Geographic Information Systems

Learn about DU's GIS program

© Michael Furtman

Ducks Unlimited's mission to "conserve, restore, and manage wetlands and associated habitats for North America's waterfowl...benefiting other wildlife and people" is supported by advanced Geographic Informations Systems and Remote Sensing technology. DU started its GIS program in 1984 and it has become a major component of waterfowl habitat conservation, providing staff with the primary data and tools needed to evaluate, implement, and monitor conservation at multiple scales. GIS is also used extensively to produce maps, graphics, and statistics for communicating our conservation activities to the public and to support fundraising activities.

What is GIS?

GIS is a system of hardware and software used for mapping and analysis of geographically referenced information, i.e. data identified according to their locations. Practitioners also regard the total GIS as including the operating personnel and the data that go into the system. DU professionals use GIS analysis to inventory, prioritize and monitor change in the habitat base on the landscape, helping us to better understand the quantity, type and location of habitats needed to sustain migratory waterfowl.

What is Remote Sensing?

In the broadest sense, remote sensing is the measurement or acquisition of information of an object by a recording device that is not in physical contact with the object under study. The technique employs such devices as the camera, lasers and radio frequency receivers, radar systems, sonar, seismographs, gravimeters, magnetometers, and scintillation counters. DU widely uses the Landsat series of satellites (Landsat MSS, Landsat TM, ETM+) as well as SPOT, Radarsat and aerial photography for landcover classification, habitat monitoring, change detection and landscape-level priority modelling.

How long has DU been using GIS?

DU has been involved in GIS since the mid-1980s, when Landsat Thematic Mapper (TM) satellite imagery was used to produce a wetland inventory of the prairie pothole region in north-central US and Canada. This program was funded by NASA and initiated because there was a need for a comprehensive inventory of the waterfowl breeding grounds. Resulting maps were shared with DU Canada, DU's Great Plains Regional Office and government partners to assist with conservation programs. Soon after, DU's regional offices began to deliver GIS and Remote Sensing applications to support conservation programs within their priority areas.

DU operates GIS departments out of four regional offices covering North America as well as their National Headquarters based in Memphis, Tennessee.

Additionally, DU's Latin America and Caribbean program utilizes GIS and remote sensing technologies for a variety of applications including waterfowl surveys, habitat inventories, change detection and landcover mapping.

Why is GIS and Remote Sensing important to waterfowl habitat conservation?

Waterfowl habitat conservation is successfully delivered by the integrated efforts of multiple disciplines and various departments within DU from fundraising and marketing to conservation planning and delivery. The success of every project relies on efficient information management as well as the ability to deliver conservation to the most appropriate areas on the landscape. GIS and remote sensing provide the tools for effective delivery of waterfowl habitat and the means to monitor and model the impact of conservation and restoration projects within DU's priority areas.

For more information about DU's GIS program, please contact:

Darin Blunck
Director of Conservation Programs
Ducks Unlimited
1 Waterfowl Way
Memphis, TN 38120

Robb Macleod
GIS Manager
Ducks Unlimited
7322 Newman Blvd.
Building 1
Dexter, MI 48130