-NW). The LSA-NW region is approximately geographically congruent with the Upper Missouri River Basin. This current project emphasizes the development of a coupled atmosphere/surface/sub-surface hydrological model, the application of this coupled model for simulation of hydrological processes in orographic terrain, and an intensive observation project (IOP) in the Black Hills. The IOP will collect water vapor flux data, precipitation data, and measurements of surface and subsurface water flows for the purpose of deriving a water budget for a GCIP intermediate scale area and for the validation of the new coupled hydrological model. Information obtained via this pilot project is designed to be transferable to other watersheds and land surfaces in the Upper Missouri River Basin. Partners in this multidisciplinary UMRBPP include a suite of investigators from three universities, EROS Data Center, USGS, NWS, NCAR-UCAR, NOAA, and the NASA GSFC and MSFC.

Coupled Modeling over the Dakota Wetlands
      The wetlands in South Dakota and North Dakota present a challenging modeling problem by providing a complex and dynamic land surface with competing areas of pastureland, cropland, forests, and surface water. This mixture creates spatial and temporal variabilities in albedo and moisture availability that affects surface energy and water budgets in this area. Such variability has important impacts on the surface hydrology with serious implications for flood prediction, as illustrated by the severe flooding in Day County, South Dakota during 1998. The related feedbacks of surface and atmospheric moisture can be explored in such instances through coupled land surface and mesoscale meteorological modeling with surface-vegetation-atmosphere transfer schemes that are integrated into atmospheric prediction models. Scientists from the Institute of Atmospheric Sciences at the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology plan to pursue this modeling research in conjunction with researchers at the NASA MSFC’s Global Hydrology and Climate Center.

Remote Sensing Imagery and GIS to Monitor Northern Prairie Wetlands
        As noted earlier, prairie wetlands form a highly variable and potentially vast reservoir of depression water storage in the Northern Great Plains. This area plays a critical role in regional flooding as well as in flood events on major trunk rivers such as the Missouri. Efforts to predict and mitigate floods in this region require an understanding of the hydrologic dynamics of the prairie pothole system. However, a routine methodology for monitoring these types of wetlands does not exist. This proposed project is designed to provide such a capability by integrating remote sensing, modeling, and GIS tools at multiple spatial and temporal scales. The research plan has four main thrusts: 1) to characterize the effectiveness of remote sensing at scales required to estimate pothole area, volume, and temporal variability, 2) to use ancillary GIS data, including land cover maps, wetland inventory maps, soil maps, and high resolution topography, to improve the remote sensing information, 3) to investigate the spatial and temporal variabilities of potholes with respect to regional and global climatic cycles, and 4) to integrate the results from coupled hydrologic models for an enhanced understanding of the contributions of prairie potholes to flooding potential under various climate scenarios. Satellite imagery proposed for use in this project includes Landsat TM, Landsat MSS, AVHRR, MODIS, and DSMP-SSM/I. The project investigators at the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology will work closely with a small team of scientists at the EROS Data Center led by David Greenlee and scientists from the NASA-ESE Land Surface Hydrology Program.

Identification of Indicators of Ecosystem Integrity and Sustainability for Wetlands
      This project’s basic hypothesis is that changes in fluxes of specific trace gases and their ambient ratios are sensitive indicators of ecosystem structure and function for wetland environments. The trace gases proposed for investigation include various non-methane hydrocarbons, reduced sulfur species, nitrous oxide, carbon dioxide, and methane. Whereas the initial research plan will focus on the prairie pothole ecosystems in South Dakota, the indicators that result from this research will be relevant to other similar continental wetlands around the globe. The research will span scales from the individual leaf scale to the satellite-remote sensing scale. For example, micro-meteorological flux measurements will link enclosure-based measurements at the meter scale to the canopy and landscape scale of a kilometer or more; while a tethered-balloon measurement system containing both chemical sampling instrumentation and a visible/near infrared field spectoradiometer will link the landscape scale measurements to the remote sensing pixel scale. Landsat 5 & 7, AVHRR, MODIS, DSMP-SSM/I, and ASTER imagery will be used to monitor the pothole wetlands and the surrounding surfaces at a number of spatial scales. The project’s goal is to link remote sensing data and field measurements of selected trace gas fluxes and ambient ratios with coupled biogeochemcial/hydrological models for the prediction of consequences from different land-use strategies and climatic changes. Researchers from the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology and their colleagues from South Dakota State University will collaborate with scientists from the EROS Data Center, NASA GSFC, and NASA LaRC during this proposed project.

