Open data in the forests subject of Doug Little Memorial Lecture

Dr. Michael Wulder, a senior research scientist with the Canadian Forest Service of Natural Resources Canada
Dr. Michael Wulder, a senior research scientist with the Canadian Forest Service of Natural Resources Canada

For decades, satellite remote sensing technology has allowed researchers to study, monitor and map forests.

However, the high costs of data and few analytical options have limited the technology’s use for taking inventory and monitoring over large forested areas.

More recently, satellite data at scales that are relevant to forest inventory and monitoring have become available on a free and open access basis.

Decreases in software and computing costs coincided with the open access which has led to the development previously unavailable information products, such as, for the first time, a systemic and consistent depiction of forest harvesting across Canada.

Using a time-series of remotely sensed data has allowed scientists to monitor the return of vegetation (and trees) following a disturbance, providing a more complete picture of forest dynamics.

These new open access data and computing opportunities available to researchers in remote sensing technology is the subject of the 2018 Doug Little Memorial Lecture at the University of Northern British Columbia on Thursday, Nov. 1 at the Canfor Theatre at 7:30 p.m.

The lecture, titled: Sometimes a Crazy Plan Comes Together: How Open Data Unlocked Remote Sensing for Forest Monitoring features Dr. Michael Wulder, a senior research scientist with the Canadian Forest Service of Natural Resources Canada.

His lecture is free and open to the public.

Dr. Wulder uses remotely sensed and spatial data to study and monitor forests across Canada, over a range of scales, contributing to national and international programs.

“Having access to free and open data in a form ready for analysis means spending more time generating information, rather than on extensive data gathering and preprocessing tasks,” said Dr. Wulder. “We are now able to produce otherwise unavailable forest information products over large areas in a timely, systematic, and transparent fashion.”

The Doug Little Memorial Lecture series was initiated in 1996 by the Faculty of Natural Resources and Environmental Studies at UNBC and named for the late J.D. Little. Little, a former executive with Northwood Pulp and Timber Ltd., was a founding supporter of UNBC. The lecture series is supported with an endowment from Northwood Pulp and Timber Limited (now Canfor).

Dr. Wulder works at the Canadian Forest Service, Pacific Forestry Centre in Victoria, B.C. and is an adjunct professor in the Department of Geography at the University of Victoria and the Department of Forest Resource Management at the University of British Columbia.