University of South Florida

USF College of Marine Science


CMS Professor Frank Muller-Karger Awarded NSF Big Data Grant to Improve Coastal Floodplain Maps

IMARS Group at USF College of Marine Science

IMARS Group at USF College of Marine Science

ST. PETERSBURG, FL – The USF College of Marine Science (CMS) has been awarded a National Science Foundation grant ($1,000,000) to establish a Big Data Regional Innovation Hub for a three-year study in collaboration with Texas A&M University and Google Earth Engine. Dr. Frank Muller-Karger leads a team of researchers that includes Drs. Matt McCarthy, Tim Dixon, graduate students and postdoctoral researchers at USF, James Gibeaut at Texas A&M Corpus Christi, and Lea Shanley from the South Big Data Hub to update topographic and land cover maps for the entire US Gulf of Mexico coastal plain. Using high-resolution satellite imagery, LiDAR data, and supercomputing resources, the team will update land elevation data and improve land cover maps with a spatial resolution of up to 200 times greater than existing maps at this scale for areas within 50 km of the coast.

Prototype 3-dimensional models will also be developed for the cities of Tampa, St. Petersburg, and Corpus Christi using structure-from-motion (SfM) techniques. Combined with the elevation and land maps, these models will help coastal cities develop plans for sustainable growth while mitigating losses due to flooding, which is forecast to increase with rising sea levels.

The maps will be freely available to researchers, managers, and to the general public.

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Our blue planet faces a suite of challenges and opportunities for understanding and innovation. Our mission is to advance understanding of the interconnectivity of ocean systems and human-ocean interactions using a cross-disciplinary approach, to empower the next workforce of the blue economy with a world-class education experience, and to share our passion for a healthy environment and science-informed decision-making with community audiences near and far.