For GIS Day, SEFS Students Help with 3D Printing of Husky Statue

Coming up this Wednesday, November 20, is national GIS Day, and the University of Washington has organized a number of activities around campus to celebrate all things geospatial. Naturally, you’d expect Professor Monika Moskal’s Remote Sensing and Geospatial Analysis Lab (RSGAL) to have a big hand in the festivities—and they certainly do!

Riley Milinovich and SEFS doctoral student Meghan Halabisky at the UW husky statue.

Riley Milinovich and Meghan Halabisky get ready to scan the husky statue.

A couple weeks ago, two students in her lab, Meghan Halabisky and Riley Milinovich, used terrestrial LiDAR to produce a three-dimensional visualization of the husky statue guarding the main entrance to Husky Stadium. This type of remote sensing involves scanning the object spatially, taking billions of laser readings to create a data cloud. Although Moskal’s lab generally uses terrestrial LiDAR in the forest, they took on this project to support a 3D technology demo on GIS Day.

Funded by the UW Student Technology Fee, the LiDAR equipment they used was the Leica Scan Station 2, and it took them about four hours from set up to shutdown to finish the job. Using that data, they successfully scanned and produced a visualization of the husky (check out the cool video clip below that Milinovich put together!). Now Washington Open Object Fabricators (or WOOF), a student group on campus, will use that data to produce a reduced-scale replica of the statue by 3D printer—which you can see at the demo this Wednesday!

LiDAR started off as a surveying tool used in projects such as looking at cracks in bridges, or topographic mapping and making very fine terrain models that can model environmental impacts like drainage and landslides. RSGAL, though, uses the technology for a range of forest studies, including leaf area index estimation, how many leaves per area of ground to get at evapotranspiration, net productivity, carbon sequestration and other ecosystem services.

Husky Statue

The husky LiDAR visualization starts coming together.

Coordinated by UW Libraries, the GIS Day tradition at UW is entering its third year. The School of Environmental and Forest Sciences (SEFS) is one of the biggest GIS users and teachers on campus, says Moskal, and has been a partner in helping organize the event since its inception.

Other campus activities on Wednesday include a featured speaker, Dr. Sarah Elwood from the UW Department of Geography, as well as a series of “lightning” talks—including a five-minute segment with David Campbell talking about the UW Botanic Gardens interactive maps (in the Allen Library’s Research Commons). There will be a ‘Big Data’ discussion panel, and even a GIS Doctor’s Office from 11:45 a.m. to 1 p.m. that brings in some local GIS experts to help users answer questions.

There’s so much going on around campus, so check out the full schedule of GIS events and get involved!

Images and Video © SEFS and RSGAL.

Using Remote Sensing to Understand Climate Change Effects on Wetland Ecosystems

Semi-arid wetlands might sound like an oxymoron—until you are wading into one surrounded by snow (see right).

Field verifying the condition of such wetlands in the sage-shrub steppe of Douglas County, Wash., is part of a research project led by Meghan Halabisky of Professor Monika Moskal’s Remote Sensing and Geospatial Analysis Lab (RSGAL). The goal of Halabisky’s research is to inventory wetlands in the Pacific Northwest and understand what will happen to these vulnerable ecosystems as the climate changes. These understudied yet ecologically important ecosystems are critical habitat for amphibians, migratory birds and rare plant species.

Aerial Imagery

Example of wetland classification using high-resolution aerial imagery; ponds are colored blue, while emergent wetland vegetation are colored in green.

It can be challenging to study wetlands at the landscape scale because they occur on both public and private lands and can be difficult to access. In addition, little is known of their dynamic hydrology as it requires frequent monitoring. That’s why remote sensing is a key tool in understanding the spatial and temporal relationships of wetlands across the landscape.

Through the of use of high-resolution aerial imagery, multiple years of Landsat satellite imagery and cutting-edge remote sensing techniques, the RSGAL team—which also includes Chris Vondrasek, Lopamudra Dasgupta, Michael Hannam and Stephanie Kong—is able to both identify wetlands and reconstruct historical changes in wetland function. This function includes changes in wetland hydrology, surrounding land use and water pollution of wetlands.

The RSGAL team’s field verification work includes measuring water depth of depressional wetlands and placing multiple sensors (ibuttons) at different wetland elevations to measure the seasonal fluctuation of water levels.

Field verification

The RSGAL team measuring water depth of depressional wetlands.

This research is part of an interdisciplinary project to develop hydrologic projections for diverse wetland habitats (e.g. forest wetlands, wet meadows, small ponds and riparian wetlands) across the Pacific Northwest for the 2020s, 2040s and 2080s. The projections can be used to support ecological and landscape-based vulnerability assessments and climate change adaptation planning.

For more background on this project, listen to an interview Chris Vondrasek put together!

Photos courtesy of Meghan Halabisky and Chris Vondrasek.

Going Rogue in Oregon

Rouge River

Sunlight filtering through the trees and canyons on the way back to the crew’s BLM house on the Rogue River. “It was the perfect end to every day working underneath the Douglas-firs,” says Putz.

This past summer, a five-person crew from the School of Environmental and Forest Sciences (SEFS) set out to conduct research along the Rogue River in Oregon. Working as part of Professor Monika Moskal’s Remote Sensing and Geospatial Analysis Laboratory, the students collected data of red tree vole habitat for the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) from May to September.

Their research proposed to answer several questions, including whether survey grade GPS can be used to accurately acquire individual tree location from LiDAR data (light detection and ranging), and whether ground-based inventory and leaf area measurements can be used to drive LiDAR-based empirical habitat models for the Rouge River site. The project will ultimately help the BLM develop a method of analyzing LiDAR data for forest inventory and management.

“Spending the summer in the Rogue River Valley working with amazing people and learning useful techniques taught me the importance of fieldwork, our forests and the animals that inhabit them,” says Tessa Putz, an undergraduate ESRM major with the SEFS crew.

“Working for BLM this summer was a great experience,” says PhD candidate Gonzalo Thienel, another member of the SEFS team. “I learned many things about nature, remote sensing and teamwork.”

Not bad for a field site!

Photo of the Rogue River © Tessa Putz/SEFS.