!!-Closed-!! PhD GRA Opportunity at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, AZ in the School of Forestry’s Quantitative Ecology Lab

 Update 2/12/2018 – The GRA has been awarded and I am no longer soliciting application materials.

Graduate Research Assistantship (PhD) Opportunity at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, AZ

Data Fusion for Forest Planning and Implementation: Ecological Restoration, Remote Sensing, and Data Analytics

Are you interested in a PhD program that will provide you an opportunity to work in the frequent fire forests of the American Southwest and influence ecological restoration practices? These forests are in dire need of restoration, mainly due to a century of fire exclusion and subsequent, undesirable changes in forest structure and function. For example, the largest collaborative forest restoration project in the US, the Four Forest Restoration Initiative (4FRI), has a goal of implementing restoration treatments on approximately 1M ha of U.S. Forest Service lands in northern Arizona. Fundamental to these efforts are precise data on the amount and distribution of available resources, knowledge of how resources may change over time, and hazard assessments (e.g., wildfire potential); all of which require costly and resource intensive, spatially explicit data. As a result, managers are using more remote sensing data products (e.g., LiDAR), coupled with advanced forest inventory and data analysis techniques, to quantify existing conditions and support broad-scale analysis of forest ecosystems.

A PhD graduate research assistantship is available in the School of Forestry at Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff, AZ, focused on the development and assessment of data fusion techniques that will allow managers to better capitalize on major advancements in remote sensing to utilize more accurate data and enhance precision of landscape-scale analysis (e.g., >100,000 acres) project areas. Working alongside the Ecological Restoration Institute, the USDA Forest Service, USDI Fish and Wildlife Service, The Nature Conservancy, and Campbell Global; the successful applicant will focus on developing and statistically validating an open source big data, remote sensing, and inventory data fusion platform. This platform will provide enhanced forest structural and compositional information in support of forest resource decision-making.

The selected student will:

  1. Assess and statistically validate algorithms for identifying individual trees and species from remote sensing data of Southwestern forests using new and/or existing stemmapped, area and tree based sample data.
  2. Using these algorithms and data, design and implement a platform that integrates multiple data sources (data fusion) that are typically too large to analyze using traditional methods (big data) to provide detailed forest resource information at the tree-,stand-, and landscape levels.
  3. Assess the accuracy, precision, and statistical properties of forest resource estimates such as bias, consistency, error, spatial uncertainty, and use these to provide improved information for land management decision making.
  4. Apply the platform to Southwestern landscape-scale case studies to; quantify existing conditions, assess low-value biomass product availability, facilitate watershed treatment implementation, and monitor forest restoration treatments.

The position includes a full stipend, tuition waiver, health benefits and field support for 4 years.

Applications from quantitatively minded individuals with a practical approach to solving complex problems are welcome. Experience processing large remote sensing and inventory datasets using C++, R, and/or Python is preferred.

Qualifications:

  • Master’s degree in forestry, geography, ecology, computer science, or related fields.
  • Demonstrable research experience, collaboration abilities, and English (written and oral) communication skills.
  • Competitive GRE scores (top 40th percentile).

 Information about NAU’s graduate program, including eligibility requirements, is available at http://nau.edu/CEFNS/Forestry/Degrees/.

NAU’s formal application deadline is for Fall 2018 is Feb 15 2018 and preferred start date is Summer 2018. However, interested candidates are encouraged to contact with Dr. Sanchez Meador as soon as possible using the information provided below or submit your CV, written statement of interest, and copies of unofficial degree transcripts to initiate a dialog via e-mail.  Andrew.SanchezMeador@nau.edu.

