Using a decked out lab in an airplane (aka Carnegie Airborne Observatory), Gregory Asner and colleagues scan forests from the sky with lasers, spectrometers, and other tools to generate 3D maps that not only capture every plant down to their branches, but also differentiate which species they are.
Asner and his team have mapped out a slew of landscapes (which you can see the results of here). According to NPR "on one occasion, he and his team mapped more than 6,500 square miles of the Colombian Amazon at night — about the size of Connecticut plus Rhode Island — flying with all their lights out to avoid being shot at by the FARC, the Colombian rebel force."
If you're interested in this sort of work, Asner is looking for volunteers. You can find out more at the Carnegie Airborne Observatory website.
via NPR's Science Tumblr Skunk Bear