GIS & Natural Resource Management

A faculty researcher at Selkirk Innovates, David Greaves is preparing to take students through the five-month Drone Technologies Program

Answer Your Big Questions

Selkirk Innovates is a leader in applied research related to geospatial technologies and natural resource management. Geospatial technology is all around us. We use it when we type an address into Google Maps on our cell phone or when we see a hotspot analysis of where crimes are occurring on a television show.

Our keen researchers, faculty and students specialize in helping our industry partners, local governments, national parks, nonprofits and small- to medium-sized businesses find data-driven solutions.

Research Regional Issues

Our students and faculty engage in applied research that meets a variety of regional interests across a wide array of industries. Our research is supported by NSERC, grants from other federal and provincial funding agencies, and local communities and businesses. We not only facilitate research, we develop new technology applications and provide customized training.

Using our highly specialized equipment to harness the power of geospatial technologies is key to solving complex regional issues related to our environment, natural resource management and social services.

Manage Complex Processes 

Our job is to take ideas, create new applications and answer important questions related to GIS and geospatial analysis being asked in our region and around the world. From innovative investigations to guide forest management in watersheds to groundbreaking methods to characterize ecological restoration and conservation prescriptions, we are at the leading edge of our technologies and use them to detect, monitor and manage complex patterns and processes.

We have many funding opportunities and can help you leverage funding based on your research needs. We also provide fee for service research in collaboration with our colleagues at the Selkirk Technology Access Centre (STAC).  We can offer unique support for applied research, technology development and training services including:

  • Geographic information system (GIS) based geospatial analysis

  • Internet mapping, including map-enabled web apps, data portals and web-based reporting and analysis

  • Print-based cartography

  • Spatially aware research

  • Remotely piloted aircraft systems (RPAS) or drones

  • Remote sensing, including LiDAR and multispectral imagery

  • Geospatial data analytics and process models

  • New software applications

  • Prototype technologies for commercialization by industry

  • Asset management for rural communities

  • 3D physical models

  • Custom courses in GIS, LiDAR acquisition and analysis, drone technology and applications, watershed geospatial analysis, forest stand characterization, risk management and asset management  

Our students and faculty engage in applied research that meets a variety of regional interests across a wide array of industries. 

Increase Productivity, Manage Land Base, Test Ideas

New and improved technology is disruptive and has the ability to change the way we do things. This can open up massive opportunities for innovation.

Such innovation comes from exploring opportunities to replace time-intensive traditional methods for completing tasks with streamlined GIS-based methods. Improving the bottom line for our industry partners is our primary focus and we are there to help explore whatever you can imagine. 

Technology adaptation and adoption is a big part of what we do at Selkirk Innovates. We help expose you to new technologies to find ways to increase your productivity and your ability to be stewards of the land bases you manage.

We also provide partners with opportunities to test and monitor different ideas. For example, we are helping Kalesnikoff—a local mass timber products and lumber company—develop a monitoring program to see which fire treatments are working. We offer the research and technology infrastructure, along with eager students, to manage and answer big questions.

Forestry Innovations Applied Research

Selkirk College’s forestry innovations research team supports industry partners, local government and small- to medium-sized businesses in the application of new, innovative technologies designed to enhance our forestry sector.

We work on industry-driven projects and conduct research in:

  • RPAS or drones

  • LiDAR

  • Visualization (including 2D, 3D and virtual reality)

  • Advanced computing (cloud services, geospatial data analytics, process models)

Many of our projects involve unmanned aerial systems. We use the sensor technology deployed on these systems to collect data for different analytics and processing to enable our partners’ regular workflows.

The Opportunities of Drone-Based LiDAR

A forestry company, for example, has a need for spring road surveys so they can determine where to build roads. LiDAR is a very useful technology for this. Traditionally, LiDAR is deployed from airplanes. It can be quite expensive and doesn’t offer high-resolution imagery since there’s only so many scan points on the ground per metre. However, with drone-based LiDAR, we’re able to get a much higher accuracy, and a higher point density, which gives us a better reading of what's actually there on the ground. This is opening up a whole array of different project opportunities.

Our team is highly curious and always developing new models to accurately see what’s going on in our landscapes using remote sensing, imagery and so much more.

Selkirk Innovates' geospatial technologies and natural resource management activities take place at the Applied Research & Innovation Centre (ARIC).

Research Spotlight

Open data

GIS and remote sensing technologies leverage spatial data to create value for businesses, government agencies and society in general. The geospatial technologies team has contributed to creating open data policies through its Open Data for Open Government project.

