NASA is ground-truthing data generated by its next-generation earth imaging technology with a major research campaign hosted at three of UC Santa Barbara's natural reserves.
NASA is ground-truthing data generated by its next-generation earth imaging technology with a major research campaign hosted at three of UC Santa Barbara's natural reserves. The SHIFT (Surface Biology and Geology High Frequency Time Series) project marries high-definition remote sensing efforts with actual samples of land plants, plankton and kelp collected by scientists on the ground. Supporting an upcoming satellite mission that will visualize the surface of the planet in unprecedented detail, the project will dramatically improve our understanding of biodiversity across vast areas of land and sea, analyze the health of vegetation, and track the effects of climate change.
“This is a chance to monitor global biodiversity in a more meaningful way than we’ve been able to before,” said Frank Davis, a professor at the Bren School of Environmental Science & Management, and a principal investigator on the project.
Since March 14, SHIFT has been conducting weekly imaging flights over a 640-square-mile swath of central California together with ground and coastal water sampling. The project will continue through May to capture the spring green-up and summer dry-down of California’s Mediterranean climate. The flights cover an area stretching from the UCSB Natural Reserve System’s Sedgwick Reserve(link is external) in the Santa Ynez Valley west to The Nature Conservancy’s Jack and Laura Dangermond Preserve at Point Conception. Additional coastal sites include the UCSB NRS’s Coal Oil Point Reserve(link is external) and Carpinteria Salt Marsh Reserve(link is external), plus adjacent kelp forests.
One to two days after each flyover, teams of scientists descend on each site to analyze its vegetation and collect plants for analysis. The researchers lay out sample plots, identify all the plant species they find within its borders, and snip leaf, flower and branch samples. They also take measurements of drought stress and sap flow within trees, and set up cameras to record phenological changes such as wildflower blooms. Additional study methods deploy camera traps and audio detectors to measure animal diversity. At coastal sites, researchers conduct plankton tows and gather examples of both kelp and tidal marsh plants. All of the information will be correlated with the images gathered by the research flights.
Read more at University of California - Santa Barbara
Image: Frank Davis (Credit: University of California - Santa Barbara)