Updates June 2019

Greetings Everyone

Alberta, June 28, 2019

With the onset of summer, it is time once more for our bi-annual project update to briefly review some of the BERA research activities since our BERA research workshop last November, and to announce plans for our fourth and final field season to complete our goals for BERA.

Over the past year, our BERA team members have again been very actively advancing their research projects.  Two Masters theses (Congratulations Annette Dietmaier and Kiran Basran!) have been completed and all the other existing Masters and PhD projects are successfully moving forward with the processing and analyzing of collected data as can be seen in several new journal publications and conference presentations listed on the BERA web site. Congratulations go to 1) Angelo Filicetti for his paper on tree regeneration on wetlands, 2) Cassondra Stevenson for her microtopography paper; 3) Scott Wilson for his ovenbird use-of-wellsites paper; 4) Gus Lopez for his coarse woody debris mapping paper; and 5) Mustafiz Rahman for his UAV-based-orthomosaic workflow paper.  We want to also say “thank you” to Caroline Franklin who completed her postdoctoral BERA micro-climate study in April, and “welcome” to Lionel Leston: the new BERA post-doctoral fellow in the Bayne lab.  A formal welcome as well to all the students who joined BERA since last year: Kimberly Kleinke, Silvia Losada, Kiran Basran and Percy Korsah. Specific updates on all our BERA student and post-doctoral members can be found further below.

At last fall’s discussions during the research workshop, the BERA team received great positive feedback from our very engaged group of BERA funding partners and BERA collaborators.  The feedback reaffirmed the research goals being on track and emphasized the value of the scientific foundations being established for restoration activities while maintaining the research under operational, real-world scenarios.  Great interest was expressed in finding the support to expand the research for real-world monitoring in ecosystem recovery and in exploring the potential for another 5-year research program.  In response, the BERA Principal Investigator (PI) team is currently working actively to wrap up the existing research questions, while also expanding the research areas to formally include a soil and ecohydrology team, lead by BERA collaborator Dr. Maria Strack, and developing a proposal to support a continued BERA research program # II for the spring of 2020.

While the majority of team members will be spending their summer wrapping up their analyses for the completion of BERA I, a few members will visit the field at select BERA study areas; some for validation and maintenance work, and some for new data collection in support of new research questions:

  • The Bayne lab will be re-visiting 6×6 km big grids within the BERA study area to replace any failing Automatic Recording Units (ARUs) that collect continuous measurements of bird vocalizations.
  • The McDermid lab will be measuring forest understory structure in Kirby in support of Silvia Losada’s MSc research.
  • The Strack lab will be measuring soil nutrient and compaction conditions on newly treated and untreated seismic lines in the new “Clyde” study area, located adjacent to Kirby – with additional support from Cenovus.
  • The Nielsen lab will be adding some select sites for the vegetation trajectory models to complete their data sets.
  • The Castilla lab will be validating seedlings at a few select Kirby sites for the multiscale height estimation projects from UAVs.
  • The Liang loT lab is continuing their research on wireless sensor networks for human footprint monitoring and will deploy a new IoT network at the Kananaskis Field Station in July.

Some brief updates on all individual team members are listed below, and will complete this update:

Remote Sensing Team:

