Wednesday, 9 May 2018

The Future Starts Here

The new V and A exhibition "The Future Starts Here", which includes some of our lidar work, had its preview and VIP opening yesterday. It's quite a spectacle, with some amazing exhibits. The opening also had its fair share of VIPs and famous faces. And me. :-) 

Museum director Tristram Hunt opening proceedings.

And here we are! Our lidar animation from Caxiuanã, originally generated by Andy.
I was approached by Rory Hyde, one of the curators of the exhibition along with Mariana Pestana, who wanted to include our 3D lidar work from tropical forests, as an example of how new technology is allowing us to understand and hopefully manage our world better.

Other work included in the exhibition includes: a chargeable shirt which can power a phone; a drone ship which can clean up oil spills; an autonomous flying wing intended to cruise the skies using solar power and broadcasting internet access to remote areas; AI bots intended to help mediate and hopefully improve political discourse and democratic process. Lots of fun, thought-provoking and definitely worth a visit if you're in London between now and November.
Aquila, the flying broadcast drone: as being developed by Facebook, obvs.

A man-made leaf that photosynthesises.
Our work also features in the glossy accompanying book, and it's quite a thrill to see it amongst all the other incredible ideas and technology. I got to speak to some very interesting people whose work was also featured, as well as people passing who were interested in my work. There may be more connections arising out of this yet!



Point cloud included in the glossy (£25!) book accompanying the exhibition.


Thursday, 3 May 2018

The Colonel Armstrong Tree

This is the biggest tree (well, tallest) we've scanned and processed so far - the majestic, huge Colonel Armstrong Tree, in Armstrong State Park, CA. The tree is apparently 308 feet tall, although our lidar measurements suggest it's slightly shorter (90m or around 290 ft). Either way, it's MASSIVE. The point cloud is incredible, particularly the detail of the lower trunk. Andy has left the sign in at the lower part of the point cloud for scale - the sign is about 1.5m high.
The base of the tree: (image Roy Tennant, http://freelargephotos.com/photos/003963/large.jpg).

Here are some quick screengrabs of the point cloud showing the amazing detail.

Event horizon. Or inside the giant.

Close up of trunk about 1/3 of the way up.

Another trunk close up showing some of the small epicormic branches.
Finally, here's the link to the Sketchfab point cloud. I can't get the smile off my face when I look at this. For anyone who wants to find out more about these extraordinary trees (and they really have some amazing ecological secrets) I thoroughly recommend Richard Peston's The Wild Trees, an account of a band of climbers, ecologists and enthusiasts like Steve Sillett and others, pioneered the climbing, measurement and understanding of these trees in the 1980s and on.




Wednesday, 2 May 2018

Ham and High: May Day fun

Activities close to home this week, with some scanning on Hampstead Heath to measure some of the coppiced oak woodland with our Riegl VZ400, on a gorgeous clear spring day. As befitting May Day and notwithstanding the ridiculous wintry temperatures and torrential rain the day before, this was as good as it gets. Hiding away in the well-heeled suburbs of Highgate and Hampstead, this is a real oasis in the city. Most of the trees are relatively young (20th C), but a couple of them, slight hill in the background below, are more than 200 years old.
One of the lovely secluded oak stands, within earshot of the busy Spaniards Road. Crystal skies.

Looking up through the crowns. Is that a cloud?
We're aiming to compare our estimates of biomass in the woods here with those from the local surveys done by the estate management. This has to be one of my favourite bits of London.

Earlier that morning, I visited my daughter Lotta's school to talk to the Year 3s about trees. It's their Science Week and they're studying trees in and around the local area, including Epping Forest, which has the famous Gilwell Oak, the UK's 2017 Tree of the Year (yes obviously it's a thing!) and a nominee for European TOTY 2018. I showed the children some of our work, some of the oldest and largest trees in the world, and the UK. They seemed to enjoy finding out about the people and animals that live in forests around the world very much! I even took our ZEB REVO in to scan them while they 'stayed still'.

ZEB Revo scan of the Jubilee School Year 3s listening intently with the adults sitting at the back (left).





