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SPIE Fellows Lunch

Chris Fisher presents at 2018 SPIE Optics + Photonics Fellows Luncheon

Archeologist Chris Fisher, a professor at the University of Colorado, discussed LiDAR technology and its transformative impact on archeology and other sciences at the 2018's SPIE Optics + Photonics Fellows Luncheon, emphasizing the critical importance of using the light-based technology to "scan, scan, scan" the Earth now, "in high resolution." We need, Fisher said, "to preserve everything we can to understand Earth as it exists now, to provide baseline data so that we can understand global change, and preserve what we know" for future scientists wielding future technologies. 

During the lunch, the organization welcomed ten new Fellows into the SPIE fold, including new board member Judy Fennelly. Following a moment of silence to honor Fellows who passed away this year, SPIE President Maryellen, SPIE President-Elect Jim Oschmann and SPIE Vice President John Greivenkamp, presented the newest Fellows with their awards, and, as dessert was served, Fisher shared his archeology-related story, his discovery of LiDAR as a professional tool, and the implications of its use across the sciences.

In 2009, Fisher had been working in the Lake Patzcuaro Basin in Mexico, mapping the remains of an ancient city using traditional technologies. Using those, he said, they could survey about one square kilometer a year; at the time, they estimated they had ten square kilometers of foundations to explore (it turned out to be closer to 26 square kilometers!). Impatient, he consulted with a colleague in Geology who pointed him to LiDAR, then a fledgling application in the field of archeology. Intrigued, Fisher invested in LiDAR for nine square kilometers of mapping and realized it had captured more than a decade of archaeological research in 45 minutes of flying time.

"LiDAR and the technologies that will follow represents a paradigm shift for archeology and for many other sciences," he said. "These LiDAR records are comprehensive conservation records. They record the earth's surface and everything on the earth's surface in incredible detail. We can archive these records; we have the technology to do so now. And it is my hope that in 50 or 60 years, maybe longer, people will be going back through these records with new technologies and new ways of analyzing them, learning new things about the earth, and understanding global change."