Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Scan you at the cemetery gates

Highgate Cemetery in North London is a grand, Grade I listed site, rightly known as much for its architecture, trees and wildlife as for its various famous residents. The latter include novelists George Eliot and Douglas Adams, political writers and activists include Karl Marx, musicians, poets, historians and scientists including Michael Faraday.
The Riegl scanner among the gravestones of Highgate Cemetery (P. Wilkes; K. Calders).
Perhaps less well-known is that, by our reckoning, Highgate Cemetery has some of the highest biomass per unit area in London. As a result, Phil, Kim and Matheus spent a day there recently using our Riegl VZ-400 to scan the highest biomass parts of the cemetery, so that we can capture the structure and biomass of some of its magnificent and unusual trees. They are unusual both in terms of some relatively exotic (by urban standards) species, as well because of the landscaping and architecture by which have helped to shape them, and which in turn they also shape.


Ivy roots (I think) clinging and enveloping a tomb, as well as a nearby tree.
The resulting data look good already, and the team have been producing some more elegant visualisations of the resulting data. Below is a flythrough of the TLS with the RGB from the camera; and following that, a nice timelapse of the scanner in action.

As we generate the results of the biomass estimation from the TLS, it'll be interesting to compare with the Environment Agency lidar tree locations and heights. I'm also intrigued to see where these trees sit in terms of their shape and size, compared to the ones from 'natural' woodlands as well as their definitively urban counterparts.


Tuesday, 18 July 2017

No ordinary view

Phil and I (and my put-upon son, on his birthday no less) spent a day last week scanning part of the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, to characterise the 3D structure of the vegetation in the park. The park is a legacy of the 2012 Olympics, and provides the first new parkland in London in over a century. Extensive landscaping has resulted in ".... over 35km of pathways and cycleways, 6.5km of waterways, over 100 hectares (ha) of land capable of designation as Metropolitan Open Land, 45ha of Biodiversity Action Plan Habitat, 4000 trees, playgrounds and a Park suitable for year-round events and sporting activities." (Legacy Communities SchemeBiodiversity Action Plan 2014-2019, LCS-GLB-S106-APP-BAP-001-V01, 2013). UCL has ambitious plans for expansion into UCL East. As part of this, our colleague Prof. Kate Jones and her team have been doing some amazing work using in situ sensors to map bat populations in the area, in real time. See more details of the project here.

By measuring the 3D structure of the park, we're hoping to be able to provide Kate and her team with information they can use to help understand the paths and activities of the bats in the park. And while we're at it we hope to be able to map and monitor changes in the trees and shrub cover of the park over time. Phil has produced some stunning fly-throughs of the data we collected. Given that we only scanned along about 200m of path in the centre of these animations, the far detail still amazes me! The views of the Arcelormittal Orbit, the London Stadium, and the front of the late Zaha Hadid's amazing Aquatics Centre, are pretty spectacular.

Fly through of Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park from Phil Wilkes on Vimeo.

Fly along the Lea River at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park from Phil Wilkes on Vimeo.


Lastly, our work at Wytham Woods also features briefly in a series of short films showing the range of measurements going on using new technology in the so-called Laboratory with Leaves.




Wednesday, 12 July 2017

Life and death on your lawn

The new BBC4 documentary on Britain's Gardens that we featured in aired last night (available on iPLayer until August 2017). And slightly melodramatic title aside, it was excellent (despite me being in it) - really well-put together, thoughtful, and with some beautiful footage. Beyond the usual British garden staples - hedgehogs,  foxes, blue tits - there were some fascinating bits on snails, spiders and pond-dwellers.

The 3D fly-through that Phil produced from our lidar data looked really good on screen. Various HD versions of them are on vimeo:

LiDAR scan of back garden featured in BBC 4’s “Life and Death on the Lawn” from Phil Wilkes on Vimeo.


LiDAR scan of back garden featured in BBC 4’s “Life and Death on the Lawn” from Phil Wilkes on Vimeo.


LiDAR scan of back garden featured in BBC 4's "Life and Death on the Lawn" from Phil Wilkes on Vimeo.

And the resulting garden model, with RGB from the lidar camera, is on sketchfab:


Not bad for a day out in Welwyn!




Friday, 16 June 2017

Off to see DC .... as an artiste!

