SUMMER 2018, ADVENTURES IN THE TROPICS, GATOREYE DRONE LIDAR - DR. ANGELICA ALMEYDA ZAMBRANO

By Zach Marshall

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Dr. Angelica Almeyda Zambrano is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Tourism, Recreation & Sport Management where she co-directs the Spatial Ecology and Conservation Lab. Dr. Almeyda Zambrano and her collaborator, and husband, Dr. Eben Broadbent along with their two field assistants (pictured to the side) did extensive field research across a variety of ecosystems during the summer. Locations included the Atlantic forest in Brazil, cloud forests in the Andes, the lowland Amazon, and Northern dry forests in Peru, tropical rain forests in Costa Rica, and ancient Mayan archaeological sites in Chiapas, Mexico.

Drs. Almeyda Zambrano (applications and flight ops) and Broadbent (pilot and flight ops) - flew the GatorEye Unmanned Flying Laboratory (GE-UFL), a new custom-built sensor suite which includes LiDAR, Hyperspectral, and visual sensors, on a hexacopter drone platform. The data collected allows for high resolution 3D models of vegetation, buildings, and terrain. Analysis of this data is providing new insights into vegetation architecture across different forest types, forest ages, reforestation approaches, and land uses. Results have important implications for better understanding carbon sequestration, and for habitat preference and availability for fauna under climate change, as well as advancing fundamental understandings of Mayan agriculture and land use. For example, while in Peru, in collaboration with Dr. Bette Loiselle, Professor in the Department of Wildlife Ecology and Conservation, and her student Diego Garcia, they collaborated on research working to understand how bird diversity relates to forest structure, composition, and bioclimatic variables along an elevational gradient wthin a natural protected area. Dr. Almeyda Zambrano also returned to her alma mater in Peru, the Universidad Nacional La Agraria La Molina, where they lead a workshop on use of advanced drone sensor technology for environmental monitoring and sustainability.

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Dr. Almeyda Zambrano’s research focuses on sustainable tourism and socio-economic aspects of human-environment interactions. The data gathered for the projects above will enable her to be better positioned for upcoming grants and studies further understanding sustainability in new high-resolution 3D landscapes, expanding from her ongoing work linking humans to landscapes using satellite imagery. As for the future related to the GatorEye, Drs. Almeyda Zambrano and Broadbent are using the rapidly expanding datasets to better understand our worlds biomass and species diversity. This application will help us gain a peak into the future of our planet, while also helping us learn what we can do to increase the sustainability and well-being of society and the natural environment on which it depends.