Research and Outreach Projects
I am Professor and Cooperative Extension Specialist in the Environmental Science, Policy and Management department and affiliated Professor of Geography at UC Berkeley. My main projects, interests, and current obsessions are:
The Cooperative Extension Service was established in 1914 in partnership with the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Land Grant colleges. In California, Cooperative Extension is organized through the UC Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources, the division of the University of California system with a public mandate and the public trust to share research-based information with the public about healthy communities, nutrition, agricultural production and environmental stewardship. UC Berkeley was the first Land Grant college in California, and CNR currently has ~20 CE specialists. My outreach program involves creation, integration, and application of research-based technical knowledge for the benefit of the public, policy-makers, and land managers. My work focuses on vegetation change, vegetation monitoring, environmental management, and climate change.
Geospatial tools are increasingly fundamental to local and regional government activities, planning, natural resource management, and outreach. I developed the ANR Statewide Program Informatics and GIS (IGIS) in 2012 to help people integrate these tools into their work. As Director, my goals are to help create an infrastructure to deliver research support through data access, analysis, and visualization in the geospatial domain to UC ANR researchers and constituents.
Drone Imagery Collection and Analysis
UAS, or unmanned aerial systems, commonly referred to as drones, address common spatial, temporal and cost-related challenges associated with satellite-collected imagery, and they are revolutionizing the way we collect data about agricultural and natural resources. They are fast becoming standard scientific data collection tools. With my IGIS program I am collecting drone imagery across a network of University of California living laboratories - the UC Natural Reserve System and the UC ANR Research and Extension Center System. These properties cover a spectrum from natural to managed landscapes and represent the diversity of California’s vegetation communities. In order to support the training, collection, storage and computation needs of these missions, I am building a new data and informatics framework around drone research at Berkeley and statewide.
California Heartbeat Initiative
CHI seeks to engage our diverse population to create an ecologically resilient future for our state by developing solutions for today’s challenges through environmental monitoring, data communication and dissemination, training and mentoring, and targeted research. We are establishing a monitoring and forecasting program on Natural Reserve System properties to investigate vegetation-hydrologic linkages in the landscape. The program integrates environmental sensors, repeated drone imagery and optical and thermal remote sensing, with the goal of understanding how water resources are distributed, accessed, and used across the natural landscape, and how future conditions may affect these patterns.
Climate Change and Open Data
One critical element in my research and outreach platform is the importance of open data and building frameworks for data sharing in the interests of understanding a changing climate in California. My work directing and developing data sharing frameworks such as vtm.berkeley.edu, Cal-Adapt.org, LandCarbon.org, and the Berkeley EcoInformatics Engine (HOLOS) are fundamental to this effort.
The California Vegetation Type Mapping Project (VTM)
The California Vegetation Type Mapping Project (VTM), led by Berkeley forester Albert Wieslander in 1920s, produced a record of California vegetation that covered nearly half of the state in exquisitely detailed maps and plots. Efforts in my lab to digitize historic data and make these data available began nearly two decades ago and have culminated in the release of an open data portal (vtm.berkeley.edu). The release of these data has made possible a number of important research avenues in which scholars, including me and my graduate students, have compared the historic VTM data with contemporary records of forest structure in California.
Forest Structure and Lidar
Lidar (light detection and ranging) data can be mined to identify and map key ecological components of forests. My lab has been working on best engineering workflows for Lidar creating data-derived products such as crown base height, ladder fuels, large tree density, as well as mapping vegetation to assist with fire behavior modeling, detecting fuel treatments and forest change due to forest management activities, and modeling wildlife habitat. These results are directly useful to forest managers.