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The Scan-tiques Roadshow; Canada's first coast-to-coast remote sensing tour

Updated: Aug 1, 2023


On June 9th, members of Silva21 and the IRSS lab left Vancouver, BC to begin Canada's first coast-to-coast remote sensing tour.


Follow this blog post, written by Amy Wotherspoon, Liam Irwin and Sarah Smith-Tripp to keep up with their 5-week, 12,000 km journey from British Columbia to Nova Scotia and back!



The goal? Provide access to drone data at active critical research sites across Canada while engaging with collaborators and providing UAV flight demonstrations.

 

Section 1: About the trip

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Section 2: Along the way

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Section 3: Post-AGM


 

The longest route possible to the AGM...


This 5-week adventure beings in Vancouver, BC and travels to Silva21's Annual General Meeting, being held on the western shore of Nova Scotia - 6,000 km away. The first leg of the trip from Vancouver to Nova Scotia is being led by Silva21 member Liam Irwin a PhD student in the IRSS lab at the University of British Columbia with Dr. Nicholas Coops, co-lead of Silva21. Liam's PhD research project explores advanced remote-sensing techniques, particularly in the free-to-grow thinning stage of forests in British Columbia and Ontario. For the first half of the trip Liam is joined by fellow IRSS lab members Ramon Melser and Brent Murray to collect high UAV laser scanning over BC's forests during an outbreak of severe fires.

After leaving BC and traveling across the prairies (sorry, no UAV data for wheat fields!), the boys will travel to Thunder Bay for a team member swap - Ramon and Brent will fly home and Silva21 members Chris Mulverhill and Tommaso Trotto will take over for the rest of the trip to the AGM. Chris is a Postdoctoral Fellow working to develop a continuous forest inventory framework and Tommaso is a PhD student who's research project explores key stand attributes that can be linked to forest resilience. With the new crew members on board, the team will travel to Nova Scotia with stops at the Romeo Malette Forest in Ontario and Montmorency Forest in Québec, where they will also be joined with colleagues from Université Laval.


Read the segments below to explore the different forests visited by the Scantiques Roadshow crew and the data being collected!


 

British Columbia; June 9 - 13

UAV footage of the Vaseaux Lake National Wildlife Area flown with Dr. Lori Daniels lab

The first stop in BC was to Vaseaux Lake National Wildlife Area with Dr Lori Daniels and a wildfire manager. This area is part of a long-term prescribed burning experiment that has looked at changes in plant ecology and fuels across treatment unit gradients (read more on Lori Daniels lab's Twitter).


Two other sites were flown for the BC Wildfire Service (BCWFS) and are part of their large scale Wildfire Risk Reduction Fuel Management Project. The first area surrounding Cranbrook, BC, is a large region that has been previously thinned and treated with prescribed burning. The burning provides a large barrier for high severity fires that could encroach on a nearby town. The high density lidar collected here will help the BCWFS assess the post treatment impact of their fuel mitigation plan.

The second area is north of Jaffray, BC and is currently in the pre-treatment stage. Here, BC's Wildfire Service will use this high density drone based lidar data to estimate the distribution of fuels across the landscape and plan the spatial distribution of their treatments.

Drone photo of wildfire fuel mitigation treatments near Cranbrook, BC
 

Though the group didn't have any data acquisition across the prairies, there was still plenty to see! Photos by Liam Irwin.

 

Timmins, Ontario; June 14 - 20

From left to right: Robin (OMNRF), Lindsay Russell (OMNRF), Gordon Kayahara (OMNRF), Liam Irwin (IRSS, Silva21) Michael Hoepting (CFS/CWFC), Tommaso Trotto (IRSS,Silva21) and Chris Mulverhill (IRSS,Silva21).

After crossing the prairies, the Scantiques Roadshow crew arrived in northern Ontario and met up with the Canadian Forest Service and the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (pictured, right).


The first site to fly was the Romeo Malette forest, a Silva21 research hub south of Timmins, ON. Here the group got busy flying lidar and multispectral imagery over a large complex of regenerating stands within the Enhanced Forest Productivity site, Block 18. These data will be used as part of Liam's PhD research project to demonstrate the ability of these datasets to assess silvicultural performance across this stand. The site is unique as it features a large number of planted species mixes as well as areas of natural regeneration. Liam will combine these estimates with previously acquired airborne laser scanning data to assess height growth at the species level across a wide range of site conditions.

 

Quebec; June 22 - 25

After leaving Ontario, the team headed to Quebec to the Fôret Montmorency - the last stop before the AGM! Here, they were joined by HQP Alexandre Morin-Bernard and Raphaël Pouliot from Université Laval. In this area, three large forest sites were sampled:

Liam Irwin, Chris Mulverhill, Tommaso Trotto, Alexandre Morin-Bernard and Raphael Pouliot at the Montmorency Forest

1) the BEREV site, a unique balsam fir site studied closely by Jean-Daniel Sylvain and Guillaume Drolet at the Quebec Ministère des Forêts, de la faune et des parcs. They will incorporate this high density lidar data to provide tree level estimates of structure and site condition into their existing network of dendrometers and soil based sensors monitoring tree performance and site conditions across the watershed.


2) A severe windthrow site along Beauce road; this forested stand was blown down in recent years and has several levels of partial harvest treatments within it. At this site, Raphaël Pouliot will generate a fine-scale enhanced forest inventory and use the drone lidar data to evaluate the extent of disturbance across the site. Ultimately this site will help integrate drone-based inventory data into day-to-day operations at Foret Montmorency to help develop their management and monitoring for the 21st century.


3) The final site near Lac Sables will be used in a similar manner to guide future harvest operations in the area.


