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Landsat 8 imagery now available

The first available LANDSAT 8 image over Boise, ID taken on April 11th 2013 (Path 41, Row 30)

The first available LANDSAT 8 image over Boise, ID taken on April 11th 2013 (Path 41, Row 30)

Data from NASA’s Landsat 8 is now freely available, enabling researchers and the general public to access images captured by the satellite within twelve hours of reception.

The data is available to download at no charge from GloVis, EarthExplorer, or via the LandsatLook Viewer.

Download high resolution jpg files from the first available LANDSAT 8 image over Boise, ID taken on April 11th 2013:

Read more about Landsat 8 at

NSF grant to develop software tools to analyze LiDAR data

The National Science Foundation has awarded Idaho State University’s Department of Geosciences Boise Center Aerospace Laboratory and its research partners a $320,000 grant to develop software tools to make it easier for scientists to analyze point-cloud or 3-D data.

LiDAR point clouds from a landslide area near Salmon Falls, Idaho

LiDAR point clouds from a landslide area near Salmon Falls, Idaho

Point-cloud data is rich with information, but cumbersome to analyze with existing tools, said BCAL director, Nancy Glenn, Ph.D. Scientists want to access that data because it can lead to more effective ways to manage resources, watersheds or plan communities.

The ISU geosciences professor and her research team are collaborating with scientists at Utah State University, the U.S. Forest Service Rocky Mountain Research Service, University of California-San Diego, and Arizona State University. The project will run three years. As lead institution, ISU will receive $220,000 of the grant money.

The software tools will be available for free on the NSF-funded OpenTopography supercomputer at the UC-San Diego Supercomputing Center and on Google Code. The new tools will also give student researchers easier access to point-cloud data.

“We expect that hundreds of new users will employ and benefit from these tools based on the existing user base, enhanced exposure provided by integration into OpenTopography, and the growing ease of acquisition and interest in 3-D point-cloud data,” said Glenn.

The grant, awarded in fall 2012, builds on the work of BCAL postdoctoral researcher Rupesh Shrestha, Ph.D. Over the past three years, he has developed similar tools to help undergraduate and graduate student researchers at multiple universities around the world to analyze 3-D data from LiDAR, a remote-sensing technology that generates 3-D point-cloud data.

For more information, contact Nancy Glenn at 208-373-1819 in Boise.

Source: ISU News

Biomass estimation using full-waveform TLS

BCAL is developing methods to estimate biomass of sagebrush and western juniper (Juniperus occidentalis var. occidentalis Hook) at the individual shrub/tree level. 3D point cloud data from a full-waveform terrestrial laser scanner (TLS) are used, along with data processing techniques for the biomass estimates.


Full waveform data from terrestrial laser scanning of vegetation

Sixteen juniper trees were randomly selected using a double sampling strategy from different height classes. Each juniper tree was scanned in the field with a full-waveform scanner (Riegl VZ1000). Two scans were performed from opposite directions of each tree. The trees were destructively sampled, and oven dried to measure dry biomass of each component (foliage, branches and main stem). Relationships were established between the biomass components and branch diameter and the TLS-extracted components and the biomass, and biomass components and tree height. Similar methods are used for estimating the green and woody components of sagebrush biomass. This work is currently underway by BCAL students and post-docs. Master’s student Peter Olsoy will present his results in April 2013 for his thesis defense.

For more information, please contact Nancy Glenn at  (208) 373-1819 or

Immersive visualization: 3D data fusion

Immersive visualization has emerged as an ideal solution for three-dimensional exploration of remote sensing data collected using varied sensing devices. The ability to manipulate data interactively in true 3D with interfaces designed specifically for the immersive environment can significantly speed up the exploration process.


Hyperspectral data with 3D point cloud data from LiDAR

We have developed an immersive visualization platform that allows the fusion of remote sensing data acquired from two different modalities. The platform allows users to load hyperspectral imagery as well as LiDAR data acquired for the same geographical region.

The features of the new visualization platform include automatic registration of the hyperspectral imagery and LiDAR data, volume rendering of the hyperspectral image stack along with the LiDAR data, orthogonal views of the hyperspectral image stack to allow exploration of profiles in a certain region, map three user-defined hyperspectral levels to RGB values (as is the standard practice in remote sensing) as well as user interface capabilities to vary the elevation of the hyperspectral slice for correlation with the LiDAR data.

The immersive visualization platform is currently being used in research labs at Idaho State University and at the Idaho National Labs. For more information, please contact Nancy Glenn at  (208) 373-1819 or

Related publication

Gertman, V, P Olsoy, N Glenn, and A Joshi. 2012. “RSVP: Remote Sensing Visualization Platform for Data Fusion.” Paper presented at IEEE Virtual Reality 2012. March 4-8 2012. Orange County, CA.

UAV-based hyperspectral sensing of dryland vegetation

Unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV)-based hyperspectral remote sensing capabilities developed by the Idaho National Lab and Idaho State University, Boise Center Aerospace Lab, were tested via demonstration flights that explored the influence of altitude on geometric error, image mosaicking, and dryland vegetation classification. The test flights successfully acquired usable flightline data capable of supporting classifiable composite images.

Unsupervised classification results support vegetation management objectives that rely on mapping shrub cover and distribution patterns.


