Friday, April 12, 2013

OneTree tests new way to take photos of the forest

Zachary Meyers tries out the new drone.
The newest implement added to the OneTree toolbox is a Parrot AR Drone 2.0.

Zachary Meyers, OneTree's science education lead, tested the remote-controlled instrument for the first time April 12. "How awesome is that?" he exclaimed while operating the machine with his smartphone. He was impressed with its stability, due to it having a gyroscope inside it.

The Parrot will take aerial photographs and videos of the birch trees growing in the T-field, an area on campus where OneTree maintains research plots. "We'll be able to track the phenology," Meyers said. "This will give us an aerial perspective. We'll be able to program the coordinates and do exploratory surveying."

In May OneTree will begin hosting field trips for school children to visit the T-field. Meyers will teach the students how to use the data collected from the Parrot, not only at the T-field but at various schoolyard habitats.

"Hobbyists have been using these for a while for recreational purposes," Meyers said. "But now we can use it for scientific applications."

"It's photo documentation in a way that makes sense," OneTree Coordinator Jan Dawe said. "We'll be able to repeat the same flights over plots. It's a more streamlined way of doing documentation and we can compare to on-the-ground observations."

OneTree aims to provide K-12 students with positive experiences of science and nature. Students at participating schools explore plant anatomy and physiology, the scientific process and the annual events in a birch tree's growth. OneTree is part of the Boreal Alaska Learning Adaptation and Production program.

Jan Dawe observes while Zac Meyers flies the drone with his smartphone.

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