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Purdue names Songlin Fei Dean’s Chair of Remote Sensing

The sheer size of the world’s forests makes measuring them with any accuracy a significant challenge. But it’s a challenge Purdue’s Songlin Fei has risen to, knowing that those forests impact the global economy, climate change mitigation, wildlife conservation, recreation and more.

Fei’s vision is to bring remote sensing technology to a field that has long used tape measures and labor-intensive inventories to sample even small portions of forests. His efforts, including pioneering use of sensing technology in natural resources measuring, mapping and modeling and leading interdisciplinary digital forestry efforts have earned Fei the Dean’s Chair of Remote Sensing.

“Remote sensing is a critical component for digital agriculture and forestry,” said Karen Plaut, the Glenn W. Sample Dean of Purdue’s College of Agriculture. “Dr. Fei’s leadership  will help us expand Purdue’s reach and reputation in this area.”

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Songlin Fei, a forest ecologist in the Department of Forestry and Natural Resources, has been named the winner of the 2020 Agricultural Research Award. (Purdue Agricultural Communication photo/Tom Campbell)

Fei joined Purdue University’s Department of Forestry and Natural Resources faculty in 2011 and has focused his research on forest ecology, invasion ecology and geospatial analytics. His remote sensing research includes the development of tools and algorithms to analyze multi-platform, multi-sensor and multi-scale remote sensing data, as well as the application of remote sensing products in ecological research. His lab has pioneered multiple fronts in the application of remote sensing in large-scale ecology and forestry studies, such as the use of aerial images to map invasive plants, the use of low-resolution LiDAR data for individual tree recognition, and the use of LiDAR data to measure structural diversity. .

 “These remote sensing technologies will play important roles in bringing forestry into the digital age and addressing problems that touch every person on the planet,” Fei said. “This is an honor and an important milestone in my career.”

Over the last year, Fei has formed and led Purdue’s Integrated Digital Forestry (iDiF) group, which includes researchers from agriculture, engineering, computer science, aviation technology, information science and other fields to collaborate on issues surrounding remote sensing, big data and artificial intelligence in forestry. He says his new position will help expand those efforts.

 “This is an opportunity to get various people within the college and across the university to work together on bringing forestry into a new technological era,” Fei said. “The creation of this chair shows that our college leaders are paying attention to and bringing leadership to this important area.”

The College of Agriculture has also announced that Fei will receive this year’s Purdue Agricultural Research Award. The distinction is for mid-career faculty members who have shown excellence in applying scientific principles to solve important research problems. Recipients have made significant contributions to agriculture, natural resources and the quality of life for Indiana citizens.

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