Unsupervised classification of hyperspectral data from Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) for mapping shrub and native and invasive grasses. (a) Unsupervised classification from hyperspectral mosaic (b) Unsupervised classification evaluated using ground reference polygons of slickspot and sagebrush (c & d) Unsupervised classification evaluated using an ultrahigh spatial resolution RADAS image

Future mapping efforts that leverage ground reference data, ultra-high spatial resolution photos
and time series analysis should be able to effectively distinguish native grasses such as Sandberg bluegrass (Poa secunda), from invasives such as burr buttercup (Ranunculus testiculatus).

For more information, please contact Nancy Glenn at  (208) 373-1819 or

Related Publication

J J Mitchell, N F Glenn, M O Anderson, R C Hruska, A Halford, C Baun, N Nydegger. 2012. Unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) hyperspectral remote sensing for dryland vegetation monitoring. Idaho National Laboratory preprint.

UAV-based hyperspectral remote sensing

UAV airframe

UAV airframe with hyperspectral sensor in southern Idaho

BCAL and Idaho National Lab (INL site) are collaborating on developing hyperspectral sensing capabilities on small unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). Until now, the focus has been to improve the calibration and registration of the UAV-based sensor data and test the radiometric quality of the hyperspectral sensor. Hyperspectral information from the UAV is currently being used to study plant health. Some preliminary results have recently been published.

Related Publication

INL’s unmanned aircraft survey the landscape with a focus on the environment. INL News (online)

BCAL and partners awarded $668,000 in grants

Idaho State University geosciences researchers received two grants this fall totaling more than $688,000 to study fuels in shrub-dominated landscapes in the Northwest and to gather remote-sensing data to assess floodplains.

The largest amount—$546,723—is from the Joint Fire Science Program, an interagency research and development partnership between the U.S. Department of the Interior and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.  The Joint Fire Science Program awarded the money to the U.S. Geological Survey and ISU’s Boise Center Aerospace Laboratory over three years.

The goal of the project, which will focus on lands in the Morley Nelson Snake River Birds of Prey National Conservation Area south of Boise, is to provide land managers with better tools to assess fuel volumes before a fire and how best to manage a landscape after a blaze, said Nancy Glenn, ISU geosciences research professor and BCAL director.

Fuel volume—combustible grasses, shrubs and trees—is calculated by tons of fuel per acre. The higher the fuel volume, the hotter the fire will burn.  ISU’s portion of the project is to characterize the vegetation for fuel inventories by using remote-sensing or LiDAR data and to process the data.

“This project is a great opportunity for ISU students to work closely with the USGS, Bureau of Land Management and Orchard Training Area scientists. It’s also an opportunity for federal agencies to better utilize remote-sensing tools and software for land management,” said Glenn.

The Idaho Department of Water Resources awarded BCAL a $142,000 contract to collect and analyze airborne LiDAR imagery to assess floodplains.  The images will provide precise elevation data, enabling scientists to study floodplains in greater detail and identify flooding hazards.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency provided funding to IDWR and ISU to monitor several areas in Idaho, including the Priest and Snake River regions. The project also supports the newly formed Idaho LiDAR Consortium led by ISU.

For more information about the grants, contact Nancy Glenn at (208) 373-1819.  To read more about the Idaho LiDAR Consortium, visit

Mapping leafy spurge with field spectroscopy

Jacob mapping leafy spurge in the field

Mapping leafy spurge with field spectroscopy, Swan Valley, Idaho

BCAL has been in forefront of research on mapping leafy spurge (Euphorbia esula L.) and other invasive species in Idaho using various remote sensing techniques.

BCAL graduate students Jessica Mitchell, Jacob Mundt, and Nagendra Singh have written Master of Science thesis on the topic. The results have been presented at several national conferences, as well as published in peer-reviewed journals.

Related Publications

Lidar – An All-Purpose Tool for Assessing Flood, Landslide, and Fire Hazards

Nice article by Alison Tompkins from Nez Perce County!

Several PhD Opportunities to Study Energy, Environment, and Society

Fantastic opportunity for PhD students to pursue their degrees at Boise State in topics of Energy, Environment, and Society. Come join us!

3 PhD Opportunities in Remote Sensing of Vegetation and Snow in Mid- to High-Latitude Ecosystems

3 PhD Opportunities in Remote Sensing of Vegetation and Snow in Mid- to High-Latitude Ecosystems

Graduate Research Assistantships (PhD) Available to Study Remote Sensing of Vegetation and Snow at Boise State University

Boise State University Department of Geosciences has three PhD Research Assistantships available for Fall 2018 (or Spring 2019) for students interested in studying vegetation and snow with remote sensing. The students will work with ground-based (terrestrial laser scanning, TLS) lidar, airborne lidar, and hyperspectral data to understand forest and shrub vegetation structural and functional characteristics and their distribution across mid-  and high-latitude ecosystems. The students will have the opportunity to develop their own study ranging from understanding the interactions between vegetation and snow, carbon/water/nutrient storage and flux, as well as controls on vegetation and snow distributions, and using Earth System Models and remote sensing observations to study these controls. These multi-year student opportunities are funded by NASA and DOE. The student is expected to work with a team of scientists and perform field work in remote regions. The students can choose from among a range of PhD programs at Boise State University, including a PhD Geosciences, PhD Geophysics, PhD Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior, or PhD in Computing. Please send inquires to Nancy Glenn (

Nayani’s full-waveform RSE pub

Nayani’s just published her full-waveform lidar work from Reynolds Creek. View the article here! A significant finding is the use of lidar pulse width to differentiate bare ground from low-height vegetation, which is an exciting advancement for those of us interested in grasslands, rangelands, and other vegetation communities where discrete lidar can be problematic!

