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ForestWatchers Lets Anyone Monitor A Patch of Forest

timothy posted about a year and a half ago | from the first-one-to-spot-sasquatch-wins dept.

Communications 41

teleyinex writes "ForestWatchers.net is a citizen project with the goal of making it possible for anyone (locals, volunteers, NGOs, governments, etc), anywhere in the world, to monitor selected patches of forest across the globe, almost in real-time, using a computer connected to the Internet. The project has recently released a first alpha web application (built using the open source crowdsourcing PyBossa framework) where volunteers can participate by classifying satellite images of one area of the Amazon basin."

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41 comments

RATHER MONITOR BUSH !! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41511361)

Because that's better !!

Report Abuse? (2)

menno_h (2670089) | about a year and a half ago | (#41511379)

Is there a "report abuse" button for those who catch illegal treecutters?

Re:Report Abuse? _target_ abuse. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41512563)

You're thinking of the "Launch Kinetic Impactor" aka "Crowbar" button.
Not implemented yet; the imagery isn't real-time.

I work on forest fire restoration as a hobby -- gets me outdoors. I've been watching like this for a while. It gets better fast.

I can look with currently available Google maps and see the ruts and "roads" being made by trespassers on places that I've worked on that have been stripped off by off-road enthusiasts. The tracks are clearly visible. They stay brown in the dry season, and start to show some 3-D shape as they begin to gully during the rainy season while the successfully restored hillside around greens up in the spring.

One visit by a few off-roaders making themselves a new playground wrecks a year or two of replanting. It's how the game is played, just try to restore more than they can vandalize -- the sites are two hours' road time away from a sheriff or ranger station, way back in the mountains. But in N. Ca., like the Amazon, the roads bring the damage into the back country.

Of course replanting doesn't always work, and you can't tell that from satellite pictures.

Still have to go there to find out if the green is invasives -- cheatgrass and 'medusahead' annuals love fire, take all the minerals after a burn, make seed like crazy, and are quite happy to burn again. A few seeds of theirs survive any fire and make the site far more likely to burn again sooner. And they love deep treaded offroad tires, they travel all over the area in those. So much better a way to spread than the old Vibram Sole hitchhiking.

Now I'd been wondering what it'd take to create a very realistic computer game -- "spot the vandal, chase the vandal, identify the vandal, report the vandal" -- put the teleoperated robot up online and invite kids to help protect the area.

These folks seem to have a better idea how to do it.

Automated (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41511385)

Why don't they do this automatically; I can easily create code to find the 'most-green' picture form a set? Why can't they?

Re:Automated (4, Interesting)

TapeCutter (624760) | about a year and a half ago | (#41511523)

After clicking a few images, I thought the same thing myself. From the half dozen image sets I clicked on it would probably be better to find the one with the least white/gray shades. In other projects like this I have seen (eg: GalaxyZoo), you are asked to do a job that humans really can do better and faster than computers, but "the most green" should be fairly trivial, the only real issue would be the the size of the image archive but they must be managing that already to be able to put this up.

Not trying to troll here, the AC has a good question and I'm genuinely curious as to why they feel automation isn't an option for this task?

Re:Automated (1)

ciderbrew (1860166) | about a year and a half ago | (#41511625)

I had a look myself. It does seem a bit daft to ask people to do this. Is it easy to tell how sharp an image is? I could also select the best from a row of tiles. List 10s of rows and get more done , so the slow work UI is holding them back.

Re:Automated (4, Interesting)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about a year and a half ago | (#41511767)

I'm inclined to wonder if, perhaps, they feel that there is some PR/exposure value to having humans, ideally a fairly large number of vaguely-environmentally-interested-but-not-overly-clueful ones, exposed to the images.

Based on a quick look at the journals, researchers are already using satellite data to study the area(where possible, apparently wholesale slash-and-burn is easy to see, targeted logging of high-value trees rather trickier); but that sort of research has pretty limited circulation. If you already have a serious interest in how screwed the Amazon is, there are people you can ask; but the profile of the issue isn't that high.

Assuming that an algorithm for efficiently crunching and classifying satellite data for forest health purposes were available, that'd definitely be a worthy addition to the literature; but it would also have a very good chance of dying without a ripple among everyone outside the field. Big, machine classified, datasets are a valuable tool for understanding the world; but they just don't have the affective punch of seeing it.

