New Technologies use Historical Photographs to Offer a Glimpse into the Past
Advances in aerial photography and satellite imagery have allowed us to view our world from above, and measure patterns on the ground in unprecedented detail. However, these modern methods often fall short when it comes to peering into the past. To answer questions about how ecosystems or landscapes have changed over time, some researchers have turned to historical land based photography.
In order to analyze historical photographs more effectively, researchers have developed a tool to link images with their physical locations on the ground. This georeferenced information can then be used to generate maps of historical landscapes (for example, vegetation cover). To test the accuracy of this new approach, researchers at the University of Alberta, the Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research, and the University of Victoria used a set of repeated photographs from the Mountain Legacy Project – a massive collection of images documenting Alberta’s Rocky Mountains since the early 1900’s. They found that the tool positioned photographs within 15 m of their real world locations and permitted a rapid assessment of environmental conditions. This study shows how new technologies can make use of historical information to understand how our mountain landscapes are changing over time.
This is a summary article authored by Charlie Loewen. For further information, please see the original published research:
Christopher A. Stockdale, Claudio Bozzini, S. Ellen Macdonald & Eric Higgs (2016) Extracting ecological information from oblique angle terrestrial landscape photographs: Performance evaluation of the WSL Monoplotting Tool. Applied Geography, 63:315–325 (doi:10.1016/j.apgeog.2015.07.012).