PhD Opportunity to Study Computational Remote Sensing of Forest-Snow Interactions

Graduate Research Assistantship (PhD) Available to Study Computational Remote Sensing of Forest-Snow Interactions 

Boise State University Department of Geosciences has a PhD Research Assistantship available for Fall 2018 for a student to study the effect of forest structure on snow depth distributions with remote sensing. The student will focus on exploring the relationships between forest canopy, density, and patterns with snow distributions to elucidate how and why forests control snow depth. The goal of the project is to improve snow depth distribution and snow water equivalent (SWE) estimates with remote sensing across broad scales to improve water management. The project will entail using NASA SnowEx observations from Grand Mesa, CO, including ground-based lidar and NASA JPL’s Airborne Snow Observatory’s full-waveform lidar. The student is expected to work with a team of scientists, including another PhD student who will work on modeling snow accumulation and melt. The project is funded by the NASA Terrestrial Hydrology program. The PhD Research Assistantship will support a student in Boise State University’s PhD in Computing degree program, or other programs of interest to the student. Please send inquires to Nancy Glenn (


PhD Assistantships Fall 2018

Graduate Research Assistantships (PhD) Available

We are recruiting for Fall 2018 PhD graduate research assistantships (GRA) in the PhD in Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior and PhD in Computing with an emphasis in Computational Science and Engineering. Projects include:

Remote sensing of evapotranspiration and biodiversity in drylands
Vegetation dynamics modeling and coupling fire and land management
Improving forest-snow depth distribution modeling across scales with optical and lidar remote sensing
Development of novel analysis of full waveform lidar

The GRAs will have the opportunity to work with faculty across multiple academic departments including geosciences, computer science, biological sciences, math, and human-environment systems, present at national meetings, and become part of the Boise State University Boise Center Aerospace Laboratory (BCAL) remote sensing team.

We seek students with a strong quantitative science background and eagerness to develop and apply geospatial analysis. The ideal candidates will have a recent MS degree is geography, computer science, geoscience, ecology, or equivalent nature resources discipline, strong statistics, programming, and geospatial skills.

The GRAs provide a competitive full PhD stipend, health insurance, and tuition for Boise State University. Boise has a vibrant arts & culture scene and abundant outdoor recreation activities. In 2017, US News and World report ranked Boise the 12th best city to live in the United States.

To apply: email a 2-page CV, unofficial transcripts, along with a cover letter explaining your interest to Dr. Nancy Glenn (


2nd Annual Morley Nelson Snake River Birds of Prey National Conservation Area Annual Symposium on October 30th 2017

Join us for the 2nd Annual Morley Nelson Snake River Birds of Prey National Conservation Area Annual Symposium on October 30th 2017. Find out more here: NCA Symposium Website 

BCAL PhD student Nayani Ilangakoon receives NASA ESSF!

Nayani Ilangakoon has received a 3-year NASA Earth and Space Science Fellowship – Congrats Nayani!

BCAL will be at ESA!

Come check out our talks and posters at ESA in Portland!
1. Remote sensing from leaf to landscape – Nancy Glenn – 2.30 pm August 7th – Session OOS2

2. Mapping Vegetation Biodiversity of Semi-Arid Ecosystems Using Hyperspectral Remote Sensing Hamid Dashti – 4.00 pm – August 7th – Session COS 21

3. Resistance to annual grass invasion in fire-prone, cold desert shrublands: Evaluating abiotic, biotic, disturbance, and management factors – Ann Marie Raymondi – 4.30 – 6.30 pm August 8th – Session PS27

4. Semi-arid ecosystem plant functional dissemination from small footprint waveform lidar – Nayani Ilangakoon – 4.30 – 6.30 pm – August 8th- Session PS18

Zach Uhlmann to present at Snow-Ex

BCAL’s Zach Uhlmann will present Correlating Snow Depth Distribution to Forest Canopy at the SnowEx Workshop to be held on August 8 – 10, 2017, in Longmont, Colorado. If you are planning on attending, go visit him to learn about point cloud analysis for canopy-snow interactions!

Megan Gallagher to present at GEE User Summit!

BCAL’s Megan Gallagher will be attending the Google Earth Engine User Summit in June and presenting Using Earth Engine for Viewing Greenness in Drylands with Timescale Analysis and Super Resolution. We can’t wait to see her super-resolution technique implemented in GEE! In the meantime here is a time-series of her study area.

Southeast Idaho lidar acquisition will be underway soon.

The FEMA Region X award to acquire LOTS of lidar data in Southeast Idaho is in coordination phase now – we collected the Big Wood River data last fall and will now be collecting in multiple regions in Southeast Idaho. Contact us if you want to be involved!

Aihua’s new pub on Aerodynamic Roughness

Wanna read about how aerodynamic roughness can be quantified with lidar? You are in the right spot!


Join us for the Morley Nelson Snake River Birds of Prey National Conservation Area Annual Symposium on November 10th 2016. Find out more here:

$900K of new lidar will be added to Idaho

A new project in the Clearwater will acquire over 2500 sq miles of lidar data this fall:

Upcoming NSF NEON Workshops hosted at BSU

Upcoming Workshops

NSF NEON Workshop: Mapping Species, Composition (foliar chemistry) and Soil Properties with Spectroscopy
NSF NEON Workshop: Topographic, geomorphic, and vegetation analysis with lidar

New datasets available through ScholarWorks

BCAL’s remote sensing data products will become available through Boise State’s ScholarWorks with DOIs – check out RCEW lidar products and NCA vegetation classification: Check back for new products created by our students!

MS Student Ann Marie wins 2nd place poster award!

