The Urban Forest Digital Twin

Ecological Society of America, Portland, Oregon August 7, 2023

Keynote slides for Mike Hamilton's talk at the Ecological Society of America meeting, Portland Convention Center, August 7, 2023 (click to advance slides)

The Urban Forest Digital Twin: Technologies to build virtual forests for urban forestry, STEM education, and public outreach

Abstract: The Urban Forest Digital Twin technology is an emerging and promising suite of tools that can revolutionize urban forest management, research, and public outreach. This technology integrates Geographic Information Systems (GIS), consumer and enterprise drones, 360 spherical videography, digital photogrammetry, neural radiance fields, interactive game engines, and wireless sensor networks. Using these elements, we are constructing an immersive virtual replica of an urban forest that can be updated efficiently in response to dynamic changes in forest growth, phenology, health, urban construction impacts, and climate effects at a practical resolution for managers, researchers, educators, and public communicators. This presentation will showcase our progress in exploring these technologies to study an urban forest. A 2-hectare study site on the Clackamas Community College campus was seasonally digitized in 2022 at a sufficient spatial and geometric resolution to serve as a monitoring baseline for particular forest health conditions. Invasive species and environmental stressors such as air quality, extreme heat, and ice storms significantly impact the health of native and planted forests in the Portland, Oregon, neighborhoods. Accurate digital models can improve planning and management practices to understand and potentially mitigate current and future forest impacts. In addition to enhancing urban forestry management, the Urban Forest Digital Twin technology has enormous potential in STEM education and public outreach. We have used this virtual forest as an educational tool to teach students about forest ecology and environmental conservation, thereby raising awareness of urban forests' importance. The Urban Forest Digital Twin technology can be an innovative and powerful toolset to analyze and visualize urban forests. Its combination of technologies makes it cost-effective, scalable, accessible, and useful for decision-makers, researchers, educators, and public communicators. We intend to show that this technology can improve how urban forests are maintained, researched, and publicized.

Demo Portals

ArcGIS Storymaps