LA researchers evaluate Llano Estacado from a big-data perspective
By: Sherrie Ray
The Llano Estacado has been a source of continual research in a variety of areas for Texas Tech University's Department of Landscape Architecture, housed within the College of Agricultural Sciences & Natural Resources. But a recent project could bring noteworthy innovation to the High Plains region.
Eric Bernard, chair of the department, is investigating new data resources to help manage the landscape of the Llano Estacado in order to preserve its natural beauty, playa lake recharge, and biodiversity functions critical to migratory birds and invertebrate species, as well as livestock.
"The benefits of this project are many," said Bernard, "but we are really aimed at helping people make more sustainable or resilient choices about how they manage their landscape."
The Llano Estacado covers more than 35,000 square miles of the High Plains ecoregion along the Texas-New Mexico border. Llano Estacado translates into "staked plain," meaning the landscape is flat with escarpments acting as a distinct border. This complex landscape makes it difficult to understand how water flows and filters through the land.
Bernard said in order to explain these complex systems in real and augmented ways, they have used server-side - big-data infrastructure to virtually model the region. He said they have also utilized geographic information systems (GIS), computer aided design (CAD), 3D-modeling, virtual reality, augmented reality, and fabrication tools to create a technical and visual understanding of the landscape.
Tyson Watson, a student research assistant pursuing a graduate degree in landscape architecture, said his role in the project was create a geodatabase of more than 1,500 tiles of digital elevation data as well as hydrologic, vegetation, land use, and population information.
"What I hope comes from this project is more of an understanding and appreciation for this area," Watson said. "Yes, we all know that it is flat, but there is more to this area and region than what meets the eye."
Bernard explained how Texas Tech has one of the best laboratories in the world for studying how water infiltrates in larger systems. He said it is important to understand the landscape of this unique region for agriculture, urbanization and energy-production purposes.
This project differs from past Llano Estacado research. Using innovative technology has allowed Bernard's team to create data precisely related to the land to the resources it provides. With a better understanding of how the landscape and resources correspond, a more sustainable future for the High Plains region is possible.
CONTACT: Eric Bernard, Professor and Chairperson, Department of Landscape Architecture, Texas Tech University at (806) 834-3482 or firstname.lastname@example.org