Ann Marie Raymondi won 2nd place research poster award at the Great Basin Native Plant Project and Society for Ecological Restoration Great Basin Chapter’s 2016 annual meeting. Her research poster was titled “Sagebrush-steppe vegetation on the Snake River Plain: assessing current conditions based on biotic conditions, abiotic conditions, management treatments, and fire history.” Great job Ann Marie!

New Tool Will Help Idaho Vineyards Grow Better Grapes

Remote sensing to help Idaho vineyards!

PhD Assistantship Available

Graduate Research Assistantship (PhD) in Remote Sensing Ecosystem Science

The Department of Geosciences at Boise State University currently has an open graduate research assistantship (GRA) starting summer or fall 2016 to study the response of northern peatland ecosystems to increased temperature and elevated atmospheric CO2 with remote sensing. This project is supported by DOE’s SPRUCE experiment. This exciting project will provide the student an opportunity to better understand how a changing climate will affect the vulnerable boreal peatland forest while gaining skills and methods to monitor changes with lidar and optical remote sensing. Seasonal repeat measurements with remote sensing will be made to monitor leaf area, aboveground biomass, canopy heights, and ground inflation/deflation at the SPRUCE experiment. A canopy transmittance model will also be developed. The GRA will have the opportunity to interact with SPRUCE collaborators, present at national meetings, and become part of the Boise State University Boise Center Aerospace Laboratory (BCAL) remote sensing team.

We seek a highly qualified student with a strong quantitative science background and eagerness to utilize geospatial tools for ecosystem science. The ideal candidate will have a recent MS degree is ecology, forestry or equivalent nature resources discipline, strong statistics, programming, and geospatial skills.

The GRA provides a full PhD stipend, health insurance, and tuition for Boise State University. Boise State is Idaho’s largest university and is a metropolitan research university of distinction.

To apply: email a 2-page CV, unofficial transcripts, along with a cover letter explaining your interest to Dr. Nancy Glenn (

For more information on BCAL: and the DOE SPRUCE experiment:



Postdoctoral Fellow in Ecosystem Modeling, Boise State University

Position Summary

The Department of Geosciences at Boise State University is seeking a qualified and enthusiastic scientist-colleague for a postdoctoral position in dynamic ecosystem modeling of sagebrush-steppe ecosystems. The position is funded through grants from the NASA Terrestrial Ecology and EPSCoR programs and the Joint Fire Science Program.

Core activities of this postdoctoral position include:

  • Using existing field, lidar, and hyperspectral datasets at a number of study areas in the Great Basin of the Western US to parameterize, initialize, calibrate, and verify the Ecosystem Demography (ED) model, and
  • Parameterizing and exploring the impacts of fire mitigation strategies (e.g., mowing, green strips) on the long-term distribution, abundance, and coexistence of grasses, forbs, and shrubs in these ecosystems.

The successful candidate is expected to work collaboratively with and benefit from the expertise of a number of research scientists, postdocs, and graduate students with expertise in land modeling, remote sensing of terrestrial ecosystems and hydrology, and land management and restoration ecology. These potential colleagues are currently housed within the Lab for Ecohydrology and Alternative Futuring (LEAF), the Boise Center Aerospace Laboratory (BCAL), and the USGS Forest and Rangeland Ecosystem Science Center (FRESC).

Co-advisors Glenn and Flores are enthusiastic about and committed to providing mentorship and training to support the professional development of the successful candidate. We particularly welcome applications from colleagues interested in leveraging the science products developed during the postdoc to advance their independent research agenda and pursue collaborative research in collaboration with the research advisors.

Minimum Qualifications

  • PhD in Earth System Science, Ecology, Applied Math, Physics or related disciplines
  • Strong quantitative background and experience in modeling and statistics
  • Demonstrated ability to design, conduct, and publish research related to ecosystem modeling
  • Excellent written and oral communication skills
  • Demonstrated communication and interpersonal skills necessary for working in a multidisciplinary research team
  • Programming experience

Preferred Qualifications

  • Experience with ED or other vegetation dynamics or land models
  • Experience with lidar and hyperspectral remote sensing
  • Expertise with scientific programming languages for data analysis such as MATLAB, Python, or R


Applications are now being accepted and the position will close when filled. The position is a yearly appointment with potential funding and renewal for up to 2-3 years. Applicants should send as one compiled document: 1) CV; 2) one-page statement of research interests; 3) up to three publications and 4) contact information for three references. Please send materials to BOTH Lejo Flores ( AND Nancy Glenn,

Additional Information
Boise State University is Idaho’s largest university, enrolls the largest number of graduate students in Idaho, and is a metropolitan research university of distinction.
City of Boise


BCAL student Ann Marie receives NASA graduate fellowship

Our very own Ann Marie Raymondi received a NASA fellowship for her work with remote sensing, fire, and transitioning plant communities. Check it out:

Video of bat cave habitat and TLS



A brief introduction to whitenose syndrome and a demonstration of the multiple ways the Idaho Army National Guard is using remote sensing technology along with in situ monitoring to take a proactive approach to the management of whitenose syndrome. Produced in partnership with the Idaho Army National Guard, Boise Center Aerospace Laboratory, and the Idaho National Laboratory.

Soraya @ ICUR

Soraya, our Computer Science student intern, presents her work on BCAL Lidar Tools at the Idaho Conference on Undergraduate Research ( Nice work Soraya!



Luke Spaete was recently at the DOE SPRUCE site ( to collect TLS data on the vegetation in the warming chambers. This baseline data will be used to help DOE quantify biomass and other biophysical properties over time at SPRUCE.


