Research facilities, platforms, labs

CALMITResearch Facilities, platforms & labs

Facilities available at CALMIT

CALMIT features state-of-the-art technology to perform our research on earth's systems and to educate tomorrow's leaders in earth systems sciences.

CALMIT Field Research

CFRF: CALMIT Field Research Facility

Image: CALMIT Field Research Facility (CFRF)

The CALMIT Field Research Facility (CFRF) is located at the University of Nebraska Agricultural Research and Development Center-Ithaca (ARDC), which is about 35 miles north and slightly east of Lincoln, near Mead, Nebraska

The ARDC is a 9,000-acre experiment station, operated under the aegis of the Agricultural Research Division of the Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources.

The field remote-sensing program is one of the major program areas under the aegis of CALMIT. An impressive array of facilities and equipment combine to provide faculty, staff, students, and visiting scientists with an unusual opportunity to conduct field-oriented investigations. The emphasis of the field activities is on close-range remote sensing, but data collected by means of many other related technologies can be linked to the spectral data.

Nine-Mile Prairie

Phenocam at Nine-Mile Prairie Rick Perk (left) Brian Wardlow (right)
Image: Rick Perk (left) and Brian Wardlow (right) at the Nine-Mile Prairie phenocam

In a collaborative effort with the North Central Climate Science Center and the AmericaView program to develop a network of phenocams across the north central U.S. to collect a temporally-dense series of digital images to document ground-based phenology, CALMIT maintains a phenocam (live phenocam image feed at at the University of Nebraska’s Nine Mile Prairie ( The phenocam collects multispectral and thermal image data. Research focuses on the analysis of the phenocam imagery for vegetation species classification and investigating inter-annual phenological variations of the prairie landscape.

Faculty research laboratories

Dr. Franz: Ecohydrology and Hydrogeophysics Science Lab

Dr. Franz's Lab
Ecohydrology and Hydrogeophysics Science Lab participants monitor and model the flow of water through natural and human dominated ecosystems in order to understand how ecosystems function and how to utilize water more efficiently for food production. Research is highly interdisciplinary and works at the interfaces of ecology, hydrology, agronomy, and geophysics. His most recent research involves using a high-tech cosmic-ray sensor to measure soil moisture in real-time. This innovative tool has the potential to improve precision agriculture and ultimately help producers grow food with less water.

Dr. Gamon: Exploring Ecosystem Function at Multiple Scales Lab

Dr. John A. Gamon

Dr. Gamon studies the "breathing of the planet" - the exchanges of carbon and water vapour between the biosphere and the atmosphere that affect ecosystem productivity and help regulate our atmosphere and climate. Of particular interest are the effects of disturbance (fires, succession, weather events and climate change) on these basic processes. Additional research questions involve the detection of plant physiology, ecosystem function, species composition, and biodiversity using non-contact sampling methods. Much of this work is done with optical monitoring (remote sensing and automated field methods), and entails the development of new monitoring methods and related informatics tools.

Research platforms

Aerial remote sensing platform

CALMIT Aircraft  Imaging spectrometer - Aisa Kestrel (left), and imaging fluorometer - Aisa IBIS (right)
Images: Left: CALMIT's 1980 Piper Saratoga (left) fitted with an imaging spectrometer (Aisa Kestrel) and an imaging fluorometer (Aisa IBIS) (right).  A Jenoptik infrared camera will be deployed Summer/Fall 2017.

