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PEATland Ecology and Remote Sensing Lab


Department of Geography and Environment
University of Lethbridge, Alberta Canada

Understanding and quantifying risks associated with climate change and disturbance in Boreal ecosystems by using remote sensing and field measurements


Members of the Integrated Ecosystems Group use geospatial, hydro-meteorological, and field data to understand resilience and hydro-ecological tipping point mechanisms for ecosystem change in natural and disturbed boreal wetland, forest, and permafrost environments. We use cutting-edge re technologies to integrate processes across the boundary between the terrestrial biosphere and the atmosphere, over space and through time.

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Research Projects


Quantifying loss of carbon from boreal peatlands using airborne lidar data

Here we have partnered with the Canadian Forest Service to understand the vegetation structural, topographic, and hydrological drivers of peat consumption and vegetation trajectories in peatland to forest transition areas at a range of sites throughout northern Alberta and in NWT. The results of this research will provide urgently needed quantification of the driving mechanisms associated with ground and short vegetation fuel consumption, the potential for greenhouse gas emissions, and how ecosystems will regenerate from wildfire now and into the future. Funded by NSERC Discovery Grant program.


Transitioning of permafrost to wetland and implications for biomass gains and losses

Northern ecosystems are changing at an accelerating rate within the climatically sensitive discontinuous permafrost zone. Changes in hydrology, the mortality of forests along the edges of the permafrost plateaus and shrubification of the wetland environment could increase risk of wildfire to northern communities. Here we have partnered with the ARTeMiS Lab at the University of Lethbridge and the Scotty Creek Research Basin (Wilfrid Laurier University) to determine how wildfire regimes changing in northern environments. Are ecosystems gaining or losing biomass? What are the implications for the carbon cycle? Funded by NSERC Discovery Grant program. 


Remote sensing wetland ecosystem change detection method development

In this project with Alberta Environment and Parks, we are developing new methods to classify wetlands within the Oil Sands Region of Alberta. Here integrate time series lidar data with plot measurements of vegetation structural characteristics as proxy indicators of ecosystem condition. Funded by the Oil Sands Monitoring program


Assessing rates of recovery within an early post-wildfire successional forest

This project examines important feedback processes between a recently burned lodgepole pine forest, the atmosphere, and the climate system through the long-term recovery of this ecosystem. The site is located in the Akamina Valley, Waterton Lakes National Park. How will vegetation regenerate following the Kenow wildfire, given the climate of today is so different from what it was 150-200 years ago when this forest was established? Funded by Parks Canada.


Development of a multi-temporal effective leaf area index model from multi-spectral lidar: Scaling to Sentinel using machine learning

In this project, we use airborne lidar and field data to map variations in foliage cover and leaf area index to better understand and monitor vegetation productivity in the Oil Sands region. Here we have partnered up with Hatfield Inc. who will use our methods to scale to and validate Sentinel, lidar and SAR data within a machine learning framework. Funded by the NSERC Engage program.

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Team Members

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Laura Chasmer

Assistant Professor
group lead

Dr. Laura Chasmer has a background in the integration of remote sensing data with ecosystem process measurements and hydro-meteorology. She has almost 20 years of experience and more than 60 peer-reviewed publications. She enjoys fieldwork and occasionally operating lidar systems.

Linda Flade

PhD Student

Originally from Germany, Linda is getting used to living near the mountains. Her dissertation examines biomass changes in NWT using lidar and optical imagery

Thesis: Assessing boreal ecosystem changes due to permafrost thaw and wildfire disturbance

Kailyn Nelson

M.Sc. Student

Kailyn is looking at peatland carbon losses due to wildfire in the Oil Sands region, Alberta using pre- and post-fire time series lidar data, depth of burn and soil measurements.

Thesis: Estimating spatial variability of peatland wildfire carbon emissions in Alberta's Boreal Plains

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Emily Jones

M.Sc. student

Emily is using a post-wildfire chronosequence approach to better understand how hydro-climatology alters vegetation regeneration trajectories in the Boreal Plains region of central Alberta

Chinyere Ottah

M.Sc. Student

Chinyere is comparing pre-fire fuels with spatial variations in post-fire burn severity and loss of biomass using multi-temporal and multi-spectral airborne lidar and optical imagery

Jesse Aspinall

M.Sc. Student

Jesse is looking at rates of vegetation regrowth and quantifying carbon stores following the Kenow Wildfire at Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta

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Past Team Members

Sami-Shae Smuck

Trajectories of post-fire wetlands in Alberta (B.Sc. Project)

