Australian TV Documents Work of UMass Boston Professor, Students

Colleen Locke | October 16, 2013
Crystal Schaaf and her team went to Australia to create 3-D pictures of forested sites, using these custom-built tools.

Crystal Schaaf and her team went to Australia to create 3-D pictures of forested sites, using these custom-built tools.

Researchers Collected Data in Australia, California This Summer

An old adage warns us not to miss the forest for the trees. Professor of Remote Sensing Crystal Schaaf and her doctoral students are making sure to heed that advice.

Schaaf and her team completed two projects this summer, testing tools that create 3-D pictures of forested sites to measure the effects of radiation, erosion, and carbon.

The most recent trip was to D’Aguilar National Park in Queensland, Australia, and Karawatha Forest Park in Brisbane, Australia. Schaaf and doctoral students Ian Paynter, Eddie Saenz, and Angela Erb joined colleagues from the United States, Australia, and Great Britain as part of an international terrestrial LiDAR project, documented by the Australian Broadcast Corporation (ABC). The data collected is critical for developed countries required to report on carbon accumulation as part of climate change agreements.

Schaaf, along with UMass Lowell Professor Supriya Chakrabarti and Boston University Professor Alan Strahler, make up a National Science Foundation-funded team building two new LiDARs—technology that measures distance by illuminating a target with a laser and analyzing the reflected light. One of the LiDARs (called a DWEL, or Dual-Wavelength Echidna LiDAR) is for the U.S. and the other is for Australia. Both scan forests and give researchers a better idea of how much carbon is being stored.

To provide additional data, the UMass Boston students used two custom-built devices, officially called Canopy Biomass LiDARs, or CBLs, to create 360-degree views of Australia’s forests. The data from the CBLs and the DWELs is now being analyzed and compared to data from the other LiDARs deployed during the August mission.

All of the scientists are part of the Terrestrial Laser Scanning International Interest Group (TLSIIG), a global network of researchers exploring the use of portable instruments to measure and monitor vegetation. The Terrestrial Ecosystem Research Network (TERN) and the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) also collaborated on the project, seen as crucial to enforcing the 2005 Kyoto Protocol, under which developed countries set binding emission reduction targets.

In June, Schaaf, research fellow Zhuosen Wang and doctoral students Paynter, Saenz, Yan Liu, and Shabnam Rouhani performed about 250 scans in the Sierra Nevada and San Joaquin Valley for the NSF and NASA.

About UMass Boston
Recognized for its innovative research addressing complex issues, the University of Massachusetts Boston, metropolitan Boston’s only public university, offers its diverse student population both an intimate learning environment and the rich experience of a great American city. UMass Boston’s ten colleges and graduate schools serve 16,000 students while engaging local, national, and international constituents through academic programs, research centers, and public service activities. To learn more about UMass Boston, visit

Tags: crystal schaaf , remote sensing , research

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