Contact Information:

Dr. Andrew Sánchez Meador 
School of Forestry 
Northern Arizona University
Flagstaff, AZ 86011-5018, USA 
Andrew.SanchezMeador@nau.edu 
928-523-3448

Link to announcement PDF

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Flagstaff – Then and Now

I’ve been working on a repeat aerial photography project with NAU’s Cline Library (this is the second part, the first part was (here) and below is an additional proof of concept element for a proposed Hanks Internship that I’m hoping to find a student to work on this fall. The images on the left are based off 0.5m resampled orthoimages for Flagstaff taken in 1959 by Andre M. Faure. The images on the right are corresponding (same resolution, same location) but from 2014. The viewer is based off of Jan Pieter Waagmeester’s Leaflet.Sync plugin and the images (1959 & 2014) are served up by Mapbox.

1959 2014

Click here to open the display as fullscreen!

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Flagstaff in 3D – circa 1959 via A.M. Faure and Cline Library

The following is something I produced as a proof of concept for a proposed Hanks Internship with Cline Library this fall (if you know of any students, please send them my way!). The scene was produced from 122 aerial photographs take by Andre M. Faure in 1959 and covers the majority of Flagstaff, AZ. Faure was a city planner for Tucson from 1941 to 1968. Prior to his arrival in Tucson, Faure served as a planning consultant in Connecticut and a town planner in New Jersey. He worked with the City of Flagstaff and Coconino County on various projects in the 1940s and 1950s. Some of which are aerial photographs of Flagstaff, Williams and Sedona used by Faure for city planning in 1959, and they are available for online viewing in the Colorado Plateau Digital Archives.

Flagstaff – 1959

The Dorothy T. and James J. Hanks Cline Library Endowment supports Northern Arizona University students for research in repeat photography. A primary goal is to locate and document camera stations of photographs held by Special Collections and Archives, with emphasis on images from the Colorado Plateau. Cline Library Hanks Scholars enhance the library’s photographic collections by increasing knowledge and discovery in the natural or social sciences. Hanks Scholars are given a unique opportunity to develop an appreciation of the value of historic photographs and repeat photography. NAU’s Special Collections and Archives is the official repository for the James J. Hanks Collection.

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More Fun with LiDAR

LiDARPlotView Just a little animated GIF showing LiDAR from the North Kaibab. Notice the penetration achieved and the resolution it provides for picking out large trees, small bushes, and topography.
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Advancing Forestry Education by Biting Off More than I Can Chew

DSC_0133It should come as no surprise that there is an ever-increasing demand for competent forestry graduates; especially those who able to address complex economic, ecological, and social issues involving forest resources. However, Forestry is a traditional discipline and often finds itself challenged to educate students using 21st century technology and sciences to solve these new problems.

Last semester, a senior faculty and I proposed providing forestry undergraduate students with a redesigned, senior-level course in Ecosystem Assessment that would maximize the use of mobile technology with the following course objectives: 1) students will have enhanced, forestry-centered learning opportunities in both the field and classroom, 2)these experiences will improve the way students visualize spatial and temporal aspects of a forest resources and landscapes; and 3)ensure NAU’s School of Forestry remains in the forefront of forestry education.

This Fall, in FOR 413 & 414C (Forest Ecosystem Assessment I & II) at NAU, 39 undergraduate students will be let loose carrying 20 Dell Latitude 10 tablets running Windows 8 to collect and analyze forest resource data from a 4-sq. mile area on NAU’s Centennial Forest.  These data will be collected over a five-week period using a FVS-ready Access database for tabular data and ArcPad 10.2 with the tablet’s built-in Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) for spatial data.

The students will use this technology to integrate material learned in prior forestry courses while learning and applying new concepts and skills focused on the interpretation of remotely sensed imagery, land records, and ownership limitations; use of geographic information systems (GIS) and field protocols for inventory of biophysical features; and simulation of potential stand development pathways.

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Fun with LiDAR

LiDAR
So I finally got my hands on the North Kaibab LiDAR acquisition and it’s huge (~2TB). I was able to find a few minutes to play with it (in ENVI) to produce this simple figure of the landscape surrounding Matt Tuten’s research sites. Cool beans…

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