 Remote Sensing of Mass and Energy Budget Parameters
        A multidisciplinary team at the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology is developing a mesoscale model for coupled atmospheric, surface, and subsurface hydrologic processes. Current efforts are focused on incorporating high spatial resolution precipitation patterns with a digital terrain model and a subsurface aquifer flow model. A critical component of this modeling effort is the development of a regional scale land surface characterization as the lower boundary for the modeled region. Land surface characteristics such as vegetation cover, soil moisture, and terrain are the principal drivers of many surface processes key to meteorological prediction. Improved model representation of these properties will lead to better forecasts of the surface energy budget and, consequently, more accurate meteorological and hydrological forecasts. Also key to the long-term modeling of land surface processes is the understanding of how changes in vegetation over large areas affect processes such as evapotranspiration. A remote sensing technique known as the "triangle" method is being used to quantify these processes. The "triangle" method is a multispectral technique using NDVI and surface radiant temperature. When the pixel data from a land-based image are plotted in NDVI/temperature space, distinct triangular structure emerges. This structure has distinct limits that correspond to physical limits of surface moisture along the temperature axis and vegetation cover along the NDVI axis. By interpreting this data with a soil-vegetation-atmosphere (SVAT) model, properties such as evapotranspiration, sensible heat, and surface moisture as well as vegetation cover can be inferred. Another useful characteristic of this method is the finding that both temperature and NDVI can be scaled between their physical limits. Hence, a sequence of data sets can be overlaid to infer trajectories of vegetation cover, surface moisture, evaporation efficiency, and other surface properties. This methodology is potentially of interest to the GSFC Hydrological Sciences Branch and the MSFC Hydrometeorology/Land Surface Interface Enterprise.

Absolute Calibration Procedures for Remote Sensing Data
      For the past eight years, a small group of researchers at South Dakota State University has worked to characterize remote sensing instrumentation and atmospheric effects, and to provide corrections for the degradations they produce in the resulting data sets. Sensors that they have analyzed include the Landsat TM, Landsat MSS, SPOT HRV, AVHRR, ASAS, ATLAS, and other smaller systems. Another topic these researchers have examined is the effect that radiometric, geometric, and atmospheric calibration errors have on applications that use satellite imagery. Using test sites in three different states including South Dakota, Landsat data have been calibrated to a level never achieved before. During the proposed NASA EPSCoR program, this group will provide the expertise for the absolute calibration of remotely-sensed data. Included in their focus will be sensor characterization, atmospheric characterization and monitoring, top-of-the-atmosphere radiance retrievals, surface radiance retrievals, and surface reflectance retrievals. These parameters will be developed on a continuous basis so that on any date, for any sensor, a quick conversion of satellite digital numbers to accurate physical units can be accomplished. Close ties already exist between these SDSU investigators and specific individuals at the Landsat Project Science Office, at NASA GSFC, and at the EROS Data Center. Additional interactions will be established with scientists at the NASA GSFC, NASA MSFC, and NASA SSFC during this EPSCoR planning grant.

Hydrology of Northern Great Plains Prairie Pothole Wetlands
      To understand the interrelationship of a wetland within a watershed, an improved understanding is needed of the function that wetlands provide in terms of surface, subsurface, and atmospheric flows. Subsurface processes (e.g., groundwater recharge and groundwater movement) and atmospheric processes (e.g., evapotranspiration) are all portions of the wetland hydrologic cycle that require further definition. Ground-based measurements of surface water movement, groundwater levels and flows, and evapotranspiration can be made at point sources. Stream gaging stations are capable of measuring surface water flows in streams, but do not directly measure runoff or recharge within a watershed. The objective of this research is to employ remotely sensed data to provide a spatial and temporal record of surface water conditions, which will in turn improve the accuracy of water budget models. To accomplish this objective, the investigators at South Dakota State University plan to establish various field sites for ground-based measurements. Monitoring devices for soil moisture, groundwater levels and movements, and local climatic conditions will be installed at these field locations. The ground-based monitoring plan will be designed to coincide with remote sensing measurements for ground-truthing. These SDSU researchers and their EROS Data Center colleagues plan to establish contacts with scientists at NASA GSFC, NASA LaRC, and the USGS Spectroscopy Laboratory during the EPSCoR planning grant.

