Program Overview

To gain a proper understanding of the ecology requires an understanding of its spatial context. For example, a small tract of rangeland may limited ecological value if it is surrounded by development. However, that same tract would have signifcant ecological value if it serves as a critical linkage in a greenway connecting important natural areas. GIS is an essential tool for properly understanding ecological value.

GIS Associates staff have been developing GIS-based ecological models and studies for 16 years. Three of our analysts have extensive experience with developing comprehensive, GIS-based ecological models or studies, including:

  • Development of a statewide network of ecological greenways and human trails
  • Regional risk assessments of wind energy to avian wildlife
  • Ecosystem charaterization and evaluation
  • Evaluation of the ecological impacts of development
  • Prioritization of lands of greatest ecological value for public aquisition
  • Identification of public lands of least ecological value and highest economic value for divestiture
  • Species habitat models
  • Natural resource management studies
  • NPDES applications and models
  • GIS/GPS field data collection systems for environmental surveys

Featured projects are listed below. For more information regarding our ecological modeling and study capabilities, please contact us.


Featured Projects

Habitat-Based Wind-Wildlife Risk Modeling for the U.S. Department of Energy

In a collaborative effort with Pandion Systems, GIS Associates is developing a habitat-based wind-wildlife collision model for the entire upper great plains region. GISA developed the GIS-based model using both Esri’s Spatial Analyst and Fragstats landscape analysis tools. Because the model area covers over 600,000 sq. miles, the processing time for Fragstats and other Spatial Analyst tools can be prohibitive. To address this, GISA developed a tiling system for the National Land Cover Dataset (NLCD) data to conduct simultaneous Fragstats moving window analysis on multiple processors. The input and output tiling systems preserved the integrity of the moving window analysis upon reassembly of the tiled outputs. GISA also developed several custom software applications to automate the creation of tiled inputs and the seamless reassembly of Fragstats landscape metric calculation outputs. Similar GIS techniques were developed for distance to water calculations for each NLCD data point as well as identification of data points within defined habitat buffers. In most cases, raster datasets such as the NLCD and National Elevation Dataset (NED) preserve a single continuous or categorical variable, so GISA utilized GIS techniques to preserve several unique variables in a single raster, facilitating interpretation and presentation of results. GISA’ extensive experience in building ecological models increased Fragstats native capabilities and productivity to efficiently develop coherent variable analyses results for a variety of variable habitat relationships.

Wekiva River Protection Area (WRPA) Ecological Impact Decision Support Model

In a project funded by the East Central Florida Regional Planning Council, GIS Associates collaborated with Pandion Systems to develop a model that characterized the ecology of the WRPA through raster GIS modeling and statistical analysis of land use/land cover, habitat, etc. Using a comprehensive literature review, ecological guidance from noted experts, and a project database exceeding 300 GIS layers, GISA co-developed 18 ecological sensitivity GIS indices for decision makers to use when evaluating development and roads, including:

  • Natural Integrity
  • Landscape Contextual (focal neighborhood) Analysis
  • Patch Shape and Size
  • Proximity and Connectivity to Fire-Adapted Communities, Wetlands and Lakes, Natural Uplands, Built Areas, and the River and Tributaries
  • Soil Erodibility
  • Recharge Areas
  • Species Richness
  • Black Bear Habitat
  • Nodal Significance Indices (scrub jays, eagles, wading birds, and springs)

Examples of these indices are below.

Orlando Northwest SR 429 Extension Planning Area Ecological Impact Decision Support Modeling

In a project funded by the East Central Florida Regional Planning Council, GIS Associates collaborated with Pandion Systems to develop a model that characterized the ecology of the Orlando Northwest SR 429 Extension Planning Area through raster GIS modeling and statistical analysis of land use/land cover, habitat, etc. GISA co-developed a model of the ecological impacts of four alternative build-out scenarios using ecological sensitivity GIS raster indices, including:

  • Natural Integrity
  • Landscape Contextual (focal neighborhood) Analysis
  • Patch Size
  • Proximity and Connectivity to Fire-Adapted Communities, Wetlands and Lakes, and Natural Uplands
  • Recharge Areas and Springs
  • Xeric Species Habitat Indices (including gopher tortoise, gopher frog, Florida mouse, Sherman’s fox squirrel, sand skink, scrub lizard, pine snake, and short-tailed snake)
  • Non-Xeric Species Habitat Indices (including black bear, scrub jay, bald eagle, wading bird, and indigo snake)

Florida Greenways Decision Support Model for the Florida Department of Environmental Protection

In a project for the University of Florida’s GeoPlan Center, a current member of GIS Associates staff developed an automated GIS model for the Florida Statewide System of Greenways and Trails. The staff member assimilated and analyzed extensive amount of environmental, physical, and cultural data, and created suitability surfaces to link ecological hubs and trailheads. The result was an integrated system of ecological corridors and human trails of various types.

St. Lucie County Native Habitat Inventory

In a collaborative effort with Pandion Systems, GIS Associates created hybrid land cover GIS layers for 1992 and 2002 using a combination of South Florida Water Management District 1990 and 1995 land cover data and 2003 property parcel data from the County’s Property Appraiser. GISA calculated the statistical change by land cover type from 1992–2002, and helped evaluate the relative importance of the remaining natural areas using other ecological data. GISA created property owners database for the parcels intersecting the sites (for access permission and acquisition), and deployed GIS/GPS field survey system with customized ArcPad map-in-the-field software on PDAs.

St. Johns County Vegetative Community and Wildlife Survey

In a collaborative effort with Pandion Systems, GIS Associates developed a vegetative community map converting FLUCCS data to FNAI classifications (providing more detailed natural classes), which will be used for land acquisition and management and a myriad of other uses. GISA compiled and analyzed land cover and environmental data to identify suitable, representative areas for field surveys. GISA generated geostatistics of acreage by land cover type for the site and the county as a whole, and tax data for the parcels intersecting the sites (for access permission and acquisition). GISA developed and deployed a GIS/GPS field survey system with customized ArcPad map-in-the-field software on a PDA, and helped train field biologists in its use.

Silver Glen Springs Carrying Capacity Study for the Florida Department of Environmental Protection

In a collaborative effort with Pandion Systems, GIS Associates developed a customized GIS/GPS field data collection system using Esri’s ArcPad software. GISA trained and supported a field biologist mapping bathymetry data and submerged aquatic vegetation in spring run, performed the final topology-related data quality assurance and clean up, and interpolated continuous bathymetry surface from depth point and shoreline data.

St. Marys River Management Plan

In collaboration with Pandion Systems, GIS Associates developed a management plan for the St. Marys River Management Committee. GISA collected, created, edited, and standardized GIS data layers and generated maps for a management plan providing assessments and recommendations regarding:

  • Surface Water and Groundwater Quality
  • Natural Systems and Floodplains
  • Recreation and Public Use
  • Growth Management and Economic Development


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