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Remote sensing: a primer

The remote sensing of vegetation has potential application in conservation. However, there is confusion regarding exactly what remote sensing is, what it can do, and how much money and effort is required to extract valuable results from remote sensing data. Land managers desire an instant, out-of-the-box solution to their large-area mapping and surveillance needs, while remote sensing experts are accustomed to spending long periods of time, using highly trained staff and expensive computer facilities, massaging data and extracting the maximum amount of information out of the images. Is there a middle ground where remote sensing can be used in a timely fashion to answer the questions land managers have? Is it possible to simply purchase inexpensive vegetation maps that can be instantly and easily interpreted? Is it the case that to do remote sensing a University research team is needed--and even when such a crew of academics is assembled, they are unlikely to provide maps that are likely to satisfy the desires of a conservation worker in a timely manner? This web-primer is intended to answer, or at least outline, these questions.

Updates to These Pages
Remote sensing of vegetation is currently a rapidly developing, changing discipline, so these pages will be periodically updated and built upon. The first upload of this site was in November 2004. Significant additions or new sections will be noted with date stamps.

Is there something missing that you would like described? Email me at the Invasive Species Team (bamrice(at)ucdavis.edu).

Introduction and a Historical Context to Remote Sensing
  What is Remote Sensing?
  A Brief History of Remote Sensing
Physical and Electronic Data Storage
  Emulsion: A Physical Storage Medium
  Digital Detectors
  Data Archiving
Characteristics of Data
  Image Size, Spatial Coverage, and Spatial Resolution
  Spectral Coverage and Resolution
  Panchromatic Digital Images
  Multispectral Digital Data
  Hyperspectral Digital Data
Profiles of Remote Sensing Hardware and Missions
  First...some terminology
  Platform Sensor Type Altitude Data type
  AVHRR Passive High Multispectral
  AVIRIS Passive High & Low Hyperspectral
  EROS Passive High Panchromatic
  IKONOS Passive High Multispectral
  Landsat Series Passive High Multispectral
  Quickbird Passive High Multispectral
  SPOT Passive High Multispectral
  SRTM Active High Elevational

Updated January 2005
©The Nature Conservancy, 2005