Top Scientist to Use Airborne Observatory to Study Kruger's Diversity




The Andrew W Mellon Foundation in the United States of America awarded a $750,000 grant to the Carnegie Institution's Department of Global Ecology for an intensive pilot study of ecosystem diversity in the Kruger National Park (KNP).

This research will contribute to the park's adaptive management program, which uses science to improve the chances that the park's ecosystems, including their complex vegetative and animal populations, are sustained into the future.

Using remote sensing, Dr Gregory Asner will lead a one-year effort to better understand how fire and soil conditions affect the composition, structure, and nutrient content of vegetation over large areas in the park.

He and his team of scientists and technicians will use a newly developed remote-sensing instrument, the Carnegie Airborne Observatory (CAO), to measure the structure and chemical composition of the park's diverse ecosytems. The observatory combines a laser-based 3-D mapping system and a hyperperspectral imager.

This pilot project will help park managers develop the capacity and skills to undertake remote monitoring of the park's ecosystem on their own. Greg was recently cited by Popular Science as one of this year's "Brilliant 10."

In 2005, he published a breakthough paper in Science about selective logging in the Brazilian rainforest that revealed significantly higher levels of forest loss than previously understood.

He has been research staff scientist at Carnegie's Department of Global Ecology since 2001. Earlier this year, Greg illustrated the development of the CAO, its initial application to invasive species and biodiversity studies in the Pacific and the potential value in bringing the CAO to the park at the annual science networking meeting in Kruger.

The Department of Global Ecology, located in Stanford, California, conducts basic research on a wide range of large-scale environmental issues, including climate change, ocean acidification, biological invasions, and changes in biodiversity, Its mission is contributing to the scientific foundations for a sustainable future.

The Carnegie Institution (www.CIW.edu) has been a pioneering force in basic scientific research since 1902. It is a private, non-profit organisation with six research departments are leaders in plant biology, developmental biology, astronomy, materials science, golbal ecology, and earth and planetary science.



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