Publication Date


Date of Final Oral Examination (Defense)


Type of Culminating Activity


Degree Title

Master of Science in Geophysics



Major Advisor

Nancy Glenn, Ph.D.


Jennifer Forbey, Ph.D.


Dylan Mikesell, Ph.D.


Jennifer Pierce, Ph.D.


Environmental disturbances in semi-arid ecosystems have highlighted the need to monitor current and future vegetation conditions across the landscape. Imaging spectroscopy provide the necessary information to derive vegetation characteristics at high-spatial resolutions across large geographic areas. The work of this thesis is divided into two sections focused on using imaging spectroscopy to estimate and classify vegetation cover, and approximate aboveground biomass in a semi-arid ecosystem.

The first half of this thesis assesses the ability of imaging spectroscopy to derive vegetation classes and their respective cover across large environmental gradients and ecotones often associated with semi-arid ecosystems. Optimal endmember selection and endmember bundling are coupled with classification and spectral unmixing techniques to derive vegetation species and abundances across Reynolds Creek Experimental Watershed (RCEW) in southwest Idaho at high spatial resolution (1 m). Results validated using field data indicated classification of aspen, Douglas fir, juniper, and riparian classes had an overall accuracy of 57.9% and a kappa coefficient of 0.43. Plant functional type classification, consisting of deciduous and evergreen trees, had an overall accuracy of 84.4% and a kappa coefficient of 0.68. Shrub, grass, and soil cover were predicted with an overall accuracy of 67.4% and kappa coefficient of 0.53. I conclude that imaging spectroscopy can be used to map vegetation communities in semi-arid ecosystems across large environmental gradients at high-spatial resolution and with high accuracy.

The second half of this thesis focuses on monitoring the changes of aboveground biomass (AGB) from the 2015 Soda Fire, which burned portions of southwest Idaho and southeastern Oregon. Classifications derived in the first study are used to estimate AGB loss within a portion of RCEW, and these estimates are used to compare to gross estimates made over the full extent of the Soda Fire. I found that there was an AGB loss of 174M kg within RCEW and approximately 1.8B kg lost over the full extent of the Soda Fire. Additionally, a post-fire analysis was performed to provide insight into the amount of AGB that returned to both RCEW and the full extent of the Soda Fire. An estimated 2,100 – 208,000 kg of AGB had returned to the burned portion of RCEW one-year post fire, and approximately 3.2M kg of AGB had returned over the full extent of the Soda Fire. These AGB loss and re-growth estimates can be used by researchers and practitioners to monitor carbon flux across the Soda Fire and as baseline data for wildfires in semi-arid ecosystems.