Welcome to the Terrestrial Lidar Scanning Research Coordination Network

What is Terrestrial Lidar Scanning (TLS)?

  • A terrestrial lidar scanner is a field instrument that is placed on a tripod and used to record the 3-D structure of the surrounding environment. It uses a laser beam that is steered by a moving mirror to scan the environment.
  • When the laser beam strikes a surface, the light scattered back to the instrument is timed and measured, providing a scattering point in 3-D space. These scattering points are assembled into a 3-D point cloud that describes the environment as seen from the scan location. Point clouds from multiple nearby scans are then combined to describe the environment in more detail.
  • TLS instruments are typically used to survey built environments, mines, or surface topography. Our interest lies in scanning vegetation, especially forests and woodlands, to measure vegetation structure in various ways and reconstruct trees and forest stands in three dimensions.

What is a Research Coordination Network (RCN)?

  • A research coordination network is a group of scientific researchers working together to explore or advance a particular field of science.
  • The TLS RCN is an activity funded by the US National Science Foundation that seeks to advance terrestrial lidar scanning for vegetation study. The NSF funding supports communication, travel, exchanges, professional effort, and calibration activities of the network.

How are TLS systems used in ecology and vegetation study?

  • Vegetation, particularly forest structure, affects many forest ecosystem processes, but is quite difficult to measure accurately and consistently.
  • With laser scanning, particularly with point clouds merged from multiple scans, it is possible to reconstruct an individual forest stand uniquely, and estimate such structural quantities as canopy height, mean tree diameter, tree count density, leaf area index, volume and above-ground biomass of individual trees and stands, and profiles of leaves and woody materials with height.

What are the goals of the TLSRCN?

  • To identify a pathway to a low-cost TLS with a primary objective of estimating forest biomass quickly and easily to facilitate measurement and monitoring of above ground biomass
  • To develop new applications of TLS in forest ecology
  • In order to achieve these goals, we focus on communications and collaborations among scientists who
    • develop, build, and test new TLS instruments;
    • provide new pathways for processing TLS data from multiple instruments;
    • develop new theory and analysis methods for retrieving vegetation structure from TLS data;
    • pursue new applications of TLS instruments in ecology and vegetation science;
    • devise sampling strategies and error estimation methods for calibration of regional and global biomass estimation in large regions with TLS measurements;
    • pursue TLS methods for fire risk assessment and modeling, including fuel loads, fuel continuity,and related parameters

Who should join the TLSRCN?

  • Researchers who would like to contribute to the goals and objectives of the RCN and are actively using TLS for vegetation or ecological studies are encouraged to join the TLSRCN participant community. If you would like to join us, send a paragraph describing your current research efforts using TLS and/or developing TLS science and technology, along with a paragraph with your possible contributions to the goals of the RCN (specified above) to Alan Strahler (alan@bu.edu), RCN PI.