The study of forests can be conducted in several ways. Scientists can conduct studies on the field, in natural surroundings and detail the shape and size of trees. Recently, they have also been able to outsource the research to outer space, by the use of a system of laser imaging placed above the Earth’s surface at a distance of 250 miles. It travels north of 17,000 miles in an hour and calculates the shape and size of each and every tree. This particular method is capable of providing highly detailed measurements. An additional perk for the scientists lies in the fact that they don’t have to counter any mosquitoes in the process.
Active field work turns out to be grueling for most. According to Laura Duncanson, her first summer in North Ontario made her face a brutal heat. Further, the mosquitoes also posed a huge problem. Duncanson is an assistant professor at Maryland’s University, in the subject of geographical sciences. During her undergraduate days, her team was conducting measurement of spruce tree stem diameters. In the process, she had to face sweat, insect bites and scratches.
Currently, Ralph Dubayah and Duncanson, along with other NASA scientists, are putting to use advanced new technology placed on the ISS to make the world’s first 3-D mapping of the Earth’s tropical and temperate forests. Dubayah is also a geographical sciences professor at the Maryland University. The system is called the GEDI, an acronym for Global Ecosystem Dynamics Investigation. It is also pronounced as the “Jedi” and will look to provide 3D forest images.
Forests are known for soaking up carbon dioxide gas that is released in the atmosphere when fossil fuels are burnt. This is extremely beneficial as carbon dioxide hugely contributes in causing global warming. However, when trees are burnt or cut down to clear areas for farming and other purposes, a lot of the gas is sent back to the air. GEDI will be aiming to gauge the amount of carbon stored within forests, in order to determine effects of re-growing or protecting forests.