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This is a story about how studying a buried city in the jungle led to an urgent call to utilize a new technology to map our earth.

Archaeologist Christopher Fisher was astounded by LiDAR technology when he used it to map an ancient city covered by sense forest canopy in Honduras.

This podcast explores what happened next. Listen and learn

  • How he was able to use LiDAR to digitally strip away jungle and forest to create a 3D image of an ancient city,
  • Why he thinks there’s an urgent need to use this same technology to create significant laser mapping of the earth, and
  • What campaign, timeline, and project goals his group, The Earth Archive, is currently working on and how listeners can participate.

Christopher Fisher is an archaeologist and professor of anthropology at the Colorado State University. He’s also the director of The Earth Archive, a group working for our future human society and environment by scanning and curating LiDAR data of planet Earth. After seeing its potential in archaeological discoveries, he says it “really opened my eyes to see how we could use this to map our earth, to create a 3D digital twin of the planet that we can study today and curate for future generations.” It has several other applications scientists can now use, from cultural anthropology to biology and geography, but he’s looking to the future. His enthusiasm lead him to create a nonprofit to engineer just that, and tells listeners about his efforts to move forward. 

He describes how helpful archeologists have found it, but his long-term perspective into the past gives him a similar long-term perspective towards mapping information for future generations. Because of climate change, future human societies and environments may benefit from views of what our earth looks like right now. He says there’s a limited time we have to scan the earth and map what it looks like to pass this information to our grandchildren, to help them reconstruct the earth and address the changes.

He explains how the technology itself works: basically, from some sort of airborne platform, they fire down a very dense grid of infrared beams. When one strikes an object, it returns to the aircraft and provides a measure of distance. A cloud of points provides a 3D map. He says their first goal is to map the entire amazon basin starting in the spring of 2021. Interested listeners can sign up for their newsletter and find more information on their website: The Earth Archive.

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