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Department of Biological Sciences


Where light penetration is excellent, the combination of LiDAR (Light Detection And Ranging) and passive bottom reflectance (multispectral, hyperspectral) greatly aids environmental studies. Over a century ago, two stamp mills (Mohawk and Wolverine) released 22.7 million metric tons of copper-rich tailings into Grand Traverse Bay (Lake Superior). The tailings are crushed basalt, with low albedo and spectral signatures different from natural bedrock (Jacobsville Sandstone) and bedrock-derived quartz sands. Multiple Lidar (CHARTS and CZMIL) over-flights between 2008–2016—complemented by ground-truth (Ponar sediment sampling, ROV photography) and passive bottom reflectance studies (3-band NAIP; 13-band Sentinal-2 orbital satellite; 48 and 288-band CASI)—clarified shoreline and underwater details of tailings migrations. Underwater, the tailings are moving onto Buffalo Reef, a major breeding site important for commercial and recreational lake trout and lake whitefish production (32% of the commercial catch in Keweenaw Bay, 22% in southern Lake Superior). If nothing is done, LiDAR-assisted hydrodynamic modeling predicts 60% tailings cover of Buffalo Reef within 10 years. Bottom reflectance studies confirmed stamp sand encroachment into cobble beds in shallow (0-5m) water but had difficulties in deeper waters (>8 m). Two substrate end-members (sand particles) showed extensive mixing but were handled by CASI hyperspectral imaging. Bottom reflectance studies suggested 25-35% tailings cover of Buffalo Reef, comparable to estimates from independent counts of mixed sand particles (ca. 35% cover of Buffalo Reef by >20% stamp sand mixtures).

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© 2019 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland. This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license ( Publisher’s version of record:

Publication Title

Remote Sensing

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Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.


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