The carbon sequestration power of forests is key to mitigating climate change, but at the same time, climate change is negatively affecting forest health, potentially causing negative feedbacks. Remotely sensed data from unmanned aerial systems (UAS), commonly known as drones, provide an efficient and accurate way to quantify forest health and structure. This project will use remote sensing imagery collected with UAS to map canopy tree crowns and quantify 3-D forest structure in a forest inventory plot in the Niobrara region of Nebraska (an example is shown in the image associated with this project, which shows a drone-based image of a region of the Niobrara forest in false-color, where the red-to-green color scale indicates the crowns of the tallest versus shortest trees). Artificial intelligence will be used to map tree crowns and create a 3-D forest structure model. The tree crown and 3-D forest structure maps will be linked to hyperspectral and thermal remote sensing images and ground-based data on tree growth and survival to quantify variation in performance among tree species. The goal is to gain a better understanding of the canopy and forest structure, which can guide further studies on carbon sequestration, habitat and biodiversity, forest health and changes, understory growth, and forest management.
|Advisor Name:||Sabrina Russo|
|Advisor College:||Arts and Sciences|
|Advisor Department:||School of Biological Sciences|
|Potential Student Tasks:||Responsibilities will include reading and learning about artificial intelligence and machine learning techniques for analyzing remote sensing data collected using UAS. In addition, field training will be provided for data collection, and trainees will work with graduate students and faculty advisors to analyze the data. Trainees will be expected to attend regular meetings and present their progress throughout the semester.|
|Student Qualifications:||Students with an interest in data collected from drones, forests, civil engineering, conservation and the natural environment, as well as applications of artificial intelligence and other complementary fields (such as agriculture), are encouraged to apply. While students from any major or field of study may apply, this opportunity may be particularly appealing to those studying and with interests in Biology, Natural Resources, Forestry, Ecology, Engineering, and Computer Science.|
|Training, Mentoring, and Workplace Community:||Students would be mentored by two faculty, Dr. Sabrina Russo (School of Biological Sciences) and Dr. Richard Wood (Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering), gaining rich interdisciplinary experiences. Both Dr. Russo and Dr. Wood maintain dynamic and inclusive research lab groups with undergraduates who have gone on to competitive graduate programs, to conservation and other professional positions, and have won awards. Our goals are to promote excellence in fundamental and applied sciences, to help to undergraduates learn about and access diverse professional and educational opportunities, and to support everyone in their professional growth and achieving their professional goals.|