Thursday, October 27, 2011

Two months in Switzerland

Research visits are an important part of my term as Academy of Finland Research Fellow. This year, my bodyguard and I spent February and March visiting the University of Zurich in Switzerland. My original plan for the visit had been to learn about the various activities going on at the Remote Sensing Laboratories and to see if there would be opportunities for future collaboration.

After a couple of days in Zurich the visit took new course -- active collaboration started immediately! The spectroscopy laboratories (especially the goniometerlab) were something we can only dream of in Helsinki, and my host, Michael, kindly offered us the opportunity to use the labs and to have help from a skilled technician. The offer was very tempting, and in a few days, a plan for an experiment was drawn together. We decided to develop a method for measuring the spectral albedo of coniferous shoots -- something that has not been reported in scientific literature prior to this. In collaboration with RSL's needle optics team, we were also able to measure needle spectral albedo for our study shoots. In addition, we did a detailed structural analysis of the shoots.

This all sounds very simple in a blog. But it wasn't! Just setting up the lab for measuring shoot albedo took us three weeks of intensive planning in a dark laboratory room. The measurements were another story -- we ended up working close to 10 hours per day in the lab and spending a couple of more hours per day preanalyzing the data. Didn't see much sunlight during those days...

The intensive period did pay off: we are now proud to present results from a unique study on the spectral properties of Scots pine shoots. We now have an idea of how needle spectral albedo scales up to shoot spectral albedo, what the scattering phase function of coniferous shoots looks like and how it affects canopy reflectance (and remote sensing of forests!).

Two papers presenting the results from our experiment have been accepted for publication during the past week. You can all enjoy them (soon online):

Rautiainen, M., Mõttus, M., Yáñez-Rausell, L., Homolová, L., Malenovský, Z. & Schaepman, M. 2011. A note on upscaling coniferous needle spectra to shoot spectral albedo. Remote Sensing of Environment, in press.

Mõttus, M., Rautiainen, M. & Schaepman, M. 2011. Shoot scattering phase function for
Scots pine and its effect on canopy reflectance. Agricultural and Forest Meteorology, in press.

(And this is what Switzerland looked like when we were not in the lab. )