Leaf Litter

Biohabitats Projects, Places, and People

Catch up on the latest at Biohabitats and learn how we are applying GIS to help towns and universities plan for growth and development while maximizing the value of their natural resources.

By Amy Nelson

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Higher Education Getting The GISt Of Ecological Planning & Assessment

Sometimes working alongside architecture and planning firms, and at times leading the effort on our own, we have been applying GIS in our efforts to help several leading higher education institutions, including the University of North Carolina, Rutgers, Wake Forest University, and the University of Delaware, plan for campus growth and development while also maximizing the value of their natural resources.

Using GPS/GIS technology, we are able to perform thorough ecological characterizations of open spaces based on parameters such as soils, geology, geomorphology, stream and wetland resources, land cover, vegetation, habitat and landscape ecology. Some of the information is pre-existing and some is gathered in the field. Maps depicting the locations and interrelationships of the parameters of interest can be produced on a 2-dimensional scale using this methodology.

Often, a project’s goal is to delineate valuable ecological resources, suitable for conservation, while at the same time identifying sectors of a given area more suitable for development. The work we’ve done at the University of Delaware and the future Carolina North Campus of the University of North Carolina are two examples. This Vertical Suitability Analysis of the Carolina North site identifies the degree of disturbance development may have on the ecological integrity of the site, based on regulatory restrictions and areas having high conservation value. Darker shading indicates areas considered less suitable for development.

This type of analysis builds upon ecological characterization and can include additional parameters of interest such as riparian buffer/wetland boundaries, FEMA floodplains, steep slopes, erodible soils, and cultural, historic and recreational resources. Scores are assigned to the attributes of interest and the attributes are then assembled in appropriate GIS layers. There are often many layers, which gives this type of analysis a 3-dimensional quality. The multiple layers are then collapsed, new polygons are created from the combination of all the polygons in all the layers, and scores are totaled for these new polygons. This type of procedure generates a map which can be color-coded based on a statistical analysis of the range of scores. It also produces a qualitative ranking of sectors within an area along a “more suitable for conservation-more suitable for development” scale, thus helping designers plan for and improve the long-term ecological sustainability of the area.

Forking Up GIS Analysis of Prominent Louisville Park

In the last issue of Leaf Litter, we reported on our efforts to contribute to the natural resources and ecological sustainability components of the Floyds Fork Parks, Open Space, and Trails Master Plan. The project involves a new system of parks, trails and open spaces to be created along a 27-mile stretch of Floyds Fork in Louisville, Kentucky. Using GIS, we performed an overview and assessment of natural resources within the 4000-acre project area in an effort to identify and prioritize conservation opportunities and guide the arrangement of park uses, programs, and facilities. We collected and interpreted data such as geology, soils, water resources, forest and grassland patch size within the watershed. The project team, led by Wallace Roberts & Todd, LLC, will use this information to help develop greater understanding and interpretive opportunities of the area’s natural resources. We are thrilled to apply GIS technology toward the realization of Frederick Law Olmsted’s vision of Louisville as a “City of Parks.” [floyds fork.jpg CAPTION: This graphic shows the assessment of areas of high conservation priority, based on presence of wetlands, large forest patches, large grassland patches, and riparian conservation buffers.]

Ecological Principles Influence Plan For Grand Teton Resort Community

Recognizing the value of developing sustainable landscapes and practices, Mahogany Ridge LLC called on Biohabitats to spearhead the master planning effort for a 3500-acre resort community in the Teton River valley near Driggs, Idaho. Acknowledging the valley’s history as a dynamic, connective span between the Teton River and BigHoleMountains, our approach is themed around bridging: reconnecting the hydrologic and nutrient cycles, restoring vegetation communities and wildlife habitat and corridors, linking culture and economy with ecology and, ultimately, reconnecting people to place.

After researching and reviewing information and performing a field characterization of the site and surrounding landscape, we were able to establish habitat targets and associated design metrics. We also met with wildlife experts to discuss current regional strategies for conservation and restoration efforts for a wide range of species including Greater sandhill cranes, Yellowstone cutthroat trout, deer, and elk. The master plan, currently in progress, includes components such as buffers to protect sandhill crane habitat, feeding plots for sandhill cranes, wildlife corridors to allow movement of big game across the site, small mammal and song bird patches, restoration concepts for Mahogany Creek, and storm water management facilities that take advantage of the natural hydrologic patterns of the site.