Jessica Saigeon

Lidar data analysis within wildfire burn scars and developer of this fab website (B.Sc. Project)

Hafsat Adebayo

Economic and social impacts of wildfire in western Canada (B.Sc. Project

Eric Rodvang

Vegetation regeneration during the first year post wildfire at Waterton Lakes National Park (B.Sc. Project)

Emily Jones

Advanced lidar data processing (B.Sc. Project)

Ashlee Mombourquette

Impacts of changing climate on wetland change in Oil Sands Region (B.Sc. Project)

Ashia Sanders

The preferred habitat of the Banff Bison Herd during their first three months of freedom (B.Sc. Project)

Thais Abib

Seismic line impacts on proximal boreal forest and wetland environments in Alberta (M.Sc. Emerging Leaders of the Americas Program Internship student)

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Recent Publications
Last 5 Years

Abib*, T. H., L. Chasmer, C. Hopkinson, C. Mahoney, L. C. Rodriguez, E.  2018. Seismic line impacts on proximal forest wetland environments. Science of the Total Environment.

Montgomery*, J., B. Brisco, C. Hopkinson, L. Chasmer, K. Devito, and D. Cobbaert, 2018. SAR and lidar data fusion approaches to boreal wetland ecosystem monitoring. Remote Sensing.

Xi*, Z., C. Hopkinson, L. Chasmer, 2018. Filtering stems and branches from terrestrial laser scanning point clouds using deep 3-D fully convolutional networks. Remote Sensing. 10(8): 1215.

Gibson*, C. M., Chasmer, L., Thompson, D., Quinton, W., Flannigan, M., and Olefeldt, D., 2018. Wildfire as a major driver of recent permafrost thaw in boreal peatlands. Nature Communications. DOI: 10.1038/s41467-018-05457-1.

Chasmer, L., T. Baker, S. K. Carey, J. Straker, S. Strilesky, and R. Petrone, 2018. Monitoring ecosystem reclamation recovery using optical remote sensing: Comparison with field measurements and eddy covariance. Science of the Total Environment. 642:436-446.

Chasmer, L., C. Hopkinson, R. Petrone, K. Devito, 2018. Remote sensing of ecosystem trajectories as a proxy-indicator for watershed water balance. Ecohydrology. E1987.

Warren*, R. K., C. Pappas, M. Helbig, L. Chasmer, R. Patankar, A. Berg, J. Baltzer, W. Quinton, and O. Sonnentag, 2018. Minor contribution of black spruce transpiration to evapotranspiration of boreal permafrost peatlands. Ecohydrology. 11(5).

Chasmer, L., C. Hopkinson, R. Petrone, M. Sitar, 2017. Using multi-temporal and multi-spectral airborne lidar to assess depth of peat loss and correspondence with a new active normalized burn ratio for wildfires. Geophysical Research Letters. 44,11,851-11,859; 2017GL075488.

Devito, K.J., K. J. Hokanson, P. Moore, A. Anderson, L. Chasmer, C. Hopkinson, N. Kettridge, C. A. Mendoza, D. L. Peters, R. Petrone, U. Silins, B. Smerdon, J. Morissette, J. M. Waddington, 2017. Landscape controls of long-term runoff in sub-humid heterogeneous Boreal catchments. Hydrological Processes. 31(15):2737-2751.

Helbig*, M., L. Chasmer, A. Desai, N. Kljun, W. Quinton and O. Sonnentag, 2017. Direct and indirect climate change effects on carbon dioxide fluxes in a thawing boreal forest-wetland landscape. Global Change Biology. 23: 3231–3248. doi:10.1111/gcb.13638.

Sutherland*, G., L. Chasmer, N. Kljun, K. Devito, and R. Petrone, 2017. Using high resolution LiDAR data and a flux footprint parameterization to scale evapotranspiration estimates to lower pixel resolutions. Canadian Journal of Remote Sensing. 43(2): DOI: 10.1080/07038992.2017.1291338.

Chasmer, L. and C. Hopkinson, 2017. Threshold loss of discontinuous permafrost and landscape evolution. Global Change Biology. 23(7):2672-2686. Doi:10.1111/gcb.13537.

Helbig, M.*, L. Chasmer, N. Kljun, W. Quinton, C. Treat, and O. Sonnentag, 2017. The positive net radiative greenhouse gas forcing of increasing methane emissions from a thawing boreal forest-wetland landscape. Global Change Biology. 23(6):2413-2427 Doi:10.1111/gcb.13520.