Re:Automated (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41515357)

This could certainly be coincidence – but once I got above ten images or so, they started giving me almost exclusively sets of clouds-striped images, with near-uniform cloud:non-cloud densities. My suspicion is that they may in fact be collecting this data with the hopes of building up a training set for their classifiers. "Most green" (probably "least white" would be more realistic) may well be a good solution, but it's possible that people use slightly more idiosyncratic strategies that ultimately lead to better quality (off the top of my head: for constant area, is it better to have the clouds fragmented or in a single clump? does this vary with the could:noncloud ratio? these kinds of things can be arbitrary choices... OR – you can collect some data to figure out what people do).

So yes – they certainly should be automating this, but I'm hoping the crowdsourcing thing is simply a precursor...

Watch trees? Hell ya, sign me up. (0, Flamebait)

Nyder (754090) | about a year and a half ago | (#41511425)

Seriously, wtf.

There is a lot of things to do via the internet, and apparently, watching Trees is the new thing.

Me? I'll stick with porn.

Though i guess if you are looking for wood...

Sorry.

Re:Watch trees? Hell ya, sign me up. (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41511617)

Watch for illegal logging. What's so bad about logging?

The loggers in these countries don't know when to stop. So what?

It has a rippling effect down the ecosystem - even to the point of destroying fisheries. And for what?

So people can have their exotic wood furnishings, paneling and flooring.

Also the cleared land is used to grow palm oil - for junk food. So, we humans are destroying our habitat for prestige and junk food - that's going to kill us off.

Frankly, I'm all for removing all environmental protections, let nature kill us all, and let God sort us out.

Re:Watch trees? Hell ya, sign me up. (2)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about a year and a half ago | (#41511847)

In the specific case of the Amazon, it doesn't help that forests of that type, for all their lush biodiversity, have the curious quirk of locking an impressive percentage of their biological activity into the dense canopy of assorted foliage above the ground. The soil underneath it is actually pretty ghastly. So, not only do you replace a particularly dynamic ecosystem with a monoculture, a few years of rain will leave you with something that looks like Mars, only soggy. Hurray!

Re:Watch trees? Hell ya, sign me up. (1)

Anachragnome (1008495) | about a year and a half ago | (#41517993)

In the Epic of Gilgamesh, there is a description of Gilgamesh going on a long journey from the area we now call Iraq, following the Euphrates to the mountains of Syria to fell a large cedar. A lush forest, filled with large dangerous animals is described. The single cedar he floats back to Iraq is large enough to construct the entire city gate of Ur.

Those cedars are long gone, all felled by the hands of man, and what remains is exactly what you describe--a wasteland that we now call The Levant. What remains are stoney, soil-less hills that retain little moisture and produce little as the soil has long since been washed into the Mediterranean. The few fertile valleys that remain are the remnants of those lush hills--thick layers of sediment of which only the surface is available for plant-life to utilize.

That place was once lushly forested, not only in pre-history, but recently enough to have been recorded.

Now some might blame the loss of these forests on global warming and desertification of the region, but perhaps it was the decline in carbon storage of these very forests that led to the warming trends in the first place. Personally, I find more evidence to lay the blame squarely at our own feet.

Re:Watch trees? Hell ya, sign me up. (1)

Anachragnome (1008495) | about a year and a half ago | (#41517715)

This project is a diversion from the logging practices in my own country (US).

"Foresters" in my home state of Washington leave thin strips of trees along highways to hide the clear-cuts from the public. If you fly over these areas, they look like farms--entire regions stripped down to mineral soil as if ready for the Spring planting season. Massive landslides dot the landscape, most of them terminating in a salmon spawning waterway. I live near the site of the largest shingle plant ever built (in the world) and the builders of that plant said there were more trees here then could ever be cut down...and they were out of business in twenty years because they ran out of trees in the area. Washington State has less then 4% of it's original forest--old growth stands exist only in places that the loggers couldn't get their equipment.

And they want you to look at the Amazon...

Oh well (4, Funny)

RivenAleem (1590553) | about a year and a half ago | (#41511439)

That puts an end to silent falling

Re:Oh well (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41511529)

That puts an end to silent falling

It never was silent to begin with.

Re:Oh well (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41511647)

No it doesn't. Sound is not video.

Don't worry, I had that wisecrack in mind coming here, too - only I remembered the flaw before posting :-)

And its down (1)

djsmiley (752149) | about a year and a half ago | (#41511453)

TIMMMMMBBBERRRRRRRR.

