Vinicius Amaral ’17
Civil and Environmental Engineering
Mapping Vegetation in African Drylands, Kenya
While in Kenya, I worked on a project that involved using an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) to map vegetation patterns with high temporal and spatial resolution. In a broad perspective, this project helped examine how climate change and warming are affecting vegetation growth and variability in African drylands. These factors serve as an indication of water and nutrient availability, which are important ecohydrological factors. As a field assistant for this project, I conducted vegetation surveys with the UAV, a quadcopter-style drone, by flying the UAV over plots of land while it took aerial images of the land surface. I then processed these images using a program that stitches the images together to produce an orthophoto, which resembles a high-resolution aerial map of the surface below. Given time and technological constraints, my goal was to figure out a workflow for conducting surveys and running images through the processing software. Ultimately, the UAV was to be flown over plots in regular weekly intervals to capture vegetation maps that could be compared across seasonal timescales. This experience has strengthened my interest in environmental engineering research and has made me more confident in the prospect of attending graduate school in the future.
Climate Change and Environmental Science
Caylor Ecohydrology Lab, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ and Kenya
Kelly Caylor, Professor, Civil and Environmental Engineering