Remote ecosystems provide a number of obstacles for researchers wishing to study them — that’s why they’re still remote. Moving and maintaining equipment, limited low-impact observation methods and accurate controls are just a few examples. 

A team of researchers, including Matteo Convertino from the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, have developed software that utilizes satellite photos of an area to determine a broad range of observations.

Convertino is helping the team make better use of the images, according to the press release.

“There’s currently not a lot of satellite imagery used in ecological studies,” said Convertino, with UF’s agricultural and biological engineering department. “Part of the reason is, there’s a strong need to improve mathematical formulas for analyzing the data, and that’s what we’re doing here.”

Their current system uses light frequencies to find the number of plant species in an image, where they were and how many of each were in the area.

The method is being used in other areas too, from microscopic stem cells to the analysis of soil and water by satellite. 

Obviously these kinds of discoveries have extensive use in science, but I’d also be interested in its use for human population studies. Demographic measurements of busy pedestrian areas, such as theme parks, could be pretty useful.