Kevin Heatley looks forward to meeting with current and future leaders in campus planning and development at the 2008 Smart and Sustainable Campuses Conference at the University of Maryland March 31-April 2. This comprehensive symposium on smart growth and sustainable practices is being put on by the National Association of College and University Business Officers (NCUBO).

Biohabitats Landscape Architect, Jenn Dowdell will be on hand to participate in the U.S. Regional Association of the International Association of Landscape Ecology’s (US-IALE) 2008 Symposium. The theme of this year’s gathering is Landscape Patterns and Ecosystem Processes.

Ecological Engineer Extraordinaire, Chris Streb, will be in Charlotte April 7-8 attending Developing Green, a conference hosted by the Urban Land Institute

Kevin Heatley will address the Western New York chapter of the Society of American Foresters at their annual meeting on April 8.

Biohabitats Landscape Architect, Jenn Dowdell heads to the Motor City May 5-7 to display a poster at Brownfields 2008. This is the largest, most comprehensive conference focused on cleaning up and redeveloping abandoned, underutilized, and potentially contaminated properties in the nation.

If you plan to attend the Wildlife Habitat Council’s 2008 Conference: Restoring Greenspace in Concord, CA, be sure to say hello to the newest addition to our team, Landscape Architect Allegra Bukojemsky.

Biohabitats Environmental Scientist Paul Kovalcik will present “Muskegon Lake, Ruddiman Creek and Nearby Shoreline Ecological Restoration Master Plan: Using Stakeholder Involvement to Derive the Goals and Objectives for Addressing Beneficial Use Impairments in an Area of Concern” at the International Association for Great Lakes Research’s (IAGLR) 51st Annual Conference in Petersburg, Ontario, Canada May 20-23.

Biohabitats is a proud sponsor and collaborating partner for the 2008 Northeast Ohio Stormwater Conference  in Cleveland, Ohio May 21-22. And that’s not just because Water Resources Engineer Jennifer Zielinski will deliver a presentation on “Using Stormwater Retrofits to Mitigate Impacts from Uncontrolled Runoff.” Be sure to stop by the Biohabitats booth and say hello to Jennifer and Great Lakes bioregion leader, Ivette Bolender. Just look for the giant salamander!

We’re also thrilled to sponsor the Society of Wetland Scientists 2008 Annual Meeting, which will be held in Washington, DC May 26-30. just down the road from our Chesapeake/Delaware Bays Bioregion office. This year’s conference theme, Capitalizing on Wetlands, highlights the need for integrating the breadth of wetland science, encompassing biogeography, conservation, ecology, hydrology, management, nutrient cycling and contamination, and wildlife biology with economics, public policy, and education. The agenda includes panel discussions and presentations by Biohabitats senior ecologists Terry Doss and Joe Berg and water resources engineer Ted Brown. They’ll also be hanging out at the Biohabitats booth, so be sure to stop by.


Don’t let the relaxed, friendly demeanor of our new Senior Ecologist Terry Doss fool you. Beneath the smiling, serene exterior is a powerful force in the world of wetland science. Terry joins the Bio team with more than 20 years of experience managing ecological restoration projects along the Mid-AtlanticCoast. She has managed a number of restoration projects in the Meadowlands and other urban wetland areas around New York and New Jersey, working closely with clients such as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and numerous state and municipal agencies. Terry’s impressive resume also includes a two-year stint as a policy analyst for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Equally impressive, Terry brings the tenacity, rigor and teambuilding skills of a former college player and current coach of girls’ lacrosse.

Terry has already become immersed in many Biohabitats projects, including our work with Field Operations on the Fresh Kills Landfill in New York. She is also serving as co-chair for the upcoming annual meeting of the Society of Wetland Scientists in Washington, DC. On the rare occasion that she finds herself with free time, she can be found running, hiking, reading and enjoying sports and life with her sons. Terry holds a Masters of Marine Policy in Marine Sciences and a B.S. in Agricultural Sciences from the University of Delaware.

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