Publication Date


Advisor(s) - Committee Chair

John All (Director), Greg Goodrich, Jun Yan

Degree Program

Department of Geography and Geology

Degree Type

Master of Science


Digital Elevation Models (DEMs) are digital representations of surface topography or terrain. Collection of DEM data can be done directly through surveying and taking ground control point (GCP) data in the field or indirectly with remote sensing using a variety of techniques. The accuracies of DEM data can be problematic, especially in rugged terrain or when differing data acquisition techniques are combined. For the present study, ground data were taken in various protected areas in the mountainous regions of Nepal. Elevation, slope, and aspect were measured at nearly 2000 locations. These ground data were imported into a Geographic Information System (GIS) and compared to DEMs created by NASA researchers using two data sources: the Shuttle Radar Topography Mission (STRM) and Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer (ASTER). Slope and aspect were generated within a GIS and compared to the GCP ground reference data to evaluate the accuracy of the satellitederived DEMs, and to determine the utility of elevation and derived slope and aspect for research such as vegetation analysis and erosion management. The SRTM and ASTER DEMs each have benefits and drawbacks for various uses in environmental research, but generally the SRTM system was superior. Future research should focus on refining these methods to increase error discrimination.


Geographic Information Sciences | Geography | Geology | Physical and Environmental Geography | Remote Sensing