I was fortunate enough to be invited to Washington, by Prof. David Lapola and the AmazonFACE team, to show some of our images and data from the September 2016 trip to the Manaus plots.
Not a tree.
The meeting was hosted by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), and I was there primarily as part of the 'cultural', outreach aspect of the project, using our TLS data to show the forest in a new light, to other project partners, policy-makers and the public more generally. Matheus put together the lidar data, and we generated some animations and images which formed part of an installation in the IDB foyer. I was blown away to see the trees in the large banner formats, and in such grand surroundings. The pictures seemed to be very popular - I definitely wasn't the only one taking selfies, honest!
Some fool.

One of our trees, printed 3m tall.

The 4 piece banner and the fly-through Matheus and Phil produced.

People looking at the movie and the trees in the IDB foyer.
It was also nice to be able to get out and about in DC on the last afternoon, to take advantage of the sun and the DC bikeshare scheme (same bikes as London!) to see some bits of DC I've not seen before. I stopped in the leafy quad of Georgetown University - there's always time for a good tree pic.
Oak tree in the quad of Georgetown U.

How green was my valley?

In a slight departure from the usual applications of the TLS, I took the ZEB-REVO to Wales and scanned some places local to our house in Stackpole. The scan below is from the Stackpole Estate, a National Trust property with an interesting history going back several hundred years, and to the Thane of Cawdor no less!
Bosherston Lily Ponds from Stackpole Court.
Along with the iconic Bosherston Lily Ponds, the Estate has some beautiful woodlands and unusual trees, planted by the landowner in the 18th and 19th C. The Estate is a beautiful place to visit, in a breathtaking landscape. The scan below is of the front of the Stackpole Court itself, including two large, old oak trees. The old bell tower in the centre can be seen - these days a habitat for some rare Greater Horseshoe bats. There may be opportunities for scanning more the NT woodland here as part of a new citizen science project - watch this space.

Stackpole Court, scanned using the ZEB-REVO, coloured by height.

Thursday, 11 May 2017

Urban nurban

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Non-uniform_rational_B-spline
In amongst all the tropical work, we've been looking at some more urban and suburban trees. Phil has been leading work looking at London trees - more on that soon, but he's posted some great 3D models on Sketchfab including this amazing scan of Russell Square.


Some of these trees are pretty stunning - here's a montage of some of them extracted from the scans above. Particularly striking is the fact that they're all London planes, but they have such different crown shapes. So what makes a plane a plane or an oak an oak? It's the old nature v nurture / genotype v phenotype debate again - how plastic are these shapes?

A range of Plane trees extracted from the Russell Square scans above, ordered by size, with the estimated mass below. (Phil Wilkes)
We've also been looking at the now public Environment Agency lidar data over London, so we can try and pull out all the trees, to estimate numbers and even heights, to assess this firstly in Camden - where we're working with the tree specialists - and then city-wide. Early results are looking promising.
Trees located in the Environment Agency lidar data over Bloomsbury, coloured by height from brown to dark green (Phil Wilkes).
Meanwhile, we've been doing some scanning for a new BBC4 documentary, which aims to uncover the overlooked biodiversity of suburban gardens. The production team have spent a year monitoring and filming all aspects of life in a row of 7 contiguous back gardens in leafy Welwyn Garden City, one of Sir Ebenezer Howard's original New Towns, arising out of the Garden City movement. We've scanned one of the gardens in early Spring, to show the new leaves and the 3D 'bird's eye view'. Phil's lovely 3D view is great, with fly-throughs to come.


Meanwhile, Matheus has been running his leaf / wood separation code on the point cloud, to extract the leaf points, so we can estimate the leaf area on the trees. Here's a rather elegant little apple tree.

Thanks to Pat and Steve for letting us trample in their lovely back garden. We'll be back there soon to film with the team and discuss the results, and this will be aired in summer 2017. Exciting!https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Non-uniform_rational_B-spline

Deepest darkest Peru

The team are off to Peru this time, to the plots in Tambopata in the Madre De Dios region. As you can see, the site is in the Western end of the Amazon Basin, in the foothills of the Andes.



Andy and Kim set off in early May, and the expedition will be for another 6 weeks, with the aim of scanning some of Simon and Oliver Phillips' plots along an altitudinal gradient in the region. This is one of the areas where Alvaro, Jose et al. went to scan and harvest trees for the new MEE paper, as well as an area we will be retuning to for the new NERC structure grant with Yadvinder.
The last leg of the journey out (Kim Calders)
Walking to one of the plots, with a little bit of rain along the way (Kim Calders).


Intrepid science guys. Travelling light.