The remote sensing techniques developed by Greg Asner and his team are viewed as among the most advanced in the world for exploring Earth’s changing ecosystems in unprecedented detail and richness. Using airborne and satellite technologies such as laser scanning and hyperspectral imaging, combined with field work and computer modeling, Asner measures and qualifies humans’ impact on regions from the American Southwest to the Brazilian Amazon.
“We’re able to see, if you will, the forest and the trees at the same time,” Asner says. “We’re able to now understand an image, map and measure huge expanses of the environment while maintaining the detail. Not just the spatial resolution, but the biological resolution—the actual organisms that live in these places.” For Asner, who is on the faculty at the Carnegie Institution and Stanford and leads the Carnegie Airborne Observatory project, this is science with a mission: to influence climate change treaties and save the forests he studies.