Sunset from orbit

Remote Sensing Lab

LSAMP Opportunity

Lab welcomes PhD student Maija Wehmas

Maija joined the Lab in September 2019. She is currently examining changes in shrubs in Arctic tundra using high resolution imagery, as a participant in NASA’s Arctic-Boreal Vulnerability Experiment (ABoVE). Her Masters thesis investigated the flammability of broadleaf forest patches in the uplands of boreal Alaska from a temporal and spatially explicit perspective, using remote sensing and image analysis; she also gained experience in science communication working at the Alaska Fire Science Consortium.

NASA’s Arctic-Boreal Vulnerability Experiment (ABoVE) gets off the ground

Climate change in the Arctic and Boreal region is unfolding faster than anywhere on Earth, with important impacts on sea ice, permafrost, wildfires, lakes, rivers, coastlines and ecosystems. To gain a better understanding of the vulnerability and resilience of ecosystems and society to this rapidly changing region, NASA is conducting a campaign in Alaska and western Canada called the Arctic-Boreal Vulnerability Experiment (ABoVE), using linked ground-, air-, and space-based observations.

NASA | Earth from Orbit 2014

NASA | Earth from Orbit 2014: Every day of every year, NASA satellites provide useful data about our home planet, and along the way, some beautiful images as well. This video includes satellite images of Earth in 2014 from NASA and its partners as well as photos and a time-lapse video from the International Space Station.

NASA Launches Soil Moisture Mapper

NASA Launches Soil Moisture Mapper: SMAP (Soil Moisture Active/Passive). Launched on a Delta II rocket from Vandenberg Air Force Base, Ca., on January 31, 2015, SMAP will provide high resolution, space-based measurements of soil moisture and its state — frozen or thawed — a new capability that will allow scientists to better predict natural hazards of extreme weather, climate change, floods and droughts, and help reduce uncertainties in our understanding of Earth’s water, energy and carbon cycles.

Liftoff of OCO-2

Liftoff of NASA’s OCO-2: On Jul 2, 2014, a Delta II rocket lifted off from Space Launch Complex 2 at Vandenberg Air Force Base, carrying the Orbiting Carbon Observatory, or OCO-2, satellite on a mission to study the Earth’s atmosphere.

NASA | GPM Rocket Launch

NASA GPM Rocket Launch: Launch of the Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM) Core Observatory, February 28, 2014.

The Remote Sensing Laboratory is located in the Department of Earth and Environmental Studies (EAES). Research activities in the lab are sponsored by NASA. Current projects to use data from NASA’s Earth Observing System satellite instruments to map forest and shrubs in desert grasslands in the southwestern US and in Arctic tundra.

Previous projects sought to exploit data from the Compact High Resolution Imaging Spectrometer (CHRIS) flown on the Proba satellite (sponsored by the European Space Agency).

A research focus is the use of data from the unique NASA/JPL Multiangle Imaging Spectro-Radiometer (MISR), including cutting-edge work on mapping canopy height as well as crown cover; and mapping woody plant cover and community type in desert grasslands and Arctic tundra.

The Lab’s members have included faculty, post-doctoral research associates, and graduate and undergraduate students.

Relevant courses include

  • EAES 311 Fundamentals of Remote Sensing of the Environment (undergraduate)
  • EAES 511 Fundamentals of Remote Sensing of the Environment (graduate)
  • EAES 611 Advanced Environmental Remote Sensing and Image Processing (graduate)
  • EAES 210 Introduction to GIS and Remote Sensing (2 hours lecture, 2 hours lab )
  • EAES 310 Geographic Information Systems (GIS) (3 hours lab)
  • EAES 410 Advanced Topics in GIScience (3 hours lecture)
  • EAES 610 Spatial Analysis
  • EAES 710 Advanced Geographic Information Systems
  • Graduate Certificate Program in Geographic Information Science
  • Independent Study at various levels.


Click to zoom:

heights graph

Purple line: MISR/SGM forest canopy height (m) 
Blue line: US Forest Service Canopy Height (m)
random samples, screened for topographic shading

It’s important to note that the Forest Service and MISR/GO maps were made using completely different methods. The MISR/GO estimates of fractional woody plant cover and canopy height are not calibrated or scaled, relying only on the geometric-optical model adjusted against MISR data.