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Photo courtesy of NEON operated by Battelle

Airborne Observation Platform (AOP) footprint or AOP landscape 

Space defined by an AOP flightbox with a typical surface area of around 100 km2. These are the landscapes surveyed by the AOP approximately every 2 years. (Source: NEON Science Data

Academic  extraction 

Situations in which academics take information from local communities for personal gain without conveying benefit to participating communities. Through applying a translational ecology approach, LENS intends to avoid academic extraction.

Archetypal analysis 

A synthetic analysis that draws from a diverse set of data, explanations and methods to identify and describe patterns of components and processes that shape SES and contribute to outcomes. It allows comparisons across many different cases to develop generalized and transferable knowledge.

Boundary object 

A boundary object is a product or tool that enables effective communication between scientists and various stakeholders. For example, maps act as boundary objects connecting stakeholders and scientists even when both groups use them in different ways. For stakeholders, maps may help conceptualize the landscape and identify places where activities they consider important take place. For scientists, maps may be objects from which to draw measurements. 

Canopy chemistry

Vegetation canopies (the upper layers of leaves in forests, shrublands, and grasslands) can be characterized by their chemical composition, including concentrations of water, nutrients, and organic molecules. AOP has the ability to measure canopy chemistry at landscape scales.

Vegetation structure

In the context of remote sensing, vegetation structure refers to the three dimensional position of vegetation elements (leaves, stems, branches), including variables such as height, number and position of vertical layering, and clumpiness.

Ecosystem services

Benefits people obtain from nature. Benefits are tied to specific (ecosystem) functions in nature and are grouped into one of four categories identified under the UN Millennium Ecosystem Assessment: provisioning, regulating, cultural and supporting services. 

Imaging spectroscopy / hyperspectral remote sensing 

Characteristics and behavior of electromagnetic radiation depends on the wavelength of light. Imaging spectrometers (instruments that collect hyperspectral remote sensing data) collect data continuously across defined regions of the electromagnetic spectrum. These regions are called wavelength bands, and include visible light (what we can see), near infrared, and shortwave infrared wavelengths. Each wavelength band supports characterization of different features of the earth’s surface. Hyperspectral data break these broad wavelength bands into many hundreds of specific wavelengths, each measured individually by the sensor.

Invasive species 

An invasive species is an organism that is not native to an area and does ecological or economic harm. (Source: NOAA, USDA Forest Service)

Land cover 

Land cover refers to the physical or biological characteristics of the ground surface. Land cover is what we see from remote sensing platforms (airplanes and satellites). (Source: NOAA)

Land use

Land use refers to how people use the land.  (Source: NOAA). It represents the economic and cultural activities (e.g., agricultural, residential, industrial, mining, and recreational uses) that are practiced at a given place. (Source: EPA)

Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) data  

LiDAR data is a three-dimensional representation of the earth’s surface and overlaying vegetation (trees, shrubs, etc.) or built environment (buildings & other infrastructure).  LiDAR is collected through the use of a scanning laser. The two-way travel time of the laser light is used to calculate the precise location of each reflective surface.

Metadata standards 

Metadata is data about data. Metadata standards provide a common set of guidelines by which data is described or documented to facilitate sharing data with others. 

NEON Airborne Observation Platform (AOP) 

Assemblage of earth observation instruments installed into a light aircraft designed to collect high resolution remote sensing data at low altitude. The main instruments are a discrete and full-waveform lidar, an imaging spectrometer, and a high-resolution digital camera. (Source: NEON Science Data)  

Remote sensing

The use of sensors such as cameras, spectrometers, and other sensor types on drones, aircraft, or satellites to collect data remotely. Remote sensing data are used to answer many types of questions at landscape scales. (Source: NEON Science Data

Socio-environmental systems (SES)

These are systems characterized by the relationships, interactions, and feedbacks between biophysical (natural) and social (human) system components. 


A group or individual that is impacted by, or has an interest in, the environmental outcomes of a location or area. When research is focused on an area, its stakeholders become associated with the research as well. Two types of stakeholders exist: internal stakeholders who represent members of the organization or research team, and external stakeholders who represent the knowledge users of the research (e.g., policy makers). (Source: SESYNC)

Stakeholder engagement 

Process by which an organization involves people who may be affected by the decisions it makes or can influence the implementation of those decisions. (Source: Wikipedia

Translational ecology

Approach in which ecologists, stakeholders, and decision makers work together to develop ecological research that addresses the sociological, ecological, and political contexts of an environmental problem that ideally results in improved environment-related decision making. (Source: Enquist, et al. 2017)