Does anyone give any kind of warning to the sites prior to publication that they have been submitted to slashdot and are going to feature?

Re:And its down (1)

gl4ss (559668) | about a year and a half ago | (#41511795)

TIMMMMMBBBERRRRRRRR.

Does anyone give any kind of warning to the sites prior to publication that they have been submitted to slashdot and are going to feature?

the whole project is useless unless it scales to quite massive load.

As libertarians predicted... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41511551)

Crowd-sourced "given enough eyeballs all bugs are shallow" NGO's can accomplish far better oversight than government regulators, far more efficiently, with no dangerous concentration of power, abuses, or corruption.

But of course cutting trees on one's own property should be perfectly legal. All we need is polluter-pays incentives, based on the Property Rights of those who would be harmed by this pollution [wikipedia.org] (there's no reason the Internet can't help organize millions of would-be plaintiffs), and the free market would result in trees becoming an asset for their CO2-absorbing qualities alone. Sometimes soy fields do constitute a greater value than a jungle, while wildlife preserves and CO2 sinks can be better built elsewhere.

--libman

Re:As libertarians predicted... (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about a year and a half ago | (#41511697)

Crowd-sourced "given enough eyeballs all bugs are shallow" NGO's can accomplish far better oversight than government regulators, far more efficiently, with no dangerous concentration of power, abuses, or corruption.

Given that they have no power, they would tend to be in rather limited danger of concentration and/or abuse of power, and are unlikely to be worth the trouble of corrupting. All they'll get to do is watch the forest burn with unprecedented ease and accuracy unless they have somebody else handling the power for them; but they sure are safe...

Origin of images? (1)

StripedCow (776465) | about a year and a half ago | (#41511669)

So do we get satellite images?
Or are they flying a plane over the Amazon every day?

Re:Origin of images? (1)

O('_')O_Bush (1162487) | about a year and a half ago | (#41511853)

Well, typically satellite images come from satellites, not planes. There are plenty of satellites that take pictures of arbitrary things, which is how Google Earth came into being.

It is a shame they aren't better quality. It would be nice to crowd-source the hunt for bigfoot.

Rather simple task (1, Redundant)

kiehlster (844523) | about a year and a half ago | (#41512067)

Poking around at the contributions that users are expected to submit, this seems like a job that Watson or even a simpler machine could be taught to do without much human intervention. One could easily write an algorithm that chooses the most colorful image in the list of candidates. All I found myself doing was looking at a bunch of white cloudy images next to a couple greener images and an occasional black image. It's quite easy to use some color analysis to eliminate ultra-white and ultra-black images from the groups. Unless there's actual white structures on the surface, I don't see how this job should be tasked to a mechanical turk system. This thing also needs to learn how to prioritize image choices (best/top to worst/bottom) based on nearby approved images, not by date. It seemed like I was always scrolling down for images from a specific zone because the clear satellite image for that zone happened on a later date.

Re:Rather simple task (1)

wcrowe (94389) | about a year and a half ago | (#41516791)

Infrared monitoring would be even simpler, and probably more effective.

Was I the only one thinking... (1)

Spectrumanalyzer (2733849) | about a year and a half ago | (#41512141)

...wed be able to eyeball a patch of forest, live - streamed - from a satellite?

Man, I almost had my voyeur hopes up there for a second, imagine all the action in the forest, unknown to man and beast, till now!

Oh wait...Seti...

and marry Betty Grable (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41512373)

Does this increase your chances of marrying Betty Grable? http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0045891/

Yeah, I'd like one of them patches (1)

crazyjj (2598719) | about a year and a half ago | (#41512887)

I'd like one near a water source, a long way from any cops, please.

uh, yeah. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41512953)

meanwhile, people are starving all across the world....

careful (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41513429)

Imagine if this were to be infiltrated by pediofiddlerists! They could literally WATCH CHILDREN without anyone knowing!

Where? Link please (1)

PPH (736903) | about a year and a half ago | (#41516287)

The site in the summary has a well placed 'Contribute' button. But I didn't see any actual real time forest pictures.

Couldn't this be automated with infrared. (1)

wcrowe (94389) | about a year and a half ago | (#41516763)

Wouldn't automated infrared monitoring be more effective? You could spot vehicles and brush fires and whatnot pretty easily. Perhaps the problem is that the satellite(s) do not have infrared capabilities.

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