Ground vegetation on the Barrenlands near Daring Lake, NWT  (Photo:  Susan Beaumont, WRRB) Ground vegetation on the Barrenlands near Daring Lake, NWT (Photo: Susan Beaumont, WRRB)


In our Spring newsletter, we neglected to acknowledge Dr. H. Peter White’s assistance with our story on a research project that’s investigating the extent of mining-related dust disturbance on the Bathurst caribou range.  Thank you, Peter, for the interesting information you provided on hyperspectral remote sensing, a new technology that’s giving researchers a more detailed picture of the land surface.

Here is Peter’s explanation of how this advanced optical Earth observation technology works and its potential benefits. 

Much of traditional remote sensing uses structure to help identify features, such as the size of a lake, or the breadth of a forest habitat, or the extent of a geological fault. In optical remote sensing, colour is also useful but there were only a limited number of colours available. In more advanced optical remote sensing, such as hyperspectral, there are often over 200 colours used to image the Earth’s surface, from the visible to the infrared regions of the spectrum. So hyperspectral remote sensing can extract information about subtle (or extreme) colour changes to help us examine a scene, much the same way we do every day with our eyes when we admire the shades of colour in a landscape.  

With this increased range of colours, we can now model more directly such things as regions exhibiting stressed vegetation, regional foliage distribution, or detect specific spectral features in surficial (on the surface) geology to aid in mapping mineral potential in exploration. In the case of mining disturbances, we are planning to evaluate the use of hyperspectral remote sensing to help detect the "spectral signature" of waste rock dust throughout the area, as well as to detect areas of stressed vegetation within the zone of influence of the mine. 

Hyperspectral remote sensing represents a new frontier among environmental monitoring techniques. Peter notes that

As a new technology, we see the potential benefits of using hyperspectral remote sensing to contribute information to better understand mining impacts on the surrounding environment, and we look forward to advancing the research to turn that potential into a reality.

-Dr. H. Peter White, Research Scientist, NRCan

Fact Box

  • Hyperspectral sensors look at objects using a vast portion of the electromagnetic spectrum.  Certain objects leave unique 'fingerprints' in the electromagnetic spectrum. Known as spectral signatures, these 'fingerprints' enable identification of the materials that make up a scanned object 
  • The full electromagnetic spectrum covers all manmade and natural electromagnetic waves, including radio, microwave, infrared, visible, ultraviolet, x-rays, and gamma-rays.