Los Alamos, New Mexico is perhaps best known for the infamous ‘Manhattan Project’, which developed the first atomic bombs during World War II. These days, the town is in the midst of a Project of a very different nature. Recently, Atlantic partnered with The National Park Service in Los Alamos on a Project with an impact of lasting historical, geological, and anthropological significance.

Within The National Park Service’s Bandelier National Monument lies the Frijoles Canyon, which formed out of a volcanic eruption some 1.14 million years ago. Now a major watershed, Frijoles holds a deeper meaning to the people of the region than one might be able to see with the naked eye.

As Park Rangers and local historians will tell, there has been evidence of human existence in the Canyon for over 10,000 years. Permanent settlements from ancient cultures still stand within the Canyon dating back to the year 1150. To the Ancestral Pueblo Culture, the land and its unique geology provided the perfect site to construct cliff dwellings and establish communities for hundreds of generations. When anthropologist Adolph Bandelier was brought to the remains of the site by a Pueblo guide in 1880, he said, “It is the grandest thing I ever saw.”

However, this grand place (under federal protection since 1916) continues to be threatened by a number of potentially devastating factors. The most prominent of threats came in 2011, with the Las Conchas wildfire.

“The entire area burned over during an intense wildfire, and we wanted to assess changes in geomorphology and live tree canopy due to the fire and its subsequent flooding effects”, said Brian Jacobs, a Vegetation Specialist with The National Park Service.

Atlantic developed a plan to acquire and process Lidar over the Frijoles Watershed area. Though a target point density of 8-10 PPSM (points per square meter) was requested for their analysis, Atlantic was able to provide an 11-12 PPSM posting.

“We are really impressed by the resolution of the Bare Earth data and comparing it to the previous Lidar Digital Elevation Model. It should allow us to do some really neat post-fire and flood change-analysis, while providing a good baseline going forward,” said Jacobs.

“We are happy and look forward to updating Atlantic on our use of the data and sharing the sample outputs from repeat Lidar change relating to the Vegetation Canopy and Geomorphic assessment. Repeat Lidar will also be used in combination with orthophotography, hydrologic models, and field data.” Jacobs adds, “We want to characterize the effects of fire and post-fire flooding on park cultural and natural resources, inform status of watershed recovery, support risk assessments for employee and visitor safety, and aid planning efforts to replace infrastructure in Frijoles Canyon.”

Atlantic is proud to be a National Park Service partner in helping study and protect Bandelier National Monument to ensure its enjoyment for its nearly 200,000 annual visitors, as well as the preservation of a sacred piece of the Pueblo Community.