Lidar workshop at UNAM, Mexico City

Nancy participated in a fun lidar workshop at the National Autonomous University of Mexico with OpenTopography. The workshop was titled LIDAR Derived DEMs applied to Landslide, Fault, Earthquake Rupture, and Landscape Changes – find out more details here, along with the course documents:


20150324_132221 20150323_084439

Check out the new pub on hyperspectral + lidar with a forward looking perspective for HyspIRI!

Mitchell et al., 2015

Come check out all our posters at GBC4 Feb 17-19:

BCAL Students Participate in STEM Exploration Day

BCAL graduate students Shital Dhakal and Nayani Ilangakoon set up our TLS and video in the ERB lobby on STEM Exploration Day, Feb 8, 2015. They had lots of kids and families curious about lasers! Here are a few pictures of Shital and Nayani. The STEM Exploration Day photo gallery is here:

Shital STEM Day Feb 8 2015Nayani STEM Day Feb 8 2014TLS Scan of STEM Exploration Day 2015

LiDAR for the Critical Zone: new HESSD paper now open for Interactive Public Discussion

Check out the new Hydrology and Earth System Sciences Discussion paper on LiDAR for the Critical Zone! This is a relatively new open access method to broaden perspectives in earth sciences and promote open discussion. The paper is now accessible and open for Interactive Public Discussion until 20 March 2015:

‘Can You See Me Now?’ – Mapping the ‘fearscape’ with terrestrial laser scanning

As the two foolish pigs learned before running to their brother’s solidly built house of bricks for safety, when the wolf comes calling, the quality of your shelter is everything. Animals in the wild have always instinctively known this. But changes to their habitat in the wake of human encroachment, climate change and a variety of environmental influences are affecting the predator-prey relationship and creating new “fearscapes” dotted with predation risks.

Jennifer Forbey and Peter Olsoy

Jennifer Forbey and Peter Olsoy

To better understand what’s happening, researchers are using innovative imaging techniques to map the properties of vegetation that influence how and when they are used for cover from the elements and from predators. Their data could help dictate land management decisions and restoration of the landscape.

Backed by several National Science Foundation grants, with additional university funding, the project is led by Boise State University alumnus and current Washington State University graduate student Peter Olsoy, along with Boise State faculty Jennifer Forbey and Nancy Glenn and graduate student Jordan Nobler; Janet Rachlow from University of Idaho; and Lisa Shipley from Washington State. Their findings are published in BioScience, the journal of the American Institute of Biological Sciences: [bibliplug id=1282]
Mapping the functional elements of vegetation — those that provide concealment, for instance — purely from ground level can be tricky. Such measures are location specific and tend to provide limited data. So the team used ground measurements combined with terrestrial laser scanning to create a more richly detailed fearscape map.

Researchers used LiDAR to capture detailed images. Using remote sensing, LiDAR targets an object with a laser, and then analyzes the reflected light to capture an image of the object’s 3D structure. “It essentially creates a map showing relative risk for an animal based on how well it can be hidden,” Forbey said.

Using unmanned aerial vehicles, the team gathered data from multiple vantage points, representing predator sightlines as well as the visibility of potential predators by prey. Information gathered could help researchers understand how habitat changes can impact the predator-prey relationship.

Pygmy rabbit

Pygmy rabbit

The report notes that many prey species in Idaho (such as pygmy rabbits and sage-grouse) rely on sagebrush vegetation for refuge from predators like badgers, coyotes and birds of prey. But the increase in invasive species is altering the landscape and affecting the ability of prey to find shelter.

Images captured by LiDAR are allowing researchers to compare the landscape from various eye-heights (coyote vs. weasel), positions (standing vs. lying) and modes of hunting (ground vs. air).

Sage grouse

Sage grouse

And once the data are collected, the images can be manipulated to reflect changes in the environment or vegetation structure. How does the area look in summer vs. the dead of winter, when leaves are gone and cover is scarce? How does a heavy snowstorm change things? What if conditions lead to slow or accelerated growth of plants?

“That’s the cool part of this,” Forbey said. “We collect the data once and we can manipulate it forever.”

Forbey said the project was conducted as a “proof of concept” model. Creating 3D images of habitats will allow for future research in the area of reproductive success of birds like sage-grouse that create visual displays to attract mates.

“We plan to use this technology to assess the most visible locations where male sage-grouse are likely to be seen by potential mates,” she said. “We’ll be able to assess the likelihood of mating success for males according to their location on the breeding ground.”

This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under grants No. DEB-1146194, DEB-1146368 264, DEB-1146166 and IOS-1258217. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation. The Terrestrial LiDAR was generously supported by Idaho National Laboratory; contact Randy Lee.

Watch a video about unmanned aerial vehicles

Source: BSU Update

Graduate Research Assistantships Available!

We have several graduate research assistantships available for students interested in pursuing a MS or PhD degree. Our students gain skills and knowledge in collecting and analyzing remote sensing (ground, UAV, airborne, and/or spaceborne) and field data, spatial analysis, programming, visualization, collaboration, teaching, and other areas in which the students have the flexibility to pursue. If these topics are of interest to you, and you are interested in working in a fun and dynamic research and teaching lab, please contact us! Send your CV and letter of interest to Nancy Glenn via

For further information please visit: and, and

New research grant from NASA EPSCoR looks at new ways to monitor the hydrosphere

HydrosphereSnowIt contributes to the rise and fall of dynasties and shapes both the landscape and the cycle of ordinary life. Too much can be ruinous and too little is always devastating. It’s water, the element that Leonardo da Vinci called “the driving force of all nature.”