Integrating the Effects of Land Use and Global Climate Change on Northern Great Plains Wetlands
      The primary geographic scope of this on-going project at South Dakota State University is South and North Dakota where long-term wetland data are available and where considerable analysis and modeling of wetland dynamics have been conducted. Earlier model simulations of surface water hydrology and vegetation indicated that a semi-permanent wetland would be sensitive to climate change of the magnitude predicted by global circulation models. Significant ecological effects could result because these prairie pothole wetlands play major roles in waterfowl production, regional hydrology, land use, and economics. A new wetland model, WETSCAPE, will be used in the future to evaluate the effects of changing adjacent land use and conservation practices as a potential means to mitigate the impacts of global climate changes. This research team will also modify WETSCAPE so the results of local scale simulations can be extended to the landscape/regional scale and thereby provide a region-wide assessment of the integrated effects of various land use practices and climate change. The NASA EPSCoR planning grant will allow this team to build on existing relationships with the EROS Data Center while generating new contacts at the relevant NASA ESE Centers.

The Applications of Remote Sensing in South Dakota Precision Agriculture
      A multidisciplinary group of researchers at South Dakota State University are collecting and analyzing a variety of data from production agriculture fields in eastern South Dakota. This field-based research includes the collection of data for agronomic variables (namely, crop variety and growth stage, planting rates, yields, weeds, and insects), soil variables (namely, moisture, fertility, pedology, drainage, and salinity), topography and landscape position, weather records, and economics. Over the past two years, significant efforts have focused on adding GIS and remote sensing products to this project to determine if accuracy can be maintained with these new methods for collection of certain field data. The SDSU research team is also investigating the value of remote sensing for yield prediction, weed mapping, and the location of crop stress zones. To-date, the main remote sensing techniques have been aircraft overflights and Landsat TM. Early indications show evidence that these remote sensing data can be used to derive weed maps and predictive yield maps. The next stage of the research will extend these activities to evaluate the influences of topography and landscape positions. Based on the current results, remote sensing appears to be valuable for site specific farming and the prescriptive applications of pesticides and fertilizer. Funding for this precision agriculture research has been provided through the NASA-sponsored Upper Midwest Aerospace Corporation, the South Dakota Space Grant Consortium, and numerous other private, state, and federal sources. The proposed NASA EPSCoR planning grant will allow these SDSU investigators to develop important connections to the NASA GSFC and the NASA SSC.

Algorithm Development for Improved Land Cover Classification by Remote Sensing
      Vegetation indices, computed from combinations of visible and near-infrared spectral measurements have been commonly used over the past years for studying vegetation characteristics from remote sensing satellites. One of the most common vegetative indices is the normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI). The combination of the NDVI with the frequent temporal coverage and moderate spatial resolution of the AVHRR make this sensor well suited for regional to global scale studies of ecosystem dynamics. Researchers at Augustana College and the EROS Data Center have been investigating efficient and practical algorithms for utilizing these NDVI data for improved land cover analysis. The first phase of this collaborative research has centered on the development of a smoothing technique that captures the underlying behavior of the vegetation index while eliminating contaminating effects such as clouds, atmospheric perturbations, variable illumination, and different viewing geometry. The next phase will focus on algorithm development for seasonal metrics (such as reliable, automatic start- and end-of-season finders) with the objective of improved land cover classification procedures based on these metrics. This research could profit by the development of close ties with scientists in the Biospheric Studies Program at the NASA GSFC.

