By: Dmitri Ilushin
Kenya? Been there. Japan? Seen that. Michigan highway I-96? Saw that last week. The best part is that I can do all this without leaving the comfort of my computer.
My research at the forest involves trying to extract the day that leaves come out and when they fall off. The thing is, we don’t really notice when the world gets just a bit hotter each year ourselves, but trees and other types of plants react pronouncedly to any subtle changes in average temperatures. I study these reactions by looking at pictures of trees over time from cameras located all around the world. In doing so, I try to grab a signal from these photos that can tell me what the rhythm of the seasons is like. This is a new technique that I am trying to understand how accurately this describes what’s going on around us. One of the major issues that I have to try to address comes from the lack of control from the cameras. These cameras are all controlled by other people, free to do whatever they want to with the cameras; sometimes they rotate their view, other times they stop streaming photos altogether. With all these different cameras and their intricacies, my work this summer will involve creating processes to filter out relevant information from the 60,000,000+ photos and then smooth out the resulting data to find out just when spring and fall happen all around the world. By getting a better idea of just what happens as the earth continues to heat up, we can hopefully get a better idea of how to best keep our earth sustainable for life indefinitely.
A tree in all four seasons.
You might be thinking to yourself, why is this guy at a biological summer program? It sounds like he just works with computers and pictures. Well, I actually am an applied mathematics/computer science major at school; it just so happens that even biologists need computer shamans, those select people that have an affinity for communicating with the spirits of technology. Really, I see myself as a toolkit-other people employ my skills to suit their project, and with a little thought and elbow grease, I can get anything done. Really, many fields are more cross-disciplinary than we think, and applying myself in an unfamiliar area opens up a new way of thinking.