Welcome to the Digital Forest Lab

Our research concerns the use of remote sensing and computer modeling to observe, monitor, and simulate forest ecosystems as they are influenced by humans and their environment. Forests are structurally complex dynamic organisms which interact with their environment (air temp, CO2, wind, solar radiation, humidity) to assimilate carbon and grow. They are also under increasing pressure globally as land is converted to other uses, and support significant economic activity by providing wood products in forests under management.

Our research program focuses on three sets of studies: 1) investigating links between canopy structure, reflectance and functions (in terms of light interception, photosynthesis and evaporation), 2) mobilizing new tools like Google Earth Engine to monitor deforestation events, and 3) maximizing the use of lidar technology in forestry inventories and operations.

The first set of studies integrates the development of physically-based phytometrical methods using ground-based lidar data to describe the 3D geometry of forest canopies, with physically-based models to enable the study of links between canopy structure, light reflectance and interception, and tree to ecosystem level functions. The research is highly interdisciplinary and involves integrating lidar remote sensing, field work, ecosystem science principles, and computer modeling.

Studies focusing on passive remote sensing involve the use of Google Earth Engine to monitor specific areas and specific activities leading to deforestation. Passive remote sensing images at 30 m resolution are used in a change detection algorithm to monitor specific forested areas. In particular, we are working in partnership with private firms to assist industries using palm oil to reach their zero deforestation goals by alerting the supply chain of deforestation events.

As a third research axis, we are working to increase the types and reliability of information derived from airborne lidar (ALS) regarding above ground biomass, stand age and volume, and tree size distributions. This information is highly relevant to forestry operations planning and carbon stocks accounting. There is much research needed to better understand the interactions between forest canopies and ALS laser pulses, in particular in the interpretation of full waveform lidar increasingly available from ALS and coming in 2018 with the GEDI spaceflight mission -a full waveform lidar to be installed on the space station.