3D aerial rendering of mountains, cities and freshwater bodies in Butte County, California

Photo: Frank Ramspott / Getty Images

SEI scientists, with support from NASA, are conducting an analysis of how and whether earth science and satellite imagery – also known as remote sensing – can help Indigenous communities in California make water and land conservation decisions in tandem with traditional knowledge.

The analysis will help experts identify interest in, and potential barriers to, using earth science and remote sensing tools to understand wildfire risks, forest cover loss, drought and other indicators linked to water and land resources. It aims to provide a picture of the current access and use of remote-sensing-based information for tribal lands.

Through qualitative and semi-quantitative methods identified with environmental officials in tribes across California, the project will explore the potential for combining traditional knowledge and NASA satellite imagery and data products to develop tools adapted to the needs and values of the communities.

A series of questions will guide researchers in identifying trends, opportunities and gaps in the field of remote sensing water and land management in tribal communities:

  • How can remote sensing and spatial data serve environmental justice in the context of land and water resources management?
  • What are the current uses of or barriers to using spatial data in tribal communities in California?
  • Do communities feel included in the projects that apply spatial data and GIS-based tools for forest and water resources management?

By identifying opportunities for future development of innovative tools that are adapted to local needs and values, the project findings can lead to informed action and support environmental justice.