Using Remote Sensing to Study Ecosystems

As the geoscience community continues to evolve with our planet’s changing needs, new applications for old techniques are finding their way into other realms of science. While some remote-sensing technologies have been used in agriculture since the 1950s, a fundamental shift has been occurring in the biology community as they study ecosystems and fight to preserve them.

One example of this shift is the recent US$25 million grant from the National Science Foundation allowing researchers at the University of Arizona, the Boyce Thompson Institute, Cornell University and the University of Illinois to monitor and ”listen” to plants through the newly-established Center for Research on Programmable Plant Systems (CROPPS). These researchers are imagining ways to use robots to “swim” the soil and drones to capture wavelength patterns emitted biologically that the human eye can’t see.

It appears this application is just the tip of the iceberg, as geophysics techniques are finding pathways into the arsenals of more and more researchers. Applications extend to forest management, agricultural operations, air pollution monitoring, marine ecology, and predicting shifts in weather patterns just to name a few. In all of these applications, scientists are learning to detect the early — and often subtle — communications from the earth and its vegetation.

For further exploration:

Diagnosis from the sky: Catching insect infestations within forests before it’s too late


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