In Idaho, water is key to many aspects of life ranging from recreation and agriculture to local drinking supplies. It’s safe to say that having enough is paramount to physical and economic survival. Despite that, scientists haven’t yet come up with an accurate way to predict how much water is in each winter’s snowpack — the primary supply for summer use.

“In the arid West, we don’t have a really good handle on how much water is stored in watersheds, particularly in the mountains as snow,” said geoscientist Alejandro Flores, principal investigator on a new research grant from NASA’s EPSCoR program. EPSCoR is an acronym for the Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research.

Titled “Monitoring Earth’s Hydrosphere: Integrating Remote Sensing, Modeling and Verification,” the grant is for $750,000 over three years. Flores, along with fellow geoscientists Nancy Glenn, Jim McNamara and HP Marshall, will develop more advanced remote-sensing techniques and models to better predict snowmelt and other hydrologic variables.

Current water storage estimates are based largely on manual measurements at a handful of stations that are historically good indicators of snow storage and are safely accessible in the winter.

The current generation of satellites does a poor job of estimating the amount of water in the snowpack. “They can see where the snow is, but not how deep it is or how much water it contains,” Flores said.

Another problem with satellite imaging is that vegetation gets in the way of accurate measurements. In heavily forested watersheds, for instance, satellites will see the treetops but not the snow underneath.

The EPSCoR grant will allow researchers to leverage all existing resources in addition to creating a series of new models to predict and measure how much snow is falling, how much is evaporating and how the rest is moving through the landscape.

Measurement tools include the Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) model, a numerical weather prediction system that allows researchers to produce simulations that reflect how much precipitation is falling and what it does – whether it is absorbed into the soil, evaporated, etc.

The Boise State researchers will conduct high-level tests to combine new measurements from satellites and models to produce the best possible predictions of water storage and the movement of water in the region.

Co-investigator Glenn says that, “along with several other recent and related grants, this is indicative of Boise State’s growing leadership in remote sensing of natural resources. Our students are receiving state-of-the-art training in a fast-growing technical field, while also receiving mentorship and opportunities to work with NASA scientists and private industry.”

As a way to achieve the “biggest bang for their buck,” Flores said, they’ll also be looking at developing cheaper environmental sensors to measure variables like precipitation, snow depth, temperature and humidity. Cheaper sensors mean they can be placed in more locations, thus increasing the data collected.

This component of the research ties the NASA work to the education component of Flores’ separate National Science Foundation CAREER grant. The NASA EPSCoR grant will extend that educational component by developing modular weather and climate monitoring workshops for K-12 students. In these workshops students use open source electronics and everyday items like bicycle computers to, among other things, log weather data long term.

“The kids will be using the same technologies that we will be using in the research, so we may be able to improve our modeling based on observations collected at the schools,” Flores said.

“This engagement with students also is an opportunity to expose students to the process of scientific research as a potential career path and educate them on the water cycle,” said Glenn.

Researchers are collaborating with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Goddard Space Flight Center and Oakridge National Laboratory, as well as the National Weather Service and Idaho Power.

The grant will be administered through the Idaho Space Grant Consortium.

Czech Globe scientists visit Boise State University

Czech-groupBoise State University’s Department of Geosciences recently hosted faculty and students from the Czech Republic’s Global Change Research Centre for a week of training in remote sensing.

In return, scientists from Boise State will provide a workshop in Brno, Czech Republic, at the end of this month. The workshop will cover remote sensing data collection and image processing for ecological applications related to forest productivity, land use and forest bark beetle kill.

Funding for both sides of the exchange was provided by the Global Change Research Centre’s HYDAP project, which focuses on increasing training and knowledge with partnership institutions on the latest technologies in remote sensing.

During the May visit, the Czech scientists received training on LiDAR (light detection and ranging), terrestrial laser scanning and hyperspectral remote sensing. They also visited the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS) Reynolds Creek Experimental Watershed. This recently funded National Science Foundation Critical Zone Observatory is led by Boise State, Idaho State and ARS.

ARS scientist Pat Clark discussed the research associated with ecology and remote sensing at Reynolds Creek, and the scientists identified several areas of collaboration with the Critical Zone Observatory.

Sage School Students Experiment with 3D Scanning

firstgroup_tls-2The Boise State University Department of Geosciences hosted 60 middle and high school students from Sage International School in May. Sage is a public charter school in Boise.

The students learned about the technology used by geoscientists in the field to gather information about the weather and landscape. They learned about scanning with lasers (called terrestrial laser scanning) and how weather stations are set up. They also had the chance to get experience with a 3D immersive environment with laser scanning data and “fly” through a 3D scan of Bronco Stadium.

Geosciences graduate student Ethan Geisler demonstrated the weather station building, geosciences BCAL research assistant Peter Olsoy demonstrated the TLS scanning and BCAL manager Luke Spaete organized the event and hosted the 3D immersive environment.

The 3D immersive environment was funded by Boise State’s Division of Research and Economic Development.

UAV project to study potato stress

Eastern Idaho potato growers hope to discover stresses to their crops before symptoms are visible to the naked eye this season through collaborative research with the state’s three universities and the Idaho National Laboratory. The project will entail using unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) to fly over 2,388 potato acres on a weekly basis, scanning crops with multispectral cameras, which detect near-infrared and other frequencies humans can’t see. The maps from these multi-spectral imagery will depict crop stresses — such as lack of water, nutrient deficiencies and diseases. The project was recently awarded a $150,000 USDA grant. Nancy Glenn, a Boise State University geosciences professor, will serve as an adviser on hyper-spectral imaging.

