Kaibab National Forest employee recognized for unifying partners in technology development and data sharing

Photo: Mark Christiano
Mark Christiano, Kaibab National Forest geographic information systems coordinator. USDA Forest Service photo.

ARIZONA – A Kaibab National Forest employee was recently recognized for his efforts to bring together diverse stakeholders from across the state to support cooperative investments in technology and to promote data-sharing partnerships.

Mark Christiano, who serves as the forest's geographic information systems coordinator, was the recipient of the Regional Forester's Innovation in Technology Award for the Southwestern Region of the Forest Service. The award "honors exceptional creativity" and "recognizes exemplary contributions that advance and promote the transfer of knowledge and technology," according to the Forest Service's nomination guidelines.

Christiano was honored, in part, for his efforts to increase the availability of geographic data by serving as one of the lead organizers of Arizona's first-ever LiDAR symposium, which was held in August 2018. The event brought together more than 60 individuals representing federal, state and local government agencies, private industry, universities, research organizations and nonprofits, and it helped launch a movement to fund joint LiDAR acquisition projects to increase access to this important data.

LiDAR, which stands for Light Detection and Ranging, uses pulsed lasers to generate three-dimensional information about the Earth's surface. This highly accurate elevation data allows scientists and mapping professionals to examine both natural and man-made environments with precision and flexibility. Specialists can use the data to measure everything from trees and agricultural fields to buildings and transportation systems.  

"I feel really honored to have received this award," said Christiano. "In many ways, I feel this was a group award. A lot of partners, both from the Forest Service and the greater statewide GIS community, have come together to support projects of mutual benefit and to collaboratively fund the collection of this critical data."

Over time, the data that Christiano helped secure will aid public land managers in achieving landscape-scale forest restoration by allowing for accurate assessment of current conditions, evaluation and comparison of treatment outcomes, and monitoring of the success of various treatments at increased spatial scales.

Click ahead to view a story map highlighting the importance of LiDAR in understanding and planning for natural hazards such as wildfires and flooding.