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Ecology from the air

See our Principal Investigator Greg Asner discuss what our forests are really made up of at TED Conference.

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Carnegie Airborne Observatory has been featured in leading newspapers and media all over the world.

Who we are

Our mission is to make scientific discoveries, support conservation, and galvanize action to protect the environment at large geographic scales.  Through our advanced Earth imaging technology, novel data analytics, and technical training of next generation scientists, we reach our mission goals all over the world.
Our hope is that a highly visual approach can bridge a widening gap between science, decision-making, and society for a more sustainable future.

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Hawaii Island

CAO Coral Reef Mapping in Hawaii 2016

5th September 2017

Kinabatangan River

Forests and Oil Palm Plantations Clash Along Kinabatangan River, Borneo

26th April 2017

3D Laser Scan of World’s Tallest Tropical Tree Found in Borneo

23rd April 2017

CAO10-23

Oil palm plantations halted at line drawn by forest protections in Borneo

26th November 2016

CAO10-07

Alcatraz Island in San Francisco Bay California

21st November 2016

CAO10-16

Ecosystems of Yosemite National Park in California

19th November 2016

CAO10-03

A single hectare of Amazon rainforest biomass and biodiversity

19th November 2016

CAO10-25

Archeology in Hawaii with 3D laser spectral mapping

18th November 2016

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Our Systems

Current System

Airborne Taxonomic Mapping System (AToMS)

The most recent and technologically advanced instrument and computing package for CAO is called AToMS, or Airborne Taxonomic Mapping System.

AToMS has four integrated sensing technologies: (i) High Fidelity Visible-Shortwave Infrared (VSWIR) Imaging Spectrometer; (ii) Dual-laser, waveform Light Detection and Ranging (wLiDAR) Scanner, (iii) High-resolution Visible-to-Near Infrared (VNIR) Imaging Spectrometer, and (iv) High-resolution Digital Imaging Camera.

AToMS is now in its fourth generation configuration, with advances in all sensors.  It can map features on the Earth’s surface in three dimensions, including all terrestrial ecosystems and the human-built environment. AToMS can also image coral reefs and other aquatic habitats with spectral detail.

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Previous Systems

CAO Beta

The Beta System operated from 2007-2009, providing spectral imaging through the Airborne Visible Infrared Imaging Spectrometer (AVIRIS) and three-dimensional imaging through a Carnegie single-laser Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) Scanner. The CAO Beta System was a research test-bed for the current AToMS airborne sensor package. The Beta System operated in California and Hawaii.

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CAO Alpha

The Alpha System operated from 2006-2011, and consisted of a Visible-to-Near Infrared (VNIR) Imaging Spectrometer and waveform Light Detection and Ranging (wLiDAR) Scanner. The Alpha System made major contributions to ecological science and conservation studies in California, Colombia, Hawaii, Madagascar, Panama, Perú, and South Africa.

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Worldwide Media Coverage

From The New York Times, Newsweek, The Guardian and Huffington Post, through Scientific American, Nature, National Geographic and Mongabay, to Wired, USA Today, The Economist and much more, Carnegie Airborne Observatory has been featured in leading newspapers and media all over the world.

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Latest Publications

Access our publications on topics of conservation, ecology, policy, and remote sensing
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"CAO provided a whole new perspective on the lives of animals in the rainforest canopy. We were able to trace how primates move through this complex, three-dimensional landscape exactly as they see it."

− Kevin McLean, Yale University

"CAO lifted the veil on biogeochemical heterogeneity of rainforests in Costa Rica. In a single day, CAO revealed landscape patterns that would of taken a lifetime of field work to discover."

− Phil Taylor, University of Colorado

"The CAO was integral in tying together ground-based knowledge of savanna ecology and community-based natural-resource management to understand drivers of woody vegetation structure in South Africa."

− Jolene Fisher, University of Witwatersrand

"Development of the high fidelity VSWIR instrument with CAO has resulted in a new class of imaging spectrometer for 21st century science and application research."

− Robert O. Green, NASA

"I flew with the CAO over the Amazon, reporting their research about the complex dynamic between climate change and rainforests. CAO imagery was an invaluable tool for effectively explaining this research to a general audience."

− Simeon Tegel, Journalist

"We used the CAO to reveal fascinating geographic patterns of termite mounds in African savannas, and used them to predict the ecological effects of climate change."

− Shaun Levick, Max Planck Institute

"The CAO was pivotal in mapping suitable habitat for rare and endangered species in tropical dry systems Hawaii."

− Susan Cordell, US Forest Service
CAO operates off grants and donations.  To support us, please contact Greg Asner at gpa@carnegiescience.edu or click below to give us a donation. Thank you!

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Blog

Our latest thoughts on our research, conservation and the environment
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CAO+HIMB

Spatial Ecology of Coral Reefs: The Search for Resilience and Resistance to Global Environmental Change

Research

The CAO Coral Reef Challenge

Gregory P. Asner, September 2017

Coral reefs are global hotspots of biological diversity and support the livelihoods of more than a billion people worldwide.  Coral reefs cover roughly 500,000 km2 of the Earth’s surface, but are sparsely distributed over more than 200 million km2 of ocean (Figure 1).  Field studies currently represent less than 0.01% of coral reefs worldwide, and although local monitoring is important, it provides little understanding of the trajectory of coral reefs undergoing regional and global environmental change. Read More

CBS

Hawaii considers banning certain sunscreens to protect coral reefs

Media Coverage

KONA, Hawaii – Hawaiian lawmakers are considering a ban on some popular sunscreens to try to protect coral reefs.

Researchers found that oxybenzone, a UV filtering ingredient commonly found in lotions, harms the coral. Up to 14,000 tons of sunscreen wind up in coral reef areas of the ocean every year, and scientists say that contributes to the ecosystem’s damage.

The Big Island of Hawaii’s pristine coastline is home to one of the state’s largest coral reefs, a miles-long stretch that scientists say is dying at an alarming rate.

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hawaii

Airborne observatory, drone photography among weapons researchers are using in battle against rapid ohia death

Media Coverage

Collaborating researchers showcased their wide-ranging technology for journalists Monday at the Hilo Air Patrol.

A tree can be infected with either of the two species of Ceratocystis fungi that causes ROD for months before symptoms of the illness — browning leaves — appear, but once symptoms do show up the tree dies within weeks. An estimated 75,000 acres of ohia forest on the Big Island have already been affected. More than 200,000 ohia trees died between 2015 and 2016, with some research estimates placing the number closer to 300,000.

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