CALMIT’s airborne research program, with its particular combination of hyperspectral, thermal, and chlorophyll fluorescence imaging systems provides a unique ability to detect subtle aspects of plant health and function (e.g. early stress detection). While the primary focus is research, the CALMIT airplane and airborne instruments are also available as a service on a cost basis.  The CALMIT airplane (Piper Saratoga) is also available as a test facility for airborne instrument trials.
His lab uses a high-tech cosmic-ray sensor to measure soil moisture in real-time. This innovative tool has the potential to improve precision agriculture and ultimately help producers grow food with less water. - See more at:

All-Terrain Terrestrial Vehicle Data Collection Platforms

Hercules research platform  CALMIT's "Goliath," a novel mobile remote sensing platform adapted from a Hagee agricultural sprayer.
Images: Hercules (left), and Goliath (right)

The Hercules research platform is used to collect hyperspectral observations in a repeatable, scientifically valid manner. The self-leveling sensor frame is seen at the upper right. The frame includes up- and down-welling optical fibers, GPS antenna, infrared thermometer, pyranometer, quantum sensor, and down-looking digital camera. The Hercules Instrument Box is located just to the left and below the sensor frame.

Goliath, the precursor to Hercules, allowed sensors to remain in the principal plane of the sun, and mounted distant from the vehicle and its operator to minimize interference with detections.

Boat platform

CALMIT'S boat platformImage: CALMIT's boat platform

CALMIT operates a 24-foot pontoon boat, which has been specially modified for collection of spectral data above, at, and beneath the surface. The boat provides an excellent workspace for data collection on lakes and reservoirs.

In addition to equipment for monitoring radiation fluxes, the boat carries a GPs receiver, onboard computing, and portable water-quality and analysis equipment. Researchers often operate our numerous pyranometer, terrestrial-quantum, and underwater-quantum sensors when collecting spectroradiometer data in the field.

In the case of the underwater sensors, upwelling and downwelling PAR are typically measured at two different depths, as a means of calculating the rate of extinction of light in lakes and reservoirs. The boat can be safely towed over long distances to facilitate study of distant aquatic systems. Water samples are typically collected and analyzed in support of our remote-sensing research on lakes and reservoirs. Detailed analyses of plant pigments, specific cations and anions, and other parameters are available through our own facilities, those of our research partners, and other university collaborators. CALMIT owns portable analysis equipment including instrumentation for measuring conductivity, turbidity, alkalinity, and other physicochemical parameters. A portable laboratory, with a spectrometer and reagent chemicals, provides additional measurement capabilities. With the portable and lab-based instrumentation, we are able to make measurements on-site, on a same-day basis, at remote locations and/or in a clinical-laboratory setting. This affords repeatable water sampling linked directly to remotely sensed data either from our spectroradiometers or in conjunction with aircraft/satellite overpasses.

Research tools

Advanced Computational Facility

Advanced computational facility
Image: GPU circuit board

CALMIT maintains several data servers, and a powerful computational facility for high-speed image processing (256 CPUs and 16,000 GPU cores processing cluster), facilitating analysis of complex aerial and satellite remote sensing imagery.


Images: Researchers use various spectroradiometers

In 1995, our first Ocean Optics PSD1000-C spectrometer was purchased. This instrument collected 1100 discrete channels of information from 300 to 900 nm, using two fiber-optic cables. The two cables are configured in a manner analogous to the SE-590 systems, so that simultaneous incoming and reflected solar irradiance are measured. In 2001, four Ocean Optics USD-2000 systems were acquired, and since that time, much of our day-to-day data collection is done with these spectroradiometers mounted on Hercules, boat platforms, and even underwater. Having two dual-fiber systems allows for simultaneous data collection by two field crews. We now have 11 Ocean Optics instruments,

The first Analytical Spectral Device (ASD) FieldSpec FR system, purchased in early 1998, provides hyperspectral coverage from 350 to 2500 nm. The additional capability in the mid-infrared spectrum is important with regard to staff research involving agricultural vegetation. The system was configured to allow positioning both on the boom of the Goliath vehicle and by one individual carrying it on foot into the field. The ASD can be used for assessing vegetation at both canopy and leaf levels (with optional leaf clip). A second ASD-FR was acquired in 1000.

In 2001, CALMIT purchased a UniSpec radiometer capable of collecting data in 256 channels ranging from 300 to 1100 nm. The UniSpec provides us with capability for not only assessing water quality but also vegetation at leaf-level.

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