EarthCube Advancing the Analysis of HRT Workshop #2


EarthCube Research Coordination Network Workshop #2 - Advancing the Analysis of High Resolution Topography (A2 HRT)

May 8-10, 2023
Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ

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Technologies such as lidar, multibeam sonar, structure from motion photogrammetry, and synthetic aperture radar have transformed the acquisition of high resolution terrain, bathymetry, and vegetation structure data. Petabytes of data have been collected, but their full scientific utilization is still limited. This A2 HRT Workshop is organized through an NSF-funded EarthCube Research Coordination Network (RCN) to bring together the Earth science community to discuss technical challenges and cyberinfrastructure requirements to answer scientific questions, coordinate research activities, and share best practices and resources. Following a hiatus due to the pandemic, this is the second workshop in the series that began with a workshop in 2018 in Colorado. This 2.5 day workshop will emphasize training in processing and applications of HRT with open source software, with the goal of advancing the use of HRT for earth science research and education. Hands-on training topics include:

  • Using PDAL (Point Data Abstraction Library) and GDAL (Geospatial Data Abstraction Library) to build point cloud and raster data processing pipelines
  • Using LidR, an R package, for point cloud processing, with a focus on deriving vegetation and topographic information
  • Integration of HRT data into models with Landlab
  • Topographic differencing and understanding error budgets

We also plan a poster session and abundant time for networking and discussion. Keynote talks will begin each day. Early career and persons from underrepresented communities are strongly encouraged to apply. The workshop will be in-person. A remote option will not be available.

NSF EarthCube RCN (NSF-EAR #1642611)
OpenTopography (NSF-EAR #1948994)
NCALM (NSF-EAR #1830734)

Paola Passalacqua, UT Austin
Nancy Glenn, Boise State University
Christopher Crosby, OpenTopography / EarthScope Consortium
Melissa Weber, EarthScope Consortium


Monday, May 8th

Tuesday, May 9th

Wednesday, May 10th

On Monday and Tuesday we plan to split the workshop participants into two groups, one taking the PDAL training, and the other focused on lidR. The following day the groups will switch so that all participants get exposure to these software packages. The half day trainings on Wednesday morning will be elective - participants will be asked to decide to choose between the topographic differencing and Landlab trainings.


    Introduction to the Point Cloud Data Abstraction Library (PDAL) for processing and analysis of HRT
    The focus of this workshop is getting users comfortable with with using PDAL - an open source package for translating and manipulating point cloud data - to develop processing, analysis, and visualization workflows, with applications to Earth science-oriented use cases.

    LidR for Vegetation and Topography
    LidR: Learn the open-source R package and how to manipulate point clouds for terrain and vegetation characterization. In this hands-on workshop, we will cover:

      1. Reading, validating, and plotting LAS files
      2. Ground classification methods
      3. Creating digital terrain and surface models and canopy height models
      4. Individual tree segmentation and detection methods
      5. Vegetation metrics from point clouds at the pixel, tree, and voxel levels

    We will discuss the challenges of using different point cloud sources (e.g., UAS, ground-based lidar, airborne lidar, etc.) with these tools.

    Vertical Topographic Differencing, Error Budgets, Vertical Datums
    This 2.5 hour workshop will begin with lectures on vertical differencing, reference frames, and datums. In the following hands-on session, participants will learn how to conduct vertical differencing of high resolution topography in QGIS. We will explore cases where topographic data are ready for differencing and cases that require a projection of the vertical coordinate reference system prior to differencing.

    Model-Data Integration with Landlab
    This workshop will be divided into two parts. In the first half we will provide a brief tutorial introduction to the theory and implementation of Landlab for landscape evolution modeling. We will cover grid representation, working with data fields, and using Landlab components to create new integrated models. In the second half we will turn our focus to how we can incorporate high-resolution topography data into the Landlab environment. In both parts participants will be able to run hands-on examples and be free to write and run their own Landlab code. This clinic is intended both for beginners, who may have little to no experience using the Landlab library, as well as for more advanced Landlab users. Prior experience with Python programming will be helpful.

On Monday evening we will have a poster session with heavy appetizers to encourage networking and sharing of participant's research related to HRT data. We strongly encourage all participants to present an example of their use of HRT data. This could be new work or previously presented work (e.g., recycling a presentation from another meeting - no harm in reusing something already presented elsewhere!). Posters should be 4 feet wide and 3 feet tall, but we expect to have the capacity to accommodate posters of other dimensions.


Workshop will be held in the Interdisciplinary Science and Technology Building IV (ISTB4) on the campus of Arizona State University with lodging at the Vīb Hotel in downtown Tempe, AZ.

The Vib hotel is located 4.3 mile(s) from Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport and is easily accessible via taxi, ride share, or via the Valley Metro Light Rail (take the Light Rail to Tempe 3rd Street Station which is a leisurely five minute walk from the front door of the hotel).

Participants will need to make their way from the Vib hotel to the Interdisciplinary Science and Technology Building IV (ISTB4) on the ASU campus every day. Options:

The workshop is free to attend and partial financial support to offset the cost of travel will be available. Participation by graduate students and early career scientists is encouraged. Participant support will be available to offset the cost of travel. Prior experience with high resolution topography data and analysis is expected. Applications for the workshop are now closed.