Next the crew packed up and headed to the AGM!

 

The AGM; June 26 - 30

The Silva21 AGM group heading out to the Acadian Forest on the Field Tour, led by HQP Jamie Ring

After 20 days on the road, the group finally made it to the AGM at Oak Island Resort & Conference Centre on the Western Shore of Nova Scotia! The group was exhausted but did a great job giving the group a recap of their adventures on the first day of sessions. To read session summaries of the HQP presentations visit the blog here (coming soon).


After giving the IRSS lab truck a few days off, the group was back on the road but this time taken over by Silva21 PhD student Sarah Smith-Tripp, a member in the IRSS lab at UBC with Dr. Coops. Sarah's PhD project uses remote sensing to explore regeneration after catastrophic disturbance in BC. Sarah is joined by other IRSS lab members, Evan Muise and Silva21 MSc student, Madison Brown. Shout-out to Madi for undertaking such a long road trip back to Vancouver after having just starting her MSc a month ago. Madi's MSc project uses remote sensing to explore metrics for silvicultural prescription and stand conditions in Quesnel, BC. On the way back the team will stop at sites in New Brunswick including Black Brook forest, a private forest owned by our industry collaborator JD Irving.


Be sure to check out Sarah's blog; it not only has details of the Scantiques Roadshow but also remote sensing information like the trails of drone field work, real time kinematic processing and becoming a drone pilot.

 

Nova Scotia; June 30 - July 2

The new Headwall drone with hyperspectral sensor (left) and the DJI Zenmuse (right) both mounted on DJI M300 drones.

Back on the road and diving back in! Sarah and the team spend Canada Day in the Acadia Research forest flying two different field sites. The first was the TransX projet; a transborder climate gradient experiment led by Silva21 collaborator Loïc D'Orangeville at the University of New Brunswick. To read more about the TransX project click here.


Here the team was flying a cutblock which will be planted with 10 different tree species from different geographic regions. This drone data will provide baseline data in their experiments to test acclimation of warm-adapted versus cold-adapted tree species to warmer climate conditions. Next, Sarah met up with Olivier Van Lier, a remote sensing specialist and Funda Ogut, a research scientist, from Natural Resources Canada. This project recently acquired a novel hyperspectral drone which can capture data beyond the electromagnetic spectrum for seeing small differences in tree health. Unfortunately the calibration for the hyperspectral imaging is very complicated and was not able to be captured at the time but Lidar was flown over a the of older red spruce of mixed genetic origins.


To read more about the trials of drone field work, check out Sarah's blog post.

 

New Brunswick; July 4 - 6

After finishing up at the Acadia Research Forest, the team headed to another Silva21 hub site; Black Brook research forest, a 1,678 km2 temperate hardwood forest hub north of Fredericton managed by JD Irving. For Silva21's data for the Black Brook research hub click here. Here, the crew met up with our contact at JD Irving, Shane Furze and another Silva21 grad students working in the area, Chloe Larstone-Hunt.

Within this area is a huge drought experiment called ThiRST (Thinning to Reduce Stress in Trees) which explores how pre-commercial thinning can make white spruce plantations less vulnerable to drought. Sarah and the crew climbed over the massive networks of PVC pipes and timber to explore the nine plot types and then captured remote sensing data which will help to quantify the exact percentage of the site that are water-restricted along with other tree characteristics and mensuration data.


To read more about this field site from Sarah's perspective (including her "undroughting" experiment at New Brunswick breweries), click here.

 

Thunder Bay, Ontario; July 7-8

After a long drive from New Brunswick Madi, Sarah, and Evan met up with Doug Reid from the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry in Lake Nipigon Forest near Thunder Bay, Ontario. Doug gave a tour of the oldest commercial thinning in Ontario. Four Lidar flight where completed in the area.



 

Back in BC; July 10 - 15

After a long trek across the prairies (and dropping Evan off at the airport), briefly stopped for respite at the Calgary Stampede. At the Stampede they got the chance to chat with some representatives from Old's College on what remote-sensing tools they use in their agricultural school. Post-respite, they geared up to cross the Great Continental Divide for the last site in Vernon BC with Silva21 collaborator Bianca Eskelson.


This last site was pine-spruce mixture experiment deep in the forest to one of the few sites where data acquisition included collecting data from the site itself (rather than flying above) - with interest in terrestrial laser scanning data. While conducting surveys, Sarah and Madi were forced out of the field due to intense thunder storms where fire danger is labelled Extreme. But once safe and sound, and out of fire danger, they headed back on the final leg back to Vancouver where the IRSS lab track is safe and sound after a coast-to-coast (to coast) trip across the country!

 

Many thanks

Many thanks to everyone involved in making this huge coast-to-coast (to coast) adventure possible! First, we would like to acknowledge that this cross-country journey took us onto many traditional, ancestral and unceded territories of Indigenous communities. We acknowledge the diverse Indigenous cultures, languages, and histories that have shaped and continue to enrich the lands we are privileged to study. We pay respect to the Elders, both past and present, and extend our gratitude to the Indigenous communities who have stewarded the forests and lands upon which we live, work and play. Secondly, we thank our principle investigator Alexis Achim and co-lead Nicholas Coops for providing us the flexibility and the funds to plan and execute this trip. Thirdly, we would like to thank all the Silva21 collaborators and partners we met throughout the journey. Thank you for your time and patience, as well as your collaboration and valuable discussion. Lastly, thank you to all non-Silva21 hands that were lent throughout the trip including (but not limited to) Brent Murray, Ramon Melser and Evan Muise - we couldn't have done it without you!

 

P H O T O S

By Liam Irwin



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