Open Data for Government

Wildfire urban-interface projects

New LiDAR data capture and analysis techniques appear well suited to evaluate and monitor wildfire urban interface (WUI) treatments. WUI treatments are currently assessed by establishing a low number of sample plots that capture limited empirical data before treatment. The treatment prescription specifies what to remove, and the post-treatment assessment is a visual verification that the prescription was followed.

This approach captures limited information on actual quantities of fuels. Selkirk College and its WUI project partnering organizations are exploring the use of LiDAR for quantifying fuel/biomass volumes and weights before and after fuel-loading mitigation treatments. Measuring the quantity of lower-canopy fine fuels (<12 cm in diametre) that support ground fires and can initiate crown fires is of particular interest. This information could also be used in a subsequent project to model fire behaviour pre- and post-treatment, thereby quantifying the efficacy of treatment regimes.

Hydrological recovery

Partnering Organizations: Kaslenikoff Lumber Co., BC Timber Sales, Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development

In snowmelt-dominated regions, forest removal affects the hydrology of a watershed including the frequency of flooding (Green and Alila, 2012). To date, there have been few published studies in the Kootenay-Boundary Region geared at quantifying incremental changes in snow accumulation and melt in forest openings and regenerating stands. This lack of information on hydrological recovery results in uncertainty regarding sustainable rates of cut in watersheds.

Traditional methods of assessing these impacts have relied on labour-intensive, field-based surveys of snow water equivalent (SWE) conducted over many years. Recent technological advances in stand-level snow depth monitoring using airborne LiDAR surveys allows the question of hydrological recovery to be addressed much more rapidly than traditional field-based studies.

Regionally applicable data on the influence of forest stand height, canopy density and stand density on processes of snow accumulation and melt will reduce uncertainty concerning the potential for harvesting-related impacts to aquatic values, including volume and timing of runoff. This project proposes to explore the use of mobile and UAV LiDAR in forested mountain stands during the snowmelt period over a range of forest stand heights to determine if this technology can be applied by quickly and cost effectively by forest licensees to assess the condition of hydrological recovery in forested mountain watersheds.

Read the report.

Long-term monitoring of prescribed fire effects on whitebark forests

Whitebark pine is an essential part of subalpine ecosystems in western North America. This high-elevation keystone species’ seeds provide an important food source for a number of animals, including squirrels, grizzly bears and, in particular, the bird species Clark's nutcracker. Whitebark pine plays an important role in watershed protection by aiding soil stability and facilitating a more rapid return to forested landscapes following disturbances on southern exposures, where harsh conditions may otherwise limit seed germination. However, whitebark pine is now recognized as a federally endangered species that is threatened by an introduced blister rust species, fire suppression and forest ingrowth—and by rapid global climate change.

Research at Selkirk College is focused on the long-term monitoring of prescribed fire effects on whitebark forests in the Rocky Mountain National Parks, creating predictive models of the occurrence of whitebark pine in the Rocky Mountains and the West Kootenays, and using satellite and drone imagery to attempt better fine-scale detection of the pine’s occurrence on the landscape to help managers facilitate the restoration of this important tree and as associated ecosystem.

Beyond visible line of sight (BVLOS)

This simulated BVLOS trial enabled our team to further the development of guidelines and procedures necessary for BVLOS operations. These SOPs, accompanied by appropriate training and experience, as well as technologies including detect and avoid systems are required to safely operate BVLOS even in remote areas. Integrating supplementary risk assessment procedures during the site survey process guides operators in making objective and systematic judgements to which they can be held accountable for.

136 Ha were surveyed at two separate locations (80 Ha at Rover Creek, 56 Ha at Trapper Creek). Four RGB orthomosaics (2.5 cm/px) and three additional mapping products including a brushing map, density map, and vigor map were generated. Cost comparison of simulated vs. BVLOS operational costs was explored. Traditional ground-based silviculture surveys were completed on sites for future project phases to evaluate if some or all forest metrics can be effectively replicated remotely via RPAS imagery analysis methods. Cost-benefit analysis of aerial field data collection, data processing, and information product development could then be compared to traditional ground-based survey methodologies to examine the forest sector specific business case potential for BVLOS operations.

Forest health

Collection of RPAS imagery within 60 metres of forest service roads in specified Monticola forest tenure regions to identify areas with potential salvage logging opportunities. The collected imagery was used to generate several orthomosaics from which the company could visually identify diseased or dead mature stems. Future project work is to include the investigation of automation solutions to replace the visual RGB aerial imagery identification component for future forestry salvage surveys with a software assisted approach including the use of additional sensor data, such as LiDAR and multispectral imagery, to enhance classification.