Citizen Science in Support of Vegetation Index and Phenology Research

TitleCitizen Science in Support of Vegetation Index and Phenology Research
Publication TypeConference Paper
Year of Publication2010
AuthorsWhitsitt, S, Barreto, A, Ram, S, Al-Helal, H, Hudson, M, Chu, D, Sprinkle, J, Didan, K
Conference NamePhenology Research and Observations of Southwest Ecosystems Symposium (PROSE)
Date PublishedOctober

Vegetation indices (VIs) are simple transformations of images into proxy measures of greenness and vegetation health and change over time. They are also used to derive information about the land surface phenology status, providing extensive spatial coverage and direct support for global ecosystem models. These measurements however contain large uncertainties and errors. A new suite of mobile devices, equipped with geo-location, image capture, and transmission capabilities could aid with vegetation phenology observations and documentation. The iPhone, with its wide distribution and array of sensors, can contribute significantly to the field of citizen science. In this project we are developing an end-to-end system for the collection, processing, and visualization of land surface vegetation phenology. The system consists of a client-server application and a Google Earth based visualization model. The client side (an iPhone app) intuitively guides the observer to capture up to three images per location: a close-up image of leaves, flowers, or fruits, an individual plant image, and a panoramic landscape image. The iPhone automatically embeds location, orientation, date/time, and other metadata with the images and allows the observer to add text comments. The images are then transmitted to the server, where they are validated, post-processed, archived, and made available to the interactive visualization system. The images are separated into primary colors and processed into a greenness index comparable to the classical VI. These measurements are then plotted against satellite based VI time series to aid in their validation and the characterization of the location phenology. With this effort we hope to recruit global observers into contributing to the field of land surface vegetation change detection and characterization.