Remote Sensing Application to Paleolimnology
      A scientist at Augustana College is performing research on the lake sediment cores from three lakes in northwestern Montana. His results reveal substantial correlation between mass sedimentation rate (MSR) and past land disturbances from human activities. For example, accelerated logging was followed by increases in MSR of up to fourteen times the rate before European settlement in the area. While natural land disturbances such as floods and wildfires have some impact on MSR, logging activity and road construction seem to be the greatest contributors to increased MSR. During the proposed NASA EPSCoR planning grant, this research will be expanded to examine the potential value of Landsat TM, Landsat MSS, Landsat 7, AVHRR, ASTER, and MODIS imagery on the characterization of timber harvest and other human disturbances on the watershed scale. Linkages to the scientists and research activities of the Ecosystem Science Section at the NASA Ames Research Center will be established during the period of this NASA EPSCoR planning grant.

South Dakota Facilities and Expertise in Earth System Science and Remote Sensing
      The South Dakota research community has a range of resources that contribute to the earth system science theme of this NASA EPSCoR Preparation Grant. These major facilities include:

Alignments of South Dakota Research Investigators with NASA Centers and Scientific Personnel during the Preparation Grant Period
        During the one-year period of this Preparation Grant, specific funds are requested in the proposed budget to facilitate personal contacts and to establish collaborative research with several NASA Centers. The following table lists the South Dakota scientists and engineers who will be involved in the described research projects. This table also identifies both the NASA Centers and the relevant NASA individuals at these Centers who will be contacted for potential collaborations during the grant period. Although not shown in Table 1, the Preparation Grant budget will designate funds so that a number of graduate students and post-doctoral students can also travel to NASA Centers and become more familiar with NASA research projects and related scientific opportunities.
        Another important part of the planning activity will be the design of a scientific conference on the "Ecological, Environmental, and Hydrological Studies of the Prairie Pothole Wetlands". This conference will be held at the EROS Data Center during the Spring of 2000. Designated scientists and administrators from NASA will be invited to this conference so they can further interact with investigators from South Dakota and the region.


Table 1

"Planned Linkages between South Dakota Investigators and NASA Centers"

Name                 Institution                 NASA Center    NASA Contact

Sherry Farwell         SDSM&T                         MSFC                        Jim Arnold
                                                                              LaRC                         Jack Fishman & Jim Hoell

Rand Feind               SDSM&T                         GSFC                         Ted Engman

Bill Capehart             SDSM&T                          MSFC                        Bill Crosson & Bill Lapenta
                                                                              GSFC                         Darrel Williams

Pat Zimmerman       SDSM&T                         LaRC                          Jack Fishman & Jim Hoell
                                                                              GSFC                         Darrell Williams & P.K. Bhartia

Mark Hjelmfelt        SDSM&T                         MSFC                        D. Quattrochi & Jim Arnold

Tom Fontaine          SDSM&T                         GSFC                          Ted Engman

Maribeth Price        SDSM&T                         EDC                            Dave Greenlee & Zhi Zhu

John Helsdon         SDSM&T                         GSFC                          R. Blakeslee, H. Christian & S. Goodman

Bruce Berdanier       SDSM&T                        GSFC                          Ted Engman & Antonio Busalacchi

Ed Duke                   SDSM&T                         HQ                              Julius Dasch

Dennis Helder         SDSU                              GSFC                          Yoram Kaufman & Brent Holben
                                                                           MSFC                         Jeff Luvall
                                                                           SSFC                          CRSP

Kevin Dalsted         SDSU                              SSFC                           CRSP
                                                                           HQ                              Julius Dasch

Vernon Schaefer     SDSU                              GSFC                          Antonio Busalacchi

David Clay              SDSU                              SSFC                           G. Johnson, G. May, B. Davis & C. Hill
                                                                          GSFC                           D. Quattrochi

Stephen Schiller     SDSU                              GSFC                            John Barker & Brian Markham

Carter Johnson       SDSU                              EDC                              Dave Greenlee

Daniel Swets          AUGUSTANA               GSFC                            Darrel Williams

Craig Spencer        AUGUSTANA               ARC                              Ecosystem Science


Not included here:
- Biographical Sketch (Sherry Farwell, Ph.D.)
- SDSM&T, SDSU, and Augustana College Budgets and Associated Notes
- Assurance of Compliance With the NASA Regulations Pursuant to Nondiscrimination in Federally Assisted Programs
- Certification Regarding Debarment, Suspension, and Other Responsibility Matters, Primary Covered Transactions
- Certification Regarding Drug-Free Workplace Requirements, Grantees Other Than Individuals

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