“The idea is to make a very rapid assessment of a crop and come up with some parameters to detect what the problems might be, and that allows a grower to make a rapid management response to any kind of threat to the crop,” said Donna Delparte, an assistant professor at Idaho State University, who is serving as the project’s lead researcher.

Participating potato growers include Wada Farms, Walters Produce, Driscoll Brothers and K.G. Nickell Farms. Derek Wadsworth, who heads INL’s UAV program, will contribute a larger, fixed-wing UAV with a heavier and more detailed hyper-spectral camera. INL’s UAV will fly over the research fields twice during the season, allowing the researchers to analyze how effectively cameras with differing levels of detail can detect crop stresses. University of Idaho plant pathologist Louise-Marie Dandurand will inoculate potato plants in a greenhouse with certain diseases and expose some of them to nutrient and water stress in order to establish a baseline for how different crop problems should appear under spectrometers. J.R. Simplot, Co., will contribute precision agriculture equipment, including ground-based sensors used to measure soil moisture.

Source: Capital Press

Boise State Researchers receives $748,000 NASA Grant

Climate change, population growth and fire affect the vegetation of Western dryland ecosystems. For example, fire has changed some native shrub-dominated landscapes so that invasive weeds thrive and then perpetuate fire cycles.

To help track these impacts, Boise State researchers Nancy Glenn and Alejandro (Lejo) Flores have received a three-year $748,000 NASA Terrestrial Ecology grant. Their work will create models that quantify data from remote sensing devices on planes or satellites.

“We need to develop methods to better identify and quantify vegetation patterns across the landscape,” said Glenn professor of geosciences and director of the Boise Center Aerospace Laboratory.

Using remote sensors allows researchers to collect data on soils, moisture and vegetation faster and easier than traditional fieldwork. The problem, says Flores, an assistant professor of geosciences, is the sensors often collect too much information for most current ecosystem models to make use of. So their work will create a new class of models that more fully takes advantage of the data collected.

“The advantages of our approach is that we can map these properties over very large regions and monitor their change through time,” Flores said. “In doing so, we can better understand the complexities of ecosystem change at different scales.”

Glenn said it will take about three years to set up the models, which NASA and other researchers and land managers will be able to use.

Glenn said part of the grant also will fund research at two other universities and pay NASA for flying the sensors. Key collaborators on the project are Susan Ustin from University of California, Davis, and Jessica Mitchell from Appalachian State University.

Source: Boise State University Update

Weiser River Animation

A demonstration of integrating Airborne LiDAR, Terrestrial Laser Scanning, and 3D GIS for application to the potential Weiser River dam, Idaho. Produced in partnership with the Idaho National Laboratory, Boise Center Aerospace Laboratory, and the Idaho Water Resources Board.

BCAL moved to Boise State University

We have recently moved to Boise State University and can be found in the Geosciences building on the main Boise State campus. Our move has expanded BCAL to include faculty, post-docs, staff, and students interested in remote sensing research and applications to sustainable environments.

BCAL researchers, partners receive grants to help agencies manage Idaho’s natural resources

Idaho State University researchers at the Boise Center Aerospace Laboratory have been awarded grants totaling $103,000 to assist outside agencies with resource management, according to BCAL director and geosciences research professor, Nancy Glenn.

The money is from the Idaho Army National Guard and federal Bureau of Land Management.

The largest grant—$89,000—is to help develop remote-sensing protocols for natural resource management at the Idaho Army National Guard’s Orchard Training Area south of Boise.  Glenn and her team are working with OTA ecologists to develop an area vegetation map from satellite and ground data.  The map, which could be complete as early as fall 2013, will inform on best practices with vegetation and fire management, said Glenn.

ISU students and postdoctoral researchers are working with scientists from various agencies—including the BLM, Boise State, OTA, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Geological Survey—on conservation management at the Idaho Morley Nelson Snake River Birds of Prey National Conservation Area.

The BLM has also awarded BCAL $14,000 to help land managers detect invasive plant species through remote-sensing technology. The grant is in support of BCAL’s ongoing research in fire service management at the Morley Nelson area.

That research includes a $668,000 grant awarded to BCAL and its partners in 2011 by the Joint Fire Science Program, an interagency research and development partnership between the U.S. Department of the Interior and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Researchers are using the money to develop better tools to help land managers assess fuel volumes before a fire and manage landscapes after a blaze.

For more information, contact Nancy Glenn at 208-373-1819.

BCAL and INL recently published a paper on unmanned aircraft systems

Idaho State University’s Department of Geosciences Boise Center Aerospace Laboratory (BCAL) and the Idaho National Laboratory (INL) recently published a paper on unmanned aircraft systems (UAS). The paper, “Radiometric and Geometric Analysis of Hyperspectral Imagery Acquired from an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle” was published in the journal Remote Sensing. The research utilizes a new light-weight (2.8 pounds) state-of-the-art hyperspectral sensor from Resonon in Bozeman, Mont.

The hyperspectral sensor is unique in that it provides spectroscopy information about biophysical features that no other UAS sensors have demonstrated. ISU’s Jessica Mitchell is currently working with INL, BLM, and Orchard Training Area/Idaho Military Division to map native shrubs and invasive grasses with the UAS sensor. Her work was presented in China in summer 2012 at an IEEE conference.

