Public Lab Wiki documentation

Barnraising 2011

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Blog post by Stephen Debique on the barn raising, cross-posted from

From October 21st to 23rd Public Laboratory Staff, members and local and technical specialists will be gathering in Asheville, North Carolina to have some fun while developing and testing a DIY, low cost infrared camera.

Infrared photography can help assess a plant’s health, and has been used on satellites and planes for agricultural and ecological assessment, mainly by vineyards, large farms and large-scale (read: expensive) research projects. By creating a low-cost camera and working in situ on wetland restoration, brownfield remediation, and a local organic farm Thatchmore we hope to explore grassroots uses for this kind of technology. What could farmers or activists do with this kind of data if the equipment costs as little as $100?

We will be working on site along the banks of Asheville’s French Broad River with an non-profit community organization dedicated to restoring the river’s wetlands and remediating brownfield sites along the banks, RIVER LINK. Over two days we aim to further prototype, develop and examine the usefulness of low cost infrared imaging from our Grassroot mapping balloons and kites for the regional brownfield remediation, wetland restoration and small scale farming.

The Barnraising will be a small gathering of 20-25 participants with a broad range of expertise from participatory design, wetlands restoration, spectral and Infrared Imaging, organic farming, botany, community organizing and environmental activism. The Barnraising will involve lightening talks by participants on their background and field of expertise, workshops, field testing, data analysis and interpretation as well as celebratory feasting!

Fieldwork sites:

Tentative Schedule:

Friday 21st 5:30pm: meeting at Riverlink 6pm: Lightning talks at Riverlink- in the next couple of days we’ll send out a couple questions that we’d like everyone to respond to, but basically we’ll each discuss a bit about our personal work, what we hope to get out of the weekend and future goals that we have with tool use. 3-5 minute talks. 7pm: Short presentation on the history of rivers in Asheville and a site overview for morning mapping 7:45pm: Dinner.

Saturday 22nd (Mapping and Workshop) 8:30am: Breakfast at Riverlink (editable Google map) 9am-12pm: RiverLink volunteers (10-15 people) will participate in aerial and ground mapping using visible and infrared cameras. 12-1pm: Lunch- A Venezuelan food truck will meet us at the river 1pm: until we are exhausted: Infrared camera tool development where we will focus on topics such as wavelength, stabilizing rigs, interpretation and uses

In the next couple of days, we might ask a couple of you to give short talks on your areas of expertise to help the group have some information to begin working from.

6:00pm: A couple of us will break away to begin making dinner 7:00pm: Dinner, drinks and a campfire hosted at Adam Griffith's house

Sunday 23rd (Farm visit and prototype testing) 9am: Breakfast 9:30-10:30am: Morning synopsis of what was done in the tool development session on Saturday afternoon 11am-1pm: Mapping at Thatchmore Farm (editable Google map) and testing out our new prototypes 2-3:30pm: Work on glitches in new prototypes from morning mapping 3:30-4pm: Wrap-up session and where do we go from here? What are the next steps in developing out this tool?

Confirmed Attendees:

Liz Barry - Public Lab - NYC Jessica Breen - Western Carolina University - Cullowhee, NC Shannon Dosemagen - Public Lab - New Orleans Stephen Debique - GIS/permaculture - Trinidad Matt Decker - Yale School of Forestry - New Haven, CT Olivia Everett - Public Lab - Butte Adam Griffith - Public Lab - Asheville Nancy Hodges - Riverlink - Asheville Laura Sanders - Landscape Architect - Asheville Diane Styers - WCU Remote Sensing - Asheville Jeff Warren - Public Lab - Somerville, MA Anastasia Yarbrough - GO! - Asheville, NC

Sara Wylie - Public Lab - Providence, RI (via Skype) Dr. Alex Kolker - LUMCON - Cocodrie/New Orleans (via Skype) Mathew Lippincot - Public Lab - Portland, OR (via Skype)

Travel and Accommodations



  • Data sets -- coming soon

    • Jeff: non-Carrier Park images -- remove low-altitude images
    • Stephen, Matt, Ashley: Thatchmore farms map sorting - on MapMill
    • Riverlink/Saturday photos all go on MapMill
  • Contact info - everyone will be added to the "" mailing list. Can we see if we can get Tom/Ashley on it?

  • Distribute campfire photos!

  • Site-specific goals at French Broad River:

    • ID invasive species, conservation easements
    • MSD-sewage, straight-pipe sewage for tracking
    • species classification -- Diane's class? All open source --
  • Research goals:

    • high-res DEM for farmers using bundle adjustment
    • reclamation sites - quantify lost biomass and diversity
      • bundle adjustment for canopy/biomass plus 4-band classification for diversity...
    • crop health - relate to Thatchmore farm?
      • phosphorus limited? $5 test vs. maybe ground-based IR camera system?
    • Try blue-blocking single-camera IR setup. Need a way to get a pure non-infrared channel.
  • How easy is this process? Could we imagine a simpler one -- take 2 photos with a tape-marked spot to position the camera, then upload 2 to or something and get a composite back immediately. Could require a little bit of adjustment.

Research Notes and Links

"The imaging analyst must always be conscious of the fact that the many components of the remote sensing process act as a system and therefore cannot be isolated from one another...the analyst must intimately know not only the capabilities of each imaging system and how it should be deployed but also the subject matter to be examined and the specific needs of those who will use the results of the project" (Campbell et al. 2011).

Below are some links and brief notes that may help in our post barn raising attempts to develop a grassroots low-cost remote sensing process.