Professor Alfredo Huete will lead
new Auscover node at UTS:C3
The Federal Government has approved funding for the establishment of two new AusCover nodes - based in Sydney and Adelaide – to further strengthen Australia’s ecosystem management network. The Sydney node will be based at UTS Plant Functional Biology and Climate Change Cluster (C3) under the leadership of Professor Alfredo Huete. Professor Huete is co-leader of C3’s Ecological Modelling and Remote Sensing Research Group which employs advanced ecological models and satellite remote sensing technologies to address questions related to Australian landscape responses to climate variability and climate change.
The AusCover facility was established in 2009 under the Terrestrial Ecosystem Research Network (TERN) funding initiative of the Federal Government. Specifically, AusCover enables the production and delivery of nationally consistent, long-time series of satellite-based biophysical map products and next generation remote sensing research data that is validated for Australian conditions.
“AusCover supports the delivery of remote sensing-derived data for ecosystem science and natural resource management. The funding for two new nodes is important in the national framework and means that UTS will provide a portal for accessible web services and outreach programs to meet the needs of Government, academia, NGO’s, and industry,” said Professor Huete
AusCover aims to answer principal scientific questions about how, in space and time, key environmental variables have changed over the period of satellite image archives for Australia.
“ National remote sensing ‘products’ or algorithms are important if we want a record of fires or a record of how landcover is changing or to answer questions about which pasture will be more productive this year, for example. The national coverage satellite products provided by the extra nodes will also be validated for Australian conditions and calibrated against field measurements. Scientists will also be able to better identify what imagery and field-based measurements are needed to assess natural and human induced changes or management actions in the environment,” Professor Huete said.
As part of the AusCover facility, Huete will focus on the development of national “phenology databases” that can be used to track long term trends in landscape growing seasons. Phenology measures plant and animal life cycle events such as the emergence of flowers, leaf budding, or the first appearance of migratory birds.
“This would give us valuable information, for example, about the length of growing seasons or how long the snow pack is lasting. Field research is needed to validate this data which is a nice entry point for ‘citizen science’ initiatives especially now that mobile devices and iApps are being developed for this purpose. Public involvement is important to connect people to the environment,” Professor Huete said.
Professor Huete was also recently awarded an ARC grant to combine satellite data with field tower measurements to more accurately map the water and carbon status of Australian landscapes. He is also being sponsored by JAXA (Japanese Space Agency) as a member of their Satellite Sensor Science Team.
“This is a very good connection for the AusCover project because of the access it gives to data from the Asian region. This will assist in the validation of [Australian] data and imagery for the AusCover portal at UTS. Also Japanese scientists are pioneering ‘robot’ phenology sensors. Devices mounted on towers and in forests can send several images a day so you get an animation of what is happening to the vegetation and how it is responding to changes in climate. This has a lot of potential for the UTS OzFlux network project currently underway in the Terrestrial Echohydrology Research Group lead by Professor Derek Eamus,” Huete said.
The new UTS node is expected to be up and running in the middle of July and will take advantage of e-Research efforts within UTS IT and RDSI (Research Data Storage Infrastructure) national fabric. Currently Huete’s lab is prototyping a satellite phenology and a landscape disturbance index product with daily-acquisitions of MODIS satellite data in the optical and thermal spectral regions. Huete expects that the first datasets will be generated by the end of this year.