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Jessica DeWitt, Ph.D.

Geoscientist investigating the sources and consequences of terrain and land use change using remote sensing and geospatial analysis. Specific research interests include quantifying terrain change hazards, developing and integrating historical datasets, and investigating geomorphic changes in mineral extraction environments. Jessica is also a certified UAS pilot for the USGS.

Jessica DeWitt is a research geographer at the Florence Bascom Geoscience Center. She received a doctoral degree in Geography from West Virginia University and a masters in Geography from the University of Toledo, OH. Since joining the USGS in 2014, she has focused her research on using remote sensing and geographic information systems (GIS) to map the impact of natural phenomena and anthropogenic activities on the landscape and the environment. Her research combines multispectral satellite image analysis and terrain modeling with geologic, hydrologic, geomorphic data and field mapping to provide detailed information about areas of topographic change, particularly areas of mining activity.

She has worked on several projects focused specifically on artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM) occurring in proximity to conflict regions. Her research on this topic aims to improve understanding of the potential contribution of ASM to the conflict by quantifying the scope and magnitude of mineral production. Since ASM production typically occurs in remote and data-sparse regions of the globe, Jessica utilizes a variety of geospatial methods, including photogrammetry of stereo satellite imagery, geomorphic and terrain modeling, and high-resolution image analysis together with geologic and field data to provide the best-available and most current data for a region. The ASM projects she has worked on include assessment of diamond ASM in the Central African Republic, Guinea, and Cote d’Ivoire, gold ASM (ASGM) in Guyana, and ASM of various mineral commodities in Afghanistan.

More recently, Jessica’s research has focused on quantification of terrain change by integrating 3D analysis of historical aerial imagery and archival maps with current data. These investigations quantify decades of terrain change in both naturally and anthropogenically altered regions such as sand dunes, mountain-top removal/ valley-fill mining areas, and urban expansion. As part of this body of research, she is collaborating with a Powell Working Group on topographic change and is part of 2 NRPP projects with the National Park Service looking at terrain and geomorphic change in Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, MI and Vicksburg National Military Park, MS.

Jessica is also a USGS-certified Remote Pilot in Command (RPIC) and has worked to advance the use of unmanned aerial systems (UAS) in both her own research and in other projects at the Florence Bascom Geoscience Center.