Welcome to the Digital Forest Lab

Our research concerns the use of remote sensing and computer modeling to observe, monitor, and simulate forest ecosystems as they are influenced by humans and their environment. Forests are structurally complex dynamic organisms which interact with their environment (air temp, CO2, wind, solar radiation, humidity) to assimilate carbon and grow. Forest contribute to human well-being by reviving a sense of connection with the natural world, and they are under increasing pressure globally as land is converted to other uses.

Our research program focuses on three sets of studies: 1) investigating links between canopy structure, reflectance and functions (in terms of light interception, photosynthesis and evaporation), 2) mobilizing new tools like Google Earth Engine to monitor deforestation events, and 3) using lidar technology to recreate natural forests in 3D virtual environments.

1. The first set of studies integrates the development of physically-based phytometrical methods using ground-based lidar data to describe the 3D geometry of forest canopies, with physically-based models to enable the study of links between canopy structure, light reflectance and interception, and canopy level gas exchanges. The research is highly interdisciplinary and involves integrating lidar remote sensing, field work, algorithm development for data processing, and biophysical modeling. The main objective is to improve leaf to canopy scaling schemes whithin terrestrial biosphere models (TBMs).

2. Studies focusing on passive remote sensing involve the use of Google Earth Engine to monitor specific areas and specific activities leading to deforestation. Passive remote sensing images at 30 m resolution are used in a change detection algorithm to monitor specific forested areas. In particular, we are working in partnership with private firms to assist industries in achieving their impact reduction goals by providing continuous information about land use change.

3. The third research axis concerns the use of rich 3D terrestrial lidar data in natural forests to recreate very realistic forest virtual environments. Recreating natural forests in a virtual reality system holds significant potential for stress reduction in medical patients, and provides an opportunity for the general public to explore exceptional forest ecosystems to which they may have limited access.