The carriers of the virus are primarily wild waterfowl—various migrant species of dabbling ducks, like Northern Pintails—that spend the warm months up in Canada and the Arctic, then migrate south through the US (and beyond) for overwintering.
Understanding where those populations are likely to be found is key to predicting which commercial or backyard operations may be at higher risk of transmission for AI, and where surveillance efforts should be concentrated.
What are the main benefits of incorporating Landsat into your research?
Landsat allows us to identify potential roosting and feeding sites of the wild waterfowl, which are primarily wetlands and agricultural fields (like rice) which provide forage for the birds.
Using past Landsat data, we can also analyze how these areas have changed over time—especially important in drought-ridden California. This allows us to create predictive models of waterfowl density across the state, which we believe correlates with risk of transmission.
What do you see as the final outcome of your research? And how could it potentially be used operationally to help limit the spread of Avian Influenza?
The end product will be a real-time risk map that multiple parties (government agencies, commercial and backyard producers) are able to access 24×7 through a web interface or mobile app.
For government agencies tasked with AI surveillance, this could be used to target waterfowl populations for testing.
Commercial producers at increased risk may choose to increase biosecurity efforts. Backyard producers may be more vigilant about keeping their flocks in their coops and observing for wild waterfowl in the area