Drawing shapes around vegetation

One of the tasks we ask you to do in Season Spotter (Image Marking) is to draw a shape around each area of an image that contains vegetation. Why do we ask that?


Most of our images come from the PhenoCam network. These are known cameras at specific sites overlooking views that have at least some vegetation. Many of these sites use our cameras and protocols. Others use similar cameras and similar protocols.

But we also have a set of about 1,300 cameras that we know almost nothing about. These cameras are publicly available webcams with images saved in the Archive of Many Outdoor Scenes (AMOS). These cameras have known geo-coordinates, so we know roughly where they are. And some of them broadcast a name. But that’s about all we know.

Because these AMOS cameras take images daily (and sometimes more often), they might be used to track vegetation phenology. If we could use all these cameras to track vegetation, it would greatly expand our network from about 200 cameras to 1,500 — and from a North America focus to a global one!

Of course, we know that some of these cameras aren’t going to be very useful. Some contain no vegetation at all — or only indoor vegetation that might be plastic! But many do contain real plants and trees. Even the highly managed golf course can give us information about how vegetation is responding to weather and climate.

That’s why we ask you to draw a shape around each type of vegetation. We’re trying to answer three questions:

  1.  Is there any vegetation in this image that might give us scientific data?
  2.  What type(s) of vegetation is there?
  3.  Is this camera stable enough to run its images through automated processing?

We have randomly selected one image per month from each AMOS camera, so for this third question, we compare the shapes drawn from one image to the next. If the shapes more-or-less line up, then we know the camera doesn’t move around much and we can apply our automated techniques to see if we can get a “greenness” signal from the area inside that shape.

I’m looking forward to seeing what we find in the AMOS image trove!


About Margaret Kosmala

I am an ecologist exploring the complex dynamics of plant and animal systems. I am especially interested in understanding how species communities change over time and how humans impact them.
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