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Session Description: The monitoring of forest ecosystems is an important fixture in current global conservation management. Forests, as sentinel indicators of Nature's health and status, provide valuable environmental (they sequester carbon, host biodiverse communities, and localize water cycles), economic (when used for timber harvest) and social services (recreation, traditional resource use and spirituality). Often, earth observations of forests, as collected from satellites, are used in conservation management, providing essential data to policy makers, conservationists, industry members and communities on the extent, health and change of global forests. Recent advents in earth observation technologies, such as Google Earth Engine (GEE), allow individuals anywhere around the globe, with just a computer and an internet connection, to monitor the forest ecosystems of interest to them. Compared to other spatial analysis programs, GEE allows users to easily process millions of satellite images and data products within Google’s data servers, relieving the computational burden on individual users.
This short course will focus on introducing users to GEE, showing users how they can leverage the platform for mapping forest extents, and monitoring forest health and change. Specifically, the session will include an introduction to geographic information systems and remote sensing, an introduction to coding programs in GEE, followed by tutorials of case applications to forest monitoring from local to global examples. Additionally, the course will include an introduction and orientation to the new open access book of Earth Engine tutorials (www.eefa-book.org). By the end of the session, users will be able to navigate the different panels and applications within Earth Engine, learn how to access the many different data products available to them, and be able to write a basic program to monitor forests in their area of interest. Compared to the other GEE short virtual course, this workshop focuses explicitly on forest monitoring, rather than species distribution models; more, this session is targeted towards beginners in Remote Sensing and/or GEE looking to learn about these tools for forest monitoring in their own research and/or work. Beyond forest monitoring, the tools learned in this workshop can be easily applied to other ecology subdisciplines, such as species conservation, landscape ecology and genetics, biodiversity loss/gains, land cover and land use change mapping, and disturbance ecology, to name a few. Finally, users will be shown a compendium of external resources, to help them continue learning GEE, so they may continue exploring the many different conservation and monitoring applications of the platform.