Sunday, 25 March 2018

Inside and out

The last few weeks we've been without our Riegl TLS which is being serviced. It's survived being dragged through forests all over the world, but it obviously needs a bit of TLC, particularly the batteries. This has given us a chance to work on processing some of the backlog of data we've already collected, as well as look at using our Picus sonic tomograph to look at the inside of some local trees, and think about the whole issue of wood density. We've had Oscar, a high-school student, with us for the past two weeks, doing work experience as he heads into his GCSEs. We've had Oscar manually pruning some of our tree point clouds from Gabon - tiring work but he's done a bang-up job. We did allow him out from behind the desk for a bit though, to look at some of the trees in Russell Square. It's certainly a good way to meet some interesting people who want to know what we're up to. And as anyone who knows me can confirm, I'm always reluctantly prepared to talk about what we do. Cue mildly curious passers-by backing away with glazed looks on their faces.
Oscar fixing the Picus to a large plane tree in Russell Square.
This one appears to be sound, as are most of the trees in and around Camden. This isn't surprising given that they are carefully monitored just in case they do develop imperfections, weaknesses and so on, which might require surgical work, or even felling in extreme cases. We're on the look-out for trees which do have imperfections, to try out our analysis of the Picus data. We have a number of UCL Geography MSc students working on our tree data this summer. Hopefully they will make some good progress on various aspects including: urban biomass from ground-based and airborne lidar, inter-species differences in tree form between urban and woodland, crown structure and filling, uncertainties in allometry due to imperfections in tree density and extrapolating biomass estimates from Camden and Islington across London and beyond using satellite data. More on all this soon!


Thursday, 15 February 2018

Royal Society Super Special Issue on TLS

The special issue of the Royal Society Interface: Focus covering our meeting last year, is published today. The special issue has many excellent papers from our colleagues and collaborators, check it out - it's great! :-)  Special mention should go to Mark Danson, who proposed the meeting in the first place, secured the funding for it, and then has written the issue intro paper. Well done Mark and well done all! I've been doing various press interviews in advance of publication today, so hopefully will be able to collate some of those here later.

The image below from our work at Wytham Woods is on the cover, and the various papers led by meYadvinder and others, have examples of our work from Wytham, Gabon, Ghana, Brazil and Borneo.  

Top down view of 1ha of Wytham Woods TLS data (Fig 2a from our paper); image produced by Kim Calders, then at NPL (who funded that work through EU METEOC-II), now at Ghent.
It also has some of the amazing plots of point clouds including the sycamore with 11 km of branches.
Figure 3b from Disney et al. Sycamore from Wytham Woods.

and Yadvinder's paper has the huge 60 m wide, 100 ton Gabon moabi, alongside a much taller but narrower dipterocarp from Borneo.
Figure 7 from Malhi et al.

Some of the press coverage from these papers is here:


we also had interviews on Sky Radio, BBC Wales and various others.

Wednesday, 17 January 2018

Celebri-tree ....

Back to Kew on a chilly morning with Phil, to meet Tony Kirkham, Kew’s hugely knowledgeable and accommodating Arboretum Director. Tony invited us to come and scan one of Kew’s Champion trees - the tallest Chestnut-leaved oak in the UK. And it’s quite a specimen - I’ve not seen Quercus castaneifolia close-up before and this one is over 35 m tall and with some amazing secondary stems and boughs.
Quite the character.
It was a classic chilly London morning, but there’s worse places to work. I always learn stuff when I’m at Kew, particularly when I'm with Tony, about the trees themselves and their history and ecology but also about how trees like this need to be so carefully managed: air-blowing the soil around the roots to aerate them; pollarding the middle of the crown so it acts less like a sail in high winds, reducing stress on the trunk. And today’s word of the day 'Balanocultures: people that depend on acorns as a staple diet'. Also found out that the word Druid means ‘to know the oak’. Trees eh?

UPDATE: check out the beautiful 3D model Phil has produced, showing the tree in all its glory. Turns out it's 36.5 m tall.



Good times.

Phil and I also scanned a sweet chestnut of unusual shape, which apparently featured as the model for the Whomping Willow in the first Harry Potter film. It’s not a willow, but it’s still a cool tree.

Funny looking willow.
UPDATE: closeup visualisation of the trunk of this sweet chestnut.


Wednesday, 3 January 2018

Trees and champagne

Happy New Year and welcome to 2018. Well, 2017 was a doozy and finished off with the very enjoyable aspect of seeing our work appear on the Judi Dench: My Passion for Trees. The programme seemed to go down extremely well, with seemingly universal outstanding reviews (see here, here and here for example, as well as my personal fave: "Come for the lols, stay for the poignant thoughts about death."). We've already had some interesting feedback. As well as some "interesting" feedback 😁. It was certainly quite entertaining following #MyPassionForTrees trending on twitter on the 20th December! There's definitely some new possibilities opening up as more people see this work. More to come this year I think!

Meanwhile, Andy's been busy pulling out trees from the California plots. This is a snapshot of the 20 largest stems from the Grove of Old Trees, the first plot we scanned there, and an absolutely stunning place to work. These trees range from
Twenty sequioas from the Grove of Old Trees, Sonoma, California.
Meanwhile, we're off back to Surrey, Kew and then plans for trips back to Malaysia, Brazil and elsewhere. Onwards and upwards. Trees and champagne for everyone!