Canon: Supporting green tech innovation

I often struggle with what exactly to classify as “green tech.” But lately, the way I filter the numerous pitches I receive is by looking at ANY technology or technological innovation that makes the world a greener place.

I often struggle with what exactly to classify as “green tech.” But lately, the way I filter the numerous pitches I receive is by looking at ANY technology or technological innovation that makes the world a greener place. Thus the incredible gamut of subjects I’ll tackle in any given week.

And hence the subject of today’s blog, the latest Canon National Parks Science Scholars recipients.

For 10 years, Canon U.S.A. has been supporting doctoral students who are dedicating themselves to the next generation of conservation, environmental science and park management. I won’t list all of the eight wonderful students who received the 2007 scholarships because you can read about them here, but there are TWO from my home state college in New Jersey, Rutgers University!

When I spoke with him earlier this year, Canon senior vice president and general manager of corporate communications Bill Reed said funding for the National Parks scholarships will run through 2009. Meanwhile, Canon is boosting its focus on supporting high school and elementary level programs. Reed figures the company touches roughly 500,000 students in the United States and Canada through events like the 2007 Canon Envirothon.

I had a chance to speak this fall with one of the current scholars, Carl Legleiter, a 29-year-old Ph.D. student at the University of California at Santa Barbara. Carl’s project focuses on river channel migration and changes in Yellowstone National Park.

As you might expect, his project draws a lot on archival photos; he also is making good use of a slew of sophisticated imaging equipment from Canon. And that’s where the green tech angle comes in.

Legleiter explained to me that much of the data in his field falls very much into the realm of scientific “guesstimates.” It’s tough to estimate water depths across an entire river, as an example. Traditionally, measurements have been taken using standard surveying equipment. But this is hard to pull off in extremely remote places. Legleiter has tackled this hurdle using sophisticated sensors that draw on LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) technology. He’s had support from commercial companies (airplanes, after all, aren’t exactly all that easy to arrange) but also has worked with the National Center for Airborne Laser Mapping, which supports a gamut of research projects.

“We’ve been very limited in the past,” Legleiter says. “This just makes things more efficient.”

You can reach more about the various green tech research programs being run by the Canon scholars here.

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