Dana Slaymaker, of Resource Mapping Hawai‘i, recently received the Governor’s Innovation Award, a monthly honor given out by Governor Linda Lingle that recognizes deserving organizations, individuals or government agencies that develop new and innovative ways to meet the challenges of the 21st century.
Slaymaker was recognized for developing a remote-sensing aerial camera system that promises to revolutionize invasive weed control in the islands. The technology was developed for The Nature Conservancy. Suzanne Case, the Conservancy’s Hawai‘i executive director, accepted the award on Slaymaker’s behalf at a January ceremony at the State Capital.
“Ordinarily, people tend to think only of the visible spectrum of photography,” Case said. “Advanced photographic equipment, however, can detect light in other parts of the spectrum, like infrared or ultraviolet, and that light can yield important information. This is not new, but Slaymaker and his team have refined the technology for use in mapping invasive weeds in Hawai‘i.”
Deployed from a small Cessna plane, Slaymaker’s remote-sensing cameras capture high-resolution images of the forest, detect invasive weeds by the light they reflect and provide the exact coordinates of where the weeds are located, even adjusting for the distortions caused by steep, mountainous terrain. Ground crews, such as those of The Nature Conservancy, can then use this information to hone in on exactly where they should go to remove the invasive weeds.
The new technology is also inexpensive. “We can now commission this sort of work for only a few dollars an acre,” said Trae Menard, program manager for the Nature Conservancy on Kaua‘i. “From a cost-benefit perspective, the value is clear and allows us to invest resources where we will get the greatest return.”
“I honestly think that this could be the biggest technological breakthrough for weed management and monitoring in Hawai‘i, or anywhere else, in the last decade,” he added.
The Nature Conservancy has allocated $400,000 for a pilot project to map 80,000 acres of Kaua‘i forestland that it oversees as coordinator of the Kaua‘i Watershed Alliance. The Conservancy manages about 7,000 acres in the upper Wainiha Valley and the Alaka‘i Plateau.
The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people. The Conservancy and its more than 1 million members have protected nearly 120 million acres worldwide. Visit The Nature Conservancy on the Web at www.nature.org.