How has deforestation contributed to atmospheric CO2 concentrations? How much carbon will forests absorb in the future? How will habitat degradation affect biodiversity? These are some of the pressing questions that will be answered by the Global Ecosystem Disturbance Investigation – GEDI. GEDI is a space mission led by the University of Maryland whose goal is to measure forest vertical structure and biomass. In collaboration with NASA Goddard Spaceflight Center, UMD will launch a 3 laser, ”lida” (light detection and ranging) instrument to the International Space Station in 2018. GEDI will make billions of measurements of the three-dimensional profile of canopies to produce data sets on canopy height, forest biomass, and others.

In this course we will take students through the entire process of conceiving, designing, and building the GEDI instrument, from its initial science motivations, to its final engineering. The class will include interactions with key scientists and engineers that are working on GEDI, as well as hands-on experience using GEDI-like lidar data, from aircraft and drones. The class will also include at least one field trip where students measure forest structure in the field, as well as a visit to NASA GSFC to view the instrument being constructed. Lastly, the course will place GEDI within the context of an upcoming constellation of lidar and radar missions, all focused on measuring the dynamics of the Earth’s surface.