Forestry analysts log terabytes of data

The Canadian Forestry System is turning to the IT sector for the computing help it needs to drive research.

A part of Natural Resources Canada, the Canadian Forestry System (CFS) has five research centres across Canada working on forestry

issues. Jim Wood, director of the forest resources program, said with ever-larger amounts of data being generated by those stations, they needed a way to more easily and quickly share data between centres.

“”We’re doing some work with the Canadian Space Agency to develop land cover maps for forested regions of Canada,”” said Wood. “”The forested area of Canada is 418 million hectares, so that generates huge amounts of data, and we need ways of exchanging data between centres.””

Through this project and others underway and in development, Wood said the five CFS centres are expected to be generating 40 terabytes of data.

With the amounts of data being generated steadily increasing as the CFS moves into new areas like hyper spectral sensors, simply using the Internet and a 100 megabit connection to exchange data wasn’t going to work.

“”One of the new sensors we’re looking at exploring forestry applications for is hyper spectral, which is extremely data-rich,”” said Wood. “”We’re going to need some of these new tools as we start exploring these things.””

The answer was the System of Agents for Forest Observation Research with Automation Hierarchies (SAFORAH). The system will connect the five CFS centres, through partnerships with BCNET, Grid Canada, MacDonald Dettwiler, the BC Government and the University of Victoria.

SAFORAH was developed with Grid Canada’s GID architecture, to allow easy access across computer networks and platforms, and uses the Catalogue User Data Ordering System developed by MDA for the management, cataloguing, querying and dissemination of earth observation data.

Using BCNET’s Optical Regional Advanced Network and national networks, the broadband network is expected to support speeds of up to 10 Gbps.

“”It will provide enhanced capabilities for our researchers, in terms of being able to access data files or remote sensing images, update them, then re-register them and re-store them,”” said Wood. “”It will certainly speed up the work.””

One of the researchers to benefit from SAFORAH will be Jeff Dechka, product coordinator for the Earth Observation for Sustainable Development of Forests (ESOD) project for the CFS. In partnership with the Canadian Space Agency, provinces, territories, industry and universities, ESOD is mapping the land cover of the forested area of Canada.

“”The project is designed to help generate information for use in other programs like the National Forest Inventory and helping to meet our international reporting commitments,”” said Dechka. “”My project generates vast quantities of data that we’re having to deal with.””

Dechka said the project has been broken down into four components, with different CFS centres across the country being fed data by different partners that all has to come together somehow.

“”We needed a way to easily manage that information, but manage it at sites distributed across the country,”” said Dechka. “”That’s where SAFORA comes in.””

As the system is developed, Dechka is hopeful that it will also allow the centres to share computing resources down the road, and he expects as it comes time to make some of the information generated publicly accessible SAFORAH will provide a ready-made framework to facilitate that.

“”The advantage is all of these computers can be linked and we can share information, and we can have a central database with all this information from where it’s distributed across the country,”” said Dechka.

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Jeff Jedras
Jeff Jedras
Jeff Jedras is a technology journalist with IT World Canada and a member of the IT Business team. He began his career in technology journalism in the late 1990s, covering the Ottawa technology sector for Silicon Valley North and the Ottawa Business Journal. He later covered the technology scene in Vancouver before joining IT World Canada in Toronto in 2005, covering enterprise IT for ComputerWorld Canada and the channel for Computer Dealer News. His writing has also appeared in the Vancouver Sun & the Ottawa Citizen.

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