Even as the lure of mastering agroforestry practices inspires Virginia Tech students by the dozens to plant trees on Virginia Tech’s 377-acre Catawba Sustainability Center, sky-high drones complement the earthbound digging.
More than four separate research projects involving drones and LIDAR technology touch on water-quality protection, food harvests from fruit and nut trees, wetlands restoration, and more.
Faculty members central to the projects are:
- John Munsell, associate professor and Virginia Cooperative Extension forest management specialist in the College of Natural Resources and Environment, who leads $1.4 million in grants to expand uses of agroforestry to produce farm-and-forest products while practicing conservation
- Cully Hession, professor of biological systems engineering, who employs LIDAR in research that straddles the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and the College of Engineering
- Nicholas Polys, director of visual computing with the Virginia Tech Research Computing Group, who teaches computer science in the College of Engineering
Entities underwriting the research include the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, Virginia Department of Forestry, USDA National Agroforestry Center, the Dominion Foundation, and Outreach and International Affairs at Virginia Tech.