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.