Issue 20
Monday, 20 November 2017
Charles Darwin University
E-news
A 3D image of mangroves (left) is processed by the 1kg Leica BLK360 laser scanner, which Dr Shaun Levick uses to map field sites that can only be accessed on foot. Photo: Julianne Osborne
A 3D image of mangroves (left) is processed by the 1kg Leica BLK360 laser scanner, which Dr Shaun Levick uses to map field sites that can only be accessed on foot. Photo: Julianne Osborne

Scientists sense tech revolution

By Ellie Turner

A small but powerful new tool is helping environmental scientists create 3D maps of hard-to-access parts of the Northern Territory, to inform research on carbon dynamics, fire regimes and small mammal ecology.

The compact 1kg Leica BLK360 laser scanner will allow researchers to measure vegetation structure and volume at field sites that are only accessible on foot, including mangroves and dense or rocky scrubland.

Associate Professor of Remote Sensing Shaun Levick, who is working on savanna carbon and fire management projects at CDU and CSIRO, said the device would assist research into how different fire management regimes impact habitat diversity. 

“This new data stream is part of the Big Data revolution taking place in ecology,” he said.

“The new scanner will help us understand the types of habitats birds and mammals need to survive, which will feed into studies exploring how habitat diversity relates to animal conservation.”

Dr Levick said this would include a study by Dr Brett Murphy and Hugh Davies on cat predation of small mammals on the Tiwi Islands, north of Darwin.

He said the ultra-portable device, which has a range of 60m, would complement its larger and heavier counterpart, which scoped distances of up to 2km from field sites with vehicle access.

The $23,000 scanner, purchased by the Research Institute for the Environment and Livelihoods, will be used to teach students in Remote Sensing classes from 2018.