RIT receives new funding to improve forest studies
Two grants totaling $391,000 were received by Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) to study forests. The grants will improve how waveform LiDAR (light detection and ranging) offers a better 3D imagery of forests. Awards were granted by the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency and NASA.
With this initiative, RIT will use waveform LiDAR to create a more complex view of forests – focusing on what lies beneath the surface of the forest canopy.
Scans are completed from a drone and are broken into tiny voxels, or “volumetric pixels.” These voxels are considered to be the 3D equivalent of pixels and are filled when a signal is detected. The voxels are empty when a signal is not apparent. When a determination cannot be made either way, this new approach will flag the voxels.
The project could lead to more information about sub-canopy tree structure, wildlife habitats and species migration patterns. Understanding more about the forest could be beneficial for military intelligence when trying to identify potential threats hidden in a forest.
Partners for the NASA project include researchers at Battelle and collaborators at the University of New Hampshire. This effort will work to better understand forest physiology and chemistry, so that scientists can better monitor forest growth and productivity. Researchers believe they will be able to access data on leaf traits such as nutrition, density, angularity and area density.
To create the 3D simulations, both projects will use real and simulated data to refine the methodology. The initiative will utilize the the RIT-developed Digital Imaging and Remote Sensing Image Generation (DIRSIG) model. Using DIRSIG will allow researchers to test different approaches in a more controlled, physics-based environment.
For more information about RIT’s work in remote sensing, go to the Digital Imaging and Remote Sensing Laboratory.