Connecting Communities with Tools to Understand Local Fire Risk

forestFuelRemote sensing scientists typically use data collected by sensors on satellites and aircraft to find out about forested environments around the world. However, these airborne and spaceborne remote sensing devices have a limited ability to provide information about the parts of the forest that are close to the ground, or obscured by thick forest canopies. Imagine if there was a way to quickly and easily collect measurements from the ground level, and use them in combination with the airborne and spaceborne remote sensing data. Smartphones provide the ability to quickly and easily make measurements of the forest using the principles of remote sensing, and share the measurements over the internet. Specifically, smartphones are commonly equipped with a camera, global positioning system (GPS), touchscreen (for entering observations), and the ability to store data and transfer data over a network.

One of the first mobile remote sensing applications, developed by the Integrated Remote Sensing Studio at UBC and Vallhalla Consulting in Coldstream, BC, is meant to measure the amount of fuels available for wildfires in a forest. It is an experimental smartphone application, which captures GPS coordinates, measures site conditions, and records imagery. We are interested in testing this application with a range of people from the community to assess methods of collecting measurements and ensuring data quality – as well as ensuring that the app is both useful and practical for everyone who uses it. Our main goals are not only to use technology to develop approaches that provide informative data about forests, but also a meaningful way for a range of people to be involved in scientific research and forest management in their communities.


Nicholas Coops

Nicholas Coops
Department of Forest Resources Management
2424 Main Mall
Vancouver, BC V6T 1Z4
Phone: 604–822–6452
nicholas.coops@ubc.ca