How Dallas Will Count Its Trees: Lasers!

Aim an airplane-mounted laser-scanning device at Reverchon Park, and this is what it looks like. Trippy, hunh?
Aim an airplane-mounted laser-scanning device at Reverchon Park, and this is what it looks like. Trippy, hunh?

Too bad that tree-hugger Alexa's not here -- me, I can't see the forest for the trees, but she knows all about the city's efforts to take an inventory of our trees and the ramifications of this particular head count. Still, there's the question of how to do it in the first place. Because, see, back in Ye Olden Days, volunteers would actually go out and actually count the tree, which sounds like more fun than you could shake a stick at, if that's your idea of a good time. But arborist Steve Houser, chair of the Dallas Urban Forest Advisory Committee, and Dr. Fang Qiu, associate professor of remote sensing at the University of Texas at Dallas, had a better idea: laser scanning! And: hyperspectral imaging.

Today, both the city council's Quality of Life and Transportation and Environment committees will be briefed on the novel method of inventorying trees -- a method formally known as Hyperspectral Remote Sensing, which has been used since the '80s to map minerals and involves using an infrared scanner attached to the bottom of a plane. (Amazing the things you learn before 9 a.m. And, look, there's even a video!) Houser, going where no city's gone before, raised all by his lonesome about $100,000 for a pilot program involving Reverchon Park and Turtle Creek to see if it was even possible, and he and Qiu liked what they saw enough to want to push forward with the infrared census -- which'll cost $2.5 million to collect and process, but, still, better than counting by ones.


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