This article in the Irish Times caught my eye because it involves lidar and ecology, or more specifically ecologists which is a career that my son is pursuing. The concern is that the use of technology such as lidar and UAVs is resulting in a loss of hands on field skills in favor of the use of remote sensing. From the point of view of my son’s experience the past few summers working for the Forest Service I can report that this has not been the case. In fact, if anything I have thought there was a need for more technology.
Not everyone is comfortable with the rise of techno-ecology. One or two ecologists stayed away from a recent conference, fearing that technology is distracting the profession from its core tasks in science and conservation. And one presenter referred to the risk that technology, not ecology, may become the driving force in a project.
The institute itself has recently produced a report called Closing the Gap: Rebuilding Ecological Skills in the 21st Century that could be taken to support this view.
It presents “compelling and alarming evidence” that basic field skills – even the ability to identify key species – have declined drastically among ecologists in recent years. Some veterans ascribe this decline to an obsession with computer modelling and ever- fancier gadgets.
However, most of the presenters at the conference argued that, used judiciously, technological advances presented options that were unimaginable only very recently. They may even make it possible to restore what hitherto appeared to be to be irreversible losses of ecosystems and biodiversity.
I suppose I am biased, but I tend to think the benefits will far outweigh the negatives if one applies the technology wisely.