US: A researcher at The University of Texas at Dallas (UT Dallas) is combining plant biology with massive data from Earth-orbiting satellites to help inform the conversation about water resources management.
Dr. David Lary, associate professor of physics at UT Dallas, is applying his expertise in remote sensing and sophisticated computer techniques to extract useful information from very large data sets. In one project, his aim is to correlate such big data to water usage in a given geographical area.
To track water usage, Lary uses satellite data to measure how much light is reflected from the Earth’s surface in each of three light wavelengths: red light, green light and the near-infrared. A chemical produced in plants called chlorophyll absorbs certain wavelengths of red light, including one of those measured by the Landsat satellites.
Above: A satellite image shows UT Dallas on the right side of the frame and areas to the west of campus on the left.
Above: The second image shows areas of highest chlorophyll levels, and hence healthier plant life, in red and yellow, and low chlorophyll levels in blue. The plant-health data serves as a proxy for levels of water usage.