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Biodiversity photo.

NIMBioS Working Group:

Remotely Sensing Biodiversity

Topic: Remote sensing of biodiversity: Linking leaf optical spectra to plant functional traits and phylogenetics

Meeting dates: April 21-23, 2016; October 11-13, 2016; October 29-31, 2018

Jeannine Cavender-Bares, Ecology, Evolution and Behavior, Univ. of Minnesota
Phil Townsend, Forest and Wildlife Ecology, Univ. of Wisconsin
Brian O'Meara, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Univ. of Tennessee
Jose Meireles, Ecology, Evolution and Behavior, Univ. of Minnesota

Objectives: Remote sensing of biodiversity is critical at a time when the Earth's biodiversity loss due to human activities is accelerating at an unprecedented rate. Functional plant diversity is highly associated with plant biodiversity, and recent technological and computational advances allow the detection of plant functional traits and trait diversity from spectral data that can be remotely sensed. This presents a timely and tremendously important opportunity to globally detect changes in the Earth's functional biodiversity. Although biodiversity itself cannot practically be observed everywhere, if functional traits and trait diversity can be remotely sensed using spectral data, the potential exists to at least globally inventory the diversity of traits associated with terrestrial biodiversity. Moreover, spectral data and the functional traits they predict can be linked to phylogenetic data as a means to estimate changes in biodiversity patterns globally. However, the mathematical models and computational approaches to integrate multiple complex multidimensional datasets are underdeveloped. We bring together biological and computational experts from three disciplines—remote sensing and leaf optics, plant functional biology and systematics—to develop a framework and set of computational tools for linking spectral data, functional traits, and phylogenetics. Our goal is to transform the ability of humanity to detect and interpret the changing functional biodiversity of Planet Earth.


Meeting Summaries

Mtg # Dates Agenda Summary Photo Evaluation
1 Apr 21-23, 2016 pdf Link Link Report
2 Oct 11-13, 2016 pdf Link Link
3 Oct 29-31, 2018 TBA TBA TBA
Group photo.
Meeting 1 participants (L to R): Aditya Singh, John A. Gamon, Jose Eduardo Meireles, Michael Schaepman, Brian O'Meara, Susan Ustin, Franziska Schrodt, Anna Schweiger, Phil Townsend, Jeannine Cavender-Bares.

Group photo.
Meeting 2 participants (L to R): Susan Ustin, Jeannine Cavender-Bares, Jose Eduardo Meireles, Brian O'Meara, Anna Schweiger, John A. Gamon, Franziska Schrodt, Phil Townsend.

NIMBioS Working Groups are chosen to focus on major scientific questions at the interface between biology and mathematics. NIMBioS is particularly interested in questions that integrate diverse fields, require synthesis at multiple scales, and/or make use of or require development of new mathematical/computational approaches. NIMBioS Working Groups are relatively small (up to 10 participants), focus on a well-defined topic, and have well-defined goals and metrics of success. Working Groups will meet up to 3 times over a two-year period, with each meeting lasting up to 2.5 days.

A goal of NIMBioS is to enhance the cadre of researchers capable of interdisciplinary efforts across mathematics and biology. As part of this goal, NIMBioS is committed to promoting diversity in all its activities. Diversity is considered in all its aspects, social and scientific, including gender, ethnicity, scientific field, career stage, geography and type of home institution. Questions regarding diversity issues should be directed to Dr. Ernest Brothers, the NIMBioS Associate Director for Diversity Enhancement ( You can read more about our Diversity Plan on our NIMBioS Policies web page. The NIMBioS building is fully handicapped accessible.

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NSF logo. NIMBioS is supported by the National Science Foundation through NSF Award #DBI-1300426, with additional support from The University of Tennessee, Knoxville. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.
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