#PFTC4 blog post 1


Hi all, my name’s Adam. My background is in computer science, converted to the plant sciences and ecology through an interest in the history of our planet. I’m more or less bred from Arizona but born in Texas. America. I got into computers from a love of graphics and interactive software, which I now try to weave into my biological work with educational simulations, visualizations and video games.

Generally my scientific interests are in the origin and maintenance of variation in plant form, with a recent emphasis on the architecture of trees. Modern methods in tree architecture are strongly centered on a remote sensing methodology known as LiDAR. In Svalbard I’ll be part of the remote sensing crew, with a somewhat different emphasis on hyperspectral measurements of vegetation reflectance. We’re using drones! One naive goal is just to get my group to let me fly one! Otherwise, I’d like to learn more about different methodologies and research questions associated with remote sensing techniques aside from LiDAR. Quite honestly, I’m excited to see how our data turns out more than anything–the people who put our project together are really working at the cutting edge. Our results will likely be really new knowledge, since this kind of aerial data has been relatively expensive to collect up to the current moment.

I’m sort of assuming the Svalbard locals will have noticed acute changes associated with climate change. Much of the visual landscape is actual meltable ice–year to year, it seems like changes in the landscape would be quite visible to people, like how the contours of this or that hill have changed with climatic conditions. I also have the impression that Longyearbyen is very much a community of scientists and researchers, who are likely pretty familiar with the evidence for global warming. Back home in America, it appears that climate change has become largely a partisan issue. Increasing amounts of scientific education do not always lead to a shift in public perceptions when other ideological obligations are at play on the right wing. Conversely, left wing individuals will sometimes accept the reality of climate change without a basic understanding of the mechanisms and evidence for the phenomenon–because in America, environmental issues (especially climate change) are ‘left wing’ issues. There are other shades of opinion accepting the reality of climate change but expressing skepticism about its likely effects on society, and what we should do, if anything, about it. Its a big mess.

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