Date of Award


Degree Name

Master of Arts



First Advisor

Dr. Philip Micklin

Second Advisor

Dr. Mary Dillworth

Third Advisor

Dr. George Vuicich

Access Setting

Masters Thesis-Open Access


This study focused on the development of a land cover classification method for the Dzhiltyrbas Gulf region southeast of the Aral Sea in the former Soviet Union. Desertification of the region was mapped based on ecosystem descriptions taken from a database defining four stages of desertification. Landsat MSS images (bands 1, 2, and 4) were used as the basis for classification. Standard unsupervised and supervised classification methods did not distinguish the level of detail required to map each stage of desertification in each ecosystem. Therefore, the ecosystems had to be defined and classified as separate entities (based on SBI and GVI), then reintegrated into one image for each year.

The classification method used provided an acceptable landscape categorization, but the method was somewhat tedious. The final map appears to accurately show the distribution of each desertification stage, but the only way to prove or disprove the classification is by ground thruthing the Dzhiltyrbas Gulf region.