The Phenomic and Environmental Sensor Array

Based at our ANU research forest in the National Arboretum Canberra, the Phenomic and Environmental Sensor Array collects and integrates data from micrometeorological towers, a distributed wireless environmental sensor network, and overlapping multi-billion pixel time-lapse cameras that cover the research site at 1 cm resolution. The Array provides extremely detailed information from individual trees to the entire forest, every minute and hour. It captures how weather and climate affect growth as the individual trees mature into a closed forest. It will allow us to predict drought effects on growth and development for different eucalyptus species and genotypes, with implications for regenerating forest ecosystems under climate change, nationally and globally. [view latest measurements and images]

Vegetation structure from laser scanning

Detailed knowledge of the structure of overstorey and understorey vegetation around us has many applications, from nature conservation to forest management and fire risk reduction. Current measurement methods are slow and labour intensive.
Together with CSIRO and the Terrestrial Ecosystem Research Network, we have been developing automated technologies to map vegetation structure from LiDAR – laser scanning data derived from handheld scanners or airborne measurements.
These data have a wide range of applications. They help ecologists understand habitat quality and its suitability for different species. They also help fire managers to assess fire risk and plan hazard reduction burns. The data can also be used to measure biomass and carbon storage in forests.

The Spectroscope

Satellite images in the optical and thermal part of the electromagnetic spectrum are routinely used to infer important information about the land surface, such as vegetation density and health, developing water or heat stress, and flammability. However, there are still some big uncertainties in deriving that information that we are seeking to address.

We developed the Spectroscope together with forest ecology and plant phenomics research groups in ANU’s Research School of Biology (Borevitz’ Plant Genomics for Climate Adaptation lab and Meir Tropical Forest ecosystems group). The Spectroscope is a unique multi-sensor hyperspectral imaging system that scans the entire environment around it simultaneously in optical and thermal wavelengths and using laser scanning. Development was supported by an ANU Major Equipment Grant.

For example, we use it at our outdoor research laboratory in the National Arboretum Canberra. With so many different single-species forests, it serves as a type of ‘colour checker’ for calibration and validation as part of new satellite instruments, missions and data products.

Using the Spectroscope, we get a uniquely detailed understanding of the three-dimensional reflectance and emissions from the three-dimensional vegetation. This helps answer questions around the interaction between the sun, the vegetation and the sensor that will help improve satellite-based measurement methods. This detailed understanding helps us scale new insights about the response of individual leaves, trees and forests to national and global scales with remote sensing.

Cosmic rays for fire and flood risk monitoring

The cosmic ray soil moisture probe is a recently invented technology that is set to revolutionise our ability to monitor soil and biomass moisture content.
With support from CSIRO and the Actew/ActewAGL Endowment Fund, we are investigating the potential of this technology for flood and fire risk monitoring in a remote part of the Cotter catchment in Namadgi National Park.
[View latest measurements here or here]