Merchant, M.*, J. Adams, A. Berg, J. Baltzer, W. Quinton and L. Chasmer, 2016. The contributions of C-band SAR multipolarization data and polarimetric decompositions to subarctic boreal peatland mapping. IEEE Journal of Selected Topics in Applied Earth Observations and Remote Sensing. 10(4):1467-1482.

Bye*, I. J., P. R. J. North, S. O. Los, N. Kljun, J. A. B. Rosette, C. Hopkinson, L. Chasmer and C. Mahoney, 2016. Estimating forest canopy parameters from satellite waveform LiDAR by inversion of the FLIGHT three-dimensional radiative transfer model. Remote Sensing of Environment. 188:177-189.

Xi, Z.*, C. Hopkinson, and L. Chasmer, 2016. Automating plot-level stem analysis from TLS scans. Forests. 7(11):252. Doi:10.3390/f7110252.

Helbig*, M., K. Wischnewski, N. Kljun, L. Chasmer, W. Quinton, M. Detto, and O. Sonnentag, 2016. Regional atmospheric cooling and wetting effect of permafrost thaw-induced boreal forest loss. Global Change Biology. 12(2):4048-4066.

Chasmer, L., C. Hopkinson, J. Montgomery*, R. Petrone, 2016. A Physically-based terrain morphology and vegetation structural classification for wetlands of the Boreal Plains, Alberta Canada. Canadian Journal of Remote Sensing. Special Issue on Advanced Forest Inventory. 42(5):521-540 .

Hopkinson, C., L. Chasmer, C. Gynan, C. Mahoney, and M. Sitar, 2016. Multi-sensor and multi-spectral lidar characterization and classification of a forest environment. Canadian Journal of Remote Sensing. Special Issue on Advanced Forest Inventory. 42(5):501-520.

Hopkinson, Chasmer, L., A. Barr, N. Kljun, T. A. Black and J. H. McCaughey, 2016. Monitoring forest biomass and carbon storage change by integrating airborne laser scanning and eddy covariance data. Remote Sensing of Environment. 181:82-95.

Wasser*, L., L. Chasmer, R. Day, and A. Taylor, 2015. Quantifying land use effects on forested riparian buffer vegetation structure. Ecosphere. 6(1):1-17.

Petrone, R., L. Chasmer, C. Hopkinson, U. Silins, S. Landhausser, N. Kljun, K. J. Devito, 2014.Effects of harvesting and drought on CO2 and H2O fluxes in an aspen-dominated western boreal plain forest: Early chronosequence recovery. Canadian Journal of Forest Research. 45 (1):87-100.

Mahoney, C., N. Kljun, S. O. Los, L. Chasmer, J. M. Hacker, C. Hopkinson, P. R. J. North, J. Rosette, E. van Gorsel, 2014. Slope estimation from ICESat/GLAS. Remote Sensing. 6(10):10051-10069.

Sutherland*, G., L. E. Chasmer, R. M. Petrone, S. M. Brown, N. Kljun, and K. Devito, 2014. Evaluating the use of spatially varying vs. bulk average 3D vegetation structural inputs to modeled evapotranspiration within heterogeneous land cover types. Ecohydrology. 7(6):1545-1559. DOI: 10.1002/eco.1477.

Chasmer, L., C. Hopkinson, W. Quinton, T. Veness*, and J. Baltzer, 2014. A decision-tree classification for low-lying complex land cover types within the zone of discontinuous permafrost. Remote Sensing of Environment. 143:73-84.

Brown, S.M., R. Petrone, L. Chasmer, C. Mendoza, M. Lazerjan, and D. Devito, 2014. Atmospheric and soil moisture controls on evapotransipiration above and within a Western Boreal Plain aspen forest. Hydrological Processes. 28(15):4449-4462 DOI_10.1002/hyp.9879.

Baltzer, J.L., T. Veness*, L. E. Chasmer, A. Sniderham, W. L. Quinton, 2014. Forests on thawing permafrost: fragmentation, edge effects and net forest loss. Global Change Biology. 20(3):824-834.

van Gorsel, E., A.J.A. Berni, P. Briggs, A. Cabello-Leblic, L. Chasmer, H.A. Cleugh, J. Hacker, S. Hantson, V. Haverd, D. Hughes, C. Hopkinson, H. Keith, N. Kljun, R. Leuning, M. Yebra, and S. Zegelin, 2013. Primary and secondary effects of climate variability on carbon and water exchange in an evergreen Eucalyptus forest. Agricultural and Forest Meteorology, Special Issue on Carbon and Water Coupling. 182-183:248-256.

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