BCAL-INL partnership: Integrated GIS & remote sensing solutions

Integrated GIS & Remote Sensing Solutions is a collaborative partnership leveraging the complimentary strengths of the Idaho National Lab and Idaho State University.

INL’s Geospatial Science & Engineering team has reputable expertise and cross-cutting capabilities in in-situ data collection technology, water and energy research, remote sensing research, UAV sensor integration and deployment, GIS, HPC, systems dynamic modeling, data fusion, and visualization.

ISU’s Boise Center Aerospace Laboratory (BCAL) has an established interdisciplinary research program in optical remote sensing and brings expertise in image processing and interpretation, integration of GPS and GIS into remote sensing, and a sound understanding of spatial, spectral and temporal scales of landscape processes.

Together, our program provides the technology, capabilities, and unique facilities to deliver innovative, science-based engineering Solutions to your grand geospatial challenges.


We have built an excellent reputation for producing high quality products and solutions to complex geospatial challenges. Our strong interdisciplinary skills, expertise, and outside-the-box creativity fosters the successful development of innovative tools, techniques, and applications.



CAVE® system at CAES

CAVE® system at CAES

Research takes on new dimensions at CAES with the CAVE®  Computer Assisted Virtual Environment) and IQ-Stations (portable 3D visualization systems). Our advanced capabilities in immersive visualization allow engineers, scientists and others to see, explore, and interact with data in 3D space, revealing greater detail and depth of understanding toward solutions.

High Performance Computing

INL’s High Performance Computing center is the powerhouse behind our advanced efforts in predictive modeling and simulation. Featuring Fission, an Appro distributed memory system, our center is capable of aggregate peak processing rates in excess of 90 Tflops.

Remote Sensing

We specialize in using high-resolution ground-based, low-altitude (UAV),  airborne, and   satellite data to support monitoring and assessment of the environment across multiple scales.  Newest to our impressive suite of remote sensing technologies is the Reigl VZ-1000 Terrestrial Laser Scanner (TLS), which provides high-speed, contact-free, safe, and convenient data capture. Recording full waveform, intensity and reflectance, TLS data can be viewed measured, and navigated as a 3D model – lending incredible insight to any scene.

Data Fusion

Leading the  industry in research and development of data fusion software, the fusion of multi-source data sets offers improved information for an array of applications including validation, visualization, and quantitative tool development for multidimensional analysis.

  • For more information, please contact:
    • Nancy Glenn (, 208.373.1819)
    • Randy Lee (, 208.526.0120)
    • Eric Whiting (, 208.526.1433).
  • Download INL-BCAL Brochure.

Interactive Water Quality Map

An exploration of water quality, water sources and topography in Google Earth. Produced for the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality Children’s Outreach Program (Kasey Guthrie, Pocatello, ID).

Interactive Water Quality Data Displayed in Google Earth

IDEQ map

Project for Idaho Department of Environmental Quality (IDEQ), developed by Idaho State University.

We have displayed three different datasets in Google Earth for 3D interactive exploration of water quality in the Pocatello area.

  1. The boundary of the Lower Portneuf river valley aquifer is displayed as a thick blue line.
  2. Selected IDEQ and USGS wells are displayed as points with nitrate values collected in 2006. Wells are colored green for low nitrate values, yellow for medium, and red for high.  The student can click on any well point for more information.
  3. Septic permit density is shown using an image that is dark blue in areas of higher density and light blue in areas of lower density.

Students can use Google Earth to explore the data, answer questions and prompt discussion. Google earth is available as a free download. Some example questions are given below. Click on the questions to show/hide the answers.

Q: In what area of the aquifer are there generally higher nitrate values?

A: In the middle and northern parts? Why? Does water in the aquifer move south to north?

Q: What features do you see at the edges of the aquifer boundary?

A: The aquifer is bounded by the hills on southern end.
Aquifer layout in valley

Q: What can you see in Google earth in and around Pocatello?

A: Students can just have fun using Google Earth by looking around for places they recognize. They can see if these places are in the aquifer boundary, if there are wells nearby, and if the landmarks are in areas of low or high septic permit density.

Download this document in PDF
Download KML File

Project supported by NSF Idaho EPSCoR Program and by the National Science Foundation under award number EPS‐0814387.

Data References

  • Meehan, C.W., 2005, Geochemistry of the southern Pocatello aquifer and its implications for aquifer recharge and contamination potential; npubl. Idaho State University M.S. thesis, 201 pp.
  • USGS, IDWR, IDEQ, ISDA, 20070615, Nitrate Priority Wells (2007) Idaho: Idaho Department of Environmental Quality (IDEQ), Boise, ID. (, accessed February 2010)
  • Google Earth Layers prepared in February 2010.

Project Contacts

Idaho Department of Environmental Quality
Ms. Kasey Guthrie
DEQ Pocatello
Regional Office
444 Hospital Way #300
Pocatello, ID 83201
208 236‐6160

Idaho State University
Project developed by Sara Ehinger and Carol Moore, Department of Geosciences
Contact: Nancy Glenn,
Boise Center Aerospace Laboratory
Department of Geosciences, Idaho State University
322 E. Front St., Suite 240
Boise, ID 83702
(208) 345‐1994

3D Virtual Tour of the Borah Peak Earthquake Fault

A movie about the Borah Peak earthquake using LiDAR imagery, photography, Google Earth, and published reports. An accompanying teacher resource guide is also available. Produced for the Idaho Falls School District #91 (Todd Brown, Idaho Falls, ID).

Teacher Discussion Material (PDF)