Sunday, May 7, 2023

Friends of Pando release 360 degree photographic data

St. George:

Armed with a mission, researchers, volunteers and citizen scientists navigated a trembling giant’s rough terrain, toting high-tech camera equipment and collecting data. Recently, Friends of Pando released the first of many data sets from the survey, allowing individuals from across the globe to study and experience one of the world’s largest organisms — Pando — from the comfort of their living rooms.

The Pando photographic survey is a hugely impressive scientific and artistic accomplishment, cataloging vast swathes of the Pando organism with enough detail and precision to enable rigorous analyses through the exploitation of modern imaging methods. 

Despite its massive size, weighing an estimated 13 million pounds and consisting of over 40,000 trees, Pando is a single organism, according to the Forest Service. The tree, the largest known aspen clone, was germinated from a single seed. It regenerates via “suckering,” where it sends up new shoots, or saplings, from its root system. Pando means “I spread” in Latin.

The tree, first observed in 1976, is thousands of years old and boasts an estimated 47,000 branches, the release states. “Little is known about the workings of the tree,” and the survey will mark the first time the organism has been inventoried.


Developed in collaboration with Fishlake National Forest and Snow College Richfield, the record offers immediate and long-term value for field and remote research efforts. Documenting Pando every 7m with high accuracy, Oditt says the plot map itself has already been used for field research planning. Long-term, the maps and image data sets can be replicated to monitor Pando for generations to come. For remote research, the system offers a flexible model that allows scientists to use the data sets as provided or, mix-and-match recorded locations to design areas of interest. This work, which explores the use of advanced imaging models and statistical techniques, can provide insights on topics such as disease, regeneration and ground cover.

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