  • Man Fai Wu has completed his contribution to the McDermid lab’s first effort to delineate coniferous seedlings in remote sensing imagery: in this case using softcopy photo interpretation. The team is still finishing up the analysis, but Fai has moved on to a new experiment using automated detection techniques.
  • Gustavo Lopez Queiroz has completed the first section of his Masters research on coarse woody materials detection for caribou habitat restoration in Alberta’s boreal forest with a peer-reviewed journal publication that just came out last month. Gus is now working on the second manuscript of his Masters research, working on predicting surface area and volume of coarse woody materials for the purposes of boreal restoration and fire hazard assessment. He plans to complete this analysis over the summer and defend his Masters by September.
  • Kiran has completed her MGIS thesis on mapping depth to water (DTW) in the boreal forest using remote sensing. In addition to testing our established techniques pioneered earlier by Mustafizur Rahman over larger and more-diverse study sites, Kiran created a strategy for quantifying confidence in our DTW predictions.
  • Silvia Losada defended her MSc thesis proposal in May, and is about to head out into the field to collect data on her research on characterizing forest understory structure with lidar.
  • Mustafiz Rahman continued to support BERA’s geospatial needs for the entire project as a technician and has also continued to advance his own research and assist in mentoring BERA RS students. His latest paper was published in January on UAV-based orthomosaic workflows and he is currently working on developing workflows for coniferous seedling detection from UAV images.
  • Guillermo Castilla and his CFS team are working on completing their multi-scale seedling height estimation project for the Kirby pilot sites where they have generated point clouds from their UAV images flown at different altitudes. Field visits in May were completed for final field validation of the insights gained during the analysis phase and the team is planning to complete this work this winter.

LoT/ground sensor Team:

  • Kan Luo has completed the design, coding, integration, deployment, and test of the 3rd generation BERA IoT data collection system. It includes IoT data collection board based on the LPWAN technology, firmware for the board, LoRAWAN radio gateway, LoRAWAN cloud gateway, ingress software for the LoRAWAN cloud gateway, ingress software to the BERA IoT Cloud, deployment of the BERA IoT Cloud, and a simple BERA IoT data dashboard. In addition, he starts researching on the data provenance for BERA’s IoT data. Blockchain has been chosen to be the data provenance methodology. Kan will also be deploying a new IoT network at Kananaskis Field Station in July.
  • Soroush Ojagh has been working on analyzing the spatio-temporal data from BERA IoT sensor networks. He is focusing on using a Dynamic Time Warping approach to identify the delays of similar time series patterns from nearby IoT sensors. In addition, he has been working on a new online frontend dashboard for BERA, that will be demonstrated in the next workshop. Soroush is also working together with Sara and Kan on the deployment and maintenance of BERA IoT sensor networks.  Recently Soroush also started investigating into an edge-computing approach for BERA IoT sensors. To be more specific, Soroush is integrating real-time deep-learning with a low-cost GPU-based IoT board in order to detect relevant objects and events in the field in real-time, and sending results back to the BERA IoT Cloud.
  • Sara Saeedi has been working on artificial intelligence approaches for analyzing BERA IoT data. More specifically, she is using GIS plus time series mining approaches to automatically detect micro-climate events from real-time sensor data from the BERA IoT network and send alerts over networks as soon as events happen. In addition, Sara also oversees the research work of Kan and Soroush.

Ecological Team:

  • Angelo Filicetti is continuing working on his PhD research in the BERA Nielsen lab by analyzing the previously collected data from the last two summers and focusing on vegetation trajectory responses in aspen and xeric forests. Angelo will revisit a few sites by going in the field for 2-3 weeks to complete his samples. His research findings restoration responses in peatland forests were published in February.
  • Caroline Franklin completed her postdoctoral fellowship with the BERA Nielsen lab in April and moved onto a new position as research assistant with the Wilfred Laurier University. Caroline had undertaken a microclimate study for BERA last year examining light and temperature patterns across different seismic line types comparing narrow (3D) or wide (2D) lines that are orientated north-south lines or east-west.  A manuscript for this work is in preparation for submission for Forest Ecology and Management.
  • Ryan Lapointe defended his course-based masters at UofA in Aug 2018 and his research project with the BERA Nielsen lab on post-fire tree regeneration on exploratory well pads in jack pine forests is in preparation for a journal submission.
  • Cassondra Stevenson, who collected micro-topographical data during her summer field assistance work with the BERA Nielsen lab, published her summer research project this March with a peer-reviewed publication entitled “High precision altimeter demonstrates simplification and depression of microtopography on seismic lines in treed peatlands”.
  • Jocelyn Gregoire is working to complete her two masters thesis chapters within the BERA Bayne lab focusing on Canada Warbler response to seismic line regeneration and testing the accuracy of two different method of localization and aims to complete her studies by September.
  • Scott Wilson published a chapter from his defended Masters thesis that he carried out within the BERA Bayne lab. The peer-reviewed  paper on “Use of an acoustic location system to understand how presence of conspecifics and canopy cover influence Ovenbird (Seiurus aurocapilla) space use near reclaimed wellsites in the boreal forest of Alberta” appeared in the journal for Avian Conservation & Ecology last winter.
  • Natalie Sanchez is continuing her PhD research within the BERA Bayne lab by studying looking at how birds react to industrial noise. Specifically, this summer she is investigating the collected data to determine if she can predict which bird species are most sensitive to noise. Natalie successfully passed her PhD candidacy exam on May 6th and is aiming to defend in 2021.
  • Richard Hedley is a post-doc in the BERA Bayne lab working on the triangulation projects for BERA, focusing on 1) how planted seismic lines influence birds in spruce stands and comparing this to natural regeneration on the same line , as well as 2) developing methods that provide estimates of distance to birds.
  • Lionel Leston is also a new post-doc in the BERA Bayne lab, supporting BERA students as well as undertaking research on analyzing big grids in relation to bird distribution/abundance.

