She's climbed trees in tropical rainforests and studied photosynthesis of individual leaves. Now, she looks forward to studying forest canopies using measurements from a large helicopter drone.
Loren Albert, whose two-week field course in the Amazon inspired her to pursue her Ph.D. in plant ecophysiology and ecosystem science at the University of Arizona, is now, thanks to a BrownTogether Campaign gift from Corporation Fellow Peter Voss ’68, P’98 and his wife Pamela, one of four Voss Postdoctoral Research Associates at the Institute at Brown for Environment and Society (IBES).
Here she talks about her pathway to postdoctoral work and the importance of her fellowship.
Describe how you came to be interested in Brown:
While working on my dissertation, I hired an arborist to help me scale tropical trees in the Amazon and measure photosynthesis. I was drawn to the idea that these forests are so important, and we still don’t know enough about how they work to predict what they are going to do in the future. You can measure photosynthesis in individual leaves with instrumentation, but how do you get an estimate for a whole plant, let alone a whole forest? How do we scale up from these small estimates?
Brown Assistant Professor Jim Kellner came to speak at the University of Arizona when I was a graduate student, and later we talked about postdoctoral positions. He's been building the Brown Platform for Autonomous Remote Sensing with support from Brown and IBES; the platform is a constellation of sensors carried by a helicopter drone that we will use to study the structure and function of forests at totally new scales.
How have you enjoyed working with Asst. Professor Kellner?
Jim and I have complementary backgrounds and skill sets. I'm excited about this platform he's building and what we can do with it. The science is so limited in this area because it's technically challenging to study photosynthesis in forest canopies. Individual researchers and national space agencies see that the way to do this going forward is with remote sensing. With the Brown Platform for Autonomous Remote Sensing, we can manipulate aspects of data collection that research teams have not previously been able to control. This allows us to generate measurements at the right scale to obtain definitive answers. We'll have pixels that represent individual leaves instead of the kilometer (or larger) pixels produced by satellites.