Monitoring plant stress

Monitoring ecosystem function with high resolution over large spatial scale is extremely difficult due to the inherent cost and complexity managing ground-based operations and sensors. To overcome these challenges, I use computational spatial methods to characterize the vegetation function and the effect of physiology on the optical and thermal properties of plants. These characterizations enable the ability to track vegetation responses to various threats.

Temperature condition index (TCI) for nine image dates with ecoregion boundaries shown in black.

Current Work

In 2012 – 2015, California experienced a severe drought. Using fused hyperspectral and thermal airborne imagery, I performed a large scale analysis of plant species’ annual and seasonal temperature variability throughout a prolonged drought in Southern California. This work integrates not only remote sensing products but in situ and field measurements. Results revealed the heterogeneity of water stress across the landscape as the drought progressed, highlighting areas more prone to wildfires, as well as insight into structural and geographical determinants of plant stress.


Meerdink, S.K., Roberts, D.A., King, J. Y., Gader, P.D., and Caylor, K. (submitted). Monitoring water stress of Southern California plant species during the 2013 – 2015 drought.