Canopy Trek as an advanced paradigm for multi-scale, transdisciplinary ecological exploration, research, and community development. Current "comprehensive" methods of canopy access and data collection technologies are expensive, cumbersome, often relatively limited with regard to deployment, typically immobile, and largely inadequate for the challenges of understanding the complex interconnected ecologies of the multi-level forest environment. Likewise they are remote and relatively inaccessible to a global community of scientists and public that could significantly benefit from them.
[Image above: Data visualizations made possible by the Canopy Database Project and the CanopyView application.]
Through an analogy to the multifaceted access technologies of oceanographic exploration, we propose canopy technologies and information technologies that will dramatically increase access modalities; distribution of platforms; and collection, standardization, processing, and visualization of data; in addition to community development and engagement. Oceanographic vessels float at the surface of the environment they investigate. They use technologies such as diving equipment, tethered rovers, sensors and data collectors to immerse scientists in the rich diversity of aquatic environments. Data sets, too, are collected within real-time data-visualization environments, offering captured imagery and analysis opportunities to the scientific community, and at times, to the general public.
By advancing and extending this paradigm through the explicit analogy of a personal balloon research platform to a small oceanographic research vessel as each floats at the surface of their respective environments. Like the vessel, the balloon can be anchored (to emergent trees) and allows the arboreal equivalent to an aquanaut to descend into the environment below. From the balloon remote canopy robots (and in follow-on research rovers, wireless blimps or autonomous micro-helicopters) can be deployed into the environment to collect data (e.g. pictures, temperature, humidity, position etc.) Most importantly, like the ocean-going vessel, the balloon can be moved to a new location (locally or through redeployment) to provide broad access to a wide variety of investigations of the environment. Unlike the vessel and critically important to the accessibility of canopy research, Canopy Trek’s balloon system and robot (Canopy-Bot) are relatively inexpensive.
[The Images Above] The robots core is a PVC skeleton. Multiple plexiglass plates are mounted to the core, allowing for the center to rotate relative to the top where the descent mechanism will allow the bot to descend down a rope. The primary housing holds the electronic components which include a laser rangefinder and camcorder which are controlled by two Arduino microprocessors.