Collaborator Teams:

  • Laureen Echiverri is a PhD student of the Alberta Biodiversity Conservation Chair program at UofA and has been undertaking one of her chapters in collaboration with BERA with the BERA Nielsen lab over the past year. Laureen is examining how the vascular plant community changes with silvicultural mounding of seismic lines in the Kirby site near Conklin.  A manuscript from this research is in preparation.
  • Annette Dietmaier was a Masters student supervised by BERA collaborator Dr. Ralf Ludwig at Ludwig Maximilian University (LMU) Munich and has successfully undertaken her research project in collaboration with BERA with the McDermid and Castilla labs. Annette defended her Masters last December and is in the process of submitting her manuscript on “Comparison of LiDAR and digital aerial photogrammetry for characterizing canopy openings in the boreal forest” to the peer-reviewed journal Forests.
  • Michael Fromm was a Masters student supervised by BERA collaborator Mathias Schubert at Ludwig Maximilian University (LMU) Munich and was undertaking his research project in collaboration with BERA with the McDermid and Castilla labs. Michael’s work involved the use of convolutional neural networks (“Deep Learning”) for automated detection of coniferous seedlings on seismic lines.  Michael is currently preparing a manuscript on “Automated detection of conifer seedlings in drone imagery using convolutional neural networks” for submission to the peer-reviewed journal Remote Sensing.
  • Scott Davidson is a postdoctoral fellow with the BERA collaborator lab on Soils and Ecohydrology (Strack Lab) from the University of Waterloo and is currently preparing a manuscript on last year’s soil compaction study in Tiger Sand and Kirby to be submitted in the late fall. Scott is working in collaboration with the McDermid and Castilla labs and is also undertaking a new soil study with BERA Masters student Kimberley Kleinke in Foster Creek and new BERA study area Clyde.
  • Kimberley Kleinke is a new Masters student with the BERA collaborator lab on Soils and Ecohydrology (Strack Lab) from the University of Waterloo undertaking a new soil study to investigate soil nutrients and soil compaction on and off seismic lines prior and following mounding treatment in the new BERA-Cenovus study areas Clyde West and Clyde South, and for older treatments in Foster Creek – with the additional support of Cenovus. Kimberly will go to the Clyde and Foster Creek area at the end of July to collect the field data.
  • Percy Erasmus Korsah is a PhD student with the BERA collaborator lab on Soils and Ecohydrology (Strack Lab) from the University of Waterloo and is working in collaboration with the Castilla Percy completed his preliminary analysis on methane and carbon dioxide exchange comparing plots on lines and in adjacent undisturbed peatland. Data collection on carbon fluxes and plant productivity is continuing this summer in Peace River with a goal to have data analyzed for a presentation at the BERA workshop in the fall. In late August he will be adding measurements of moss and tree productivity at his sites to help complete the local carbon balance and better understand vegetation competition on the lines.