Apr 09 2012

First Test of PVC Markers

On Thursday 4/5/2012 Jonathan and I went to HR with 2 other students to attempt to lay out the PVC pipe that will mark the 5x5 meter grid. Our plan was to lay a reference string between 2 of the serveyed points in the 25x25 meter grid. Once this was done we could measure 5 meters along this line with our wooden poles, string, and line levels to help ensure accuracy. We secured a string between the two wooden poles measured at 5 meters We would than insert PVC poles like the ones to the left at these 5 meter marks. However when we finished our first 4 points and came to the known survey point we were anywhere from 10 to 30 cm off. This was too much inaccuracy and we quickly saw that the string connecting the two wooden poles could flex, this being our cause of inaccuracy, we determined we needed a more rigid material to connect the poles. Back at the lab we found some thin metal wire and after attatching this to the wooden poles and retesting the same strategy as before the accuracy was greatly improved, at most we had a 1 to 2 cm innaccuracy with most of the corner points we plotted landing directly on the survey point.

Mar 27 2012

Topography and the Mapping Grid

There has been a new data sheet designed to address the specific needs of the forest we are working with. Because the method for mapping the trees has changed, the data sheets also needed to be altered. We are returning to the previous used method of laying out a 1x1 meter grid within our 5x5 meter grid. Once this is complete the location of the trees will be marked on the graph found on the data sheet. There has also been a "codes" column added to the data sheet to represent trees that may need special attention. This could include a leaning stem, a stem broken below breast hight, or as seen in the picture multiple stems from one trunk forming below breast height. However, before the trees can be mapped the grid must first be sectioned into 5x5 meter squares. Jonathan, fellow students, and I are hoping to get one of the 25x25 meter plots sectioned off so we can begin to test our tree mapping stratgies. We are also tackling the problems we may face concerning drastic elevation changes. In summary we have all of our supplies ready and in bags we just need to find a time to get dirty and see how our ideas work.


Oct 25 2011

CAO Dreaming

Breakthrough technology enables 3D mapping of rainforests, tree by tree” - the latest news from the Carnegie Airborne Observatory (CAO)- but also old news: since about 2006, the CAO has been the most powerful 3D forest scanning system ever devised, and Greg Asner has continually improved it.

The CAO was the original inspiration behind Ecosynth.  In 2006/2007, I  was on sabbatical at the Department of Global Ecology at the Carnegie Institute of Washington at Stanford, and my office was right next to Greg’s.   Though he was mostly in Hawaii getting the CAO up and running, he and his team at Stanford completely sold me on the idea that the future of ecologically relevant remote sensing was multispectral 3D scanning (or better- hyperspectral- but one must start somewhere!). 

I coveted the CAO.   I wanted so much to use it to scan my research sites in China.  Our high-resolution ecological mapping efforts there had been so difficult and the 3D approach seemed to offer the chance to overcome so many of the challenges we faced. 

Yet it still seemed impossible to make it happen- gaining permission to fly a surveillance-grade remote sensing system over China?  It would take years and tremendous logistical and political obstacles to overcome.  So I changed my thinking…

What if we could fly over landscapes with a small hobbyist-grade remote controlled aircraft with a tiny LiDAR and a camera?  Alas, no, - LiDAR systems (high grade GPS + IMU) are way too heavy, and will be for a long time.

Then I saw Photosynth, and I thought- maybe that approach to generating 3D scans from multiple photographs might allow us to scan landscapes on demand without major logistical hassles?  The answer is yes, and the result, translated into reality by Jonathan Dandois, is Ecosynth.

Can Ecosynth achieve capabilities similar to CAO?  Our ultimate goal is to find out.   And make it cheap and accessible to all- as the first “personal” remote sensing system of the Anthropocene.

Jul 09 2011

Leafsnap: An Electronic Field Guide


Yet another dimension of computer vision...


“ is the first in a series of electronic field guides being developed by researchers from Columbia University, the University of Maryland, and the Smithsonian Institution. This free mobile app uses visual recognition software to help identify tree species from photographs of their leaves. Leafsnap contains beautiful high-resolution images of leaves, flowers, fruit, petiole, seeds, and bark. Leafsnap currently includes the trees of New York City and Washington, D.C., and will soon grow to include the trees of the entire continental United States. This website shows the tree species included in Leafsnap, the collections of its users, and the team of research volunteers working to produce it."

May 02 2011

Redwood Forests- Natural Cathedrals in 3D


Redwood forests- with Earth’s tallest trees, one of the most impressive natural ecosystems on Earth.   For Arbor Day, Save the Redwoods League worked with Google Earth Outreach to model old-growth redwoods on Google Earth.  Great work- check out the kml in Google Earth!  A great example of what citizen science can do to raise awareness.

Makes me think of our Earthwatch Project in Huang Cun China this summer- can we create visualizations of the ancient village landscapes of China?  These are every bit as impressive and nearly as ancient as Redwood forests.   Can citizen science raise global awareness of these?