Out-of-this-world satellite images help monitor the environment

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Media Release March 21, 2014

LiDAR lasers map terrain with high accuracy, providing data for forest management across Canada. Photo: BlackBridge. All rights reserved.

The new Centre for Applied Earth Observation will use images from satellites, aircraft, and the International Space Station to monitor globally important environmental issues such as changes in forestry activity and the amount of carbon sequestered in vegetation.

Based at the University of British Columbia’s Faculty of Forestry, the centre is a unique collaboration between data satellite-imaging companies, researchers, and other data users and providers. The centre will be announced today at the Faculty of Forestry’s International Day of Forests celebrations.

In forestry, satellite imaging could help detect wildfires, deforestation, and insect infestations, as well as support mapping of forest resources and the planning of future logging. The centre will also explore possibilities for other mapping applications, carbon credit verification, and urban planning.

RapidEye satellite imagery helps map forest attributes after a low-severity fire in the southern Okanagan. Photo: BlackBridge. All rights reserved.

“We’re streaming space observation right to our computers,” says John Innes, the Dean of the Faculty of Forestry. “For industries like forestry, this is about embracing a new high-tech frontier that will provide rapid access to the information we need to manage our resources sustainably.

The centre brings together researchers, potential users and western Canada’s earth observation industry. A think tank will be created to make greater use of the remote sensing data and develop new projects. UBC graduate students will also get to work with the top satellite imaging providers in the world.

Centre staff are planning a first multi-sector conference entitled “Virtual Constellations” which will be sponsored by industry partners and held in late 2014.

Additional quotes:

Robert Falls, executive director of the Centre for Applied Earth Observation and adjunct professor in the Faculty of Forestry:

“The centre represents a unique opportunity to bring western Canada’s remote sensing community and natural resources sectors together in a synergistic environment. There are numerous applications, and we have already begun to reap the benefits from our initial collaborations.”

Nicholas Coops, Canada Research Chair in remote sensing, and professor in the Faculty of Forestry:

“Talk about the bigger picture. Satellite cameras capture incredible amounts of data about our planet every day. The centre will bring together academic and industry groups to collaborate, research, promote and educate users about the potential applications of this information.”

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