VISualize is an annual conference that brings together thought leaders to discuss real-world applications of ENVI and IDL technologies. HySpeed Computing’s president, James Goodman, was invited to speak at the conference, which this year focused on climate change and environmental monitoring.
Scientists recently gathered at the World Wildlife Fund building in Washington, DC to share ideas, discuss their latest research, and identify pathways to improve our ability to utilize remote sensing imagery as the basis for effecting positive change in the health our planet. Conversations heard around the conference were lively, with exciting ideas for collaborations and new research directions emerging after every presentation.
Attendees of the 2-day VISualize event, sponsored by Exelis Visual Information Solutions, included representatives from non-governmental organizations such as the World Wildlife Fund, the Nature Conservancy, and Wildlife Conservation Society, government agencies such as NASA and the USDA, universities such as Johns Hopkins and University of Maryland, and commercial companies such as Tech-X, Esri and HySpeed Computing.
The leadoff keynote address by Gerry Kinn from Esri challenged attendees to be active participants in addressing the many environmental issues facing our planet – where as scientists “we have a responsibility to identify, characterize and communicate scientific issues.” Using a variety of illustrative examples, Mr. Kinn demonstrated that remote sensing imagery is very rich in content, and is becoming increasingly used throughout society, not just for environmental decisions but also in areas of civil infrastructure, transportation and security, to name a few. This vast network of geographic knowledge continues to grow on a daily basis, contributing to our collective ability to better understand our surroundings and make more informed decisions. Remote sensing is the foundation for much of this knowledge, providing the ability to visualize our planet and more importantly a quantitative tool to measure our planet.
Additional speakers covered diverse topics such as assessing conservation measures in the Gobi Desert, tracking the decline of artic sea ice, predicting future deforestation trends in Cameroon, examining the spatial and temporal distribution on Mountain Pine Beetle infestations in Colorado, and using hyperspectral remote sensing to quantify mangrove restoration along degraded coastlines in Malaysia. There were also talks on how to improve the accuracy of existing image products, such as from the MODIS and GOES instruments, which are used extensively in climate and environmental research, thereby increasing the effectiveness of the subsequent scientific analysis and policy decisions made using this imagery.
A central topic of discussion in the presentation by HySpeed Computing, and a common theme heard around the conference, is the need for increased collaboration, improved access to analysis tools, and greater data accessibility. For example, Dr. Robert Rose from the Wildlife Conservation Society stressed that collaboration is particularly imperative for non-governmental organizations and developing countries where funding resources are often limited. He proposed the revitalization of a “conservation remote sensing working group” to encourage communication amongst academia, government, non-government and commercial organizations. With such initiatives in mind, and echoing the thoughts of many attendees, there was a clear message for scientists to get involved and make a difference.