Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Virginia Forestry Association talk: Regional Cruise Data Co-ops

SilviaTerra's Forest Technologist Charlie Wade recently spoke at the Virginia Forestry Association's Forestry Summit.  Charlie spoke about creating regional Cruise Data Co-ops for using historic plot data to gain efficiencies in forest inventory work.

Typically, we foresters start from scratch each time we cruise a new stand.  We're unable to use similar cruise data from nearby properties to adjust and optimize our sampling - we start all over again each time we tackle a new project

Cruise Data Co-ops let you rethink this approach - the data you collect becomes part of a shared cruise data library.  Paired with remote-sensing and other statistical techniques, this pooled cruise data can create serious efficiencies for everyone in the co-op.

Cruise Data Co-ops are just one of the many tools we're building to support America's foresters.  If you dream about advancing the state of forest biometrics, we would love to hear from you!  Drop us a line at

Monday, July 17, 2017

Weekly Plot Hound Webinars - Fridays at 4PM ET

We built Plot Hound and Canopy to make cruising fast, simple, and hassle-free.  Over 5,000 cruisers have signed up so far - and we're excited to welcome you as the newest member of the Plot Hound crew.

To help get you in the woods faster we are now offering online Q/A sessions with Plot Hound developers every Friday starting at 4 pm EST.  If you have a question or just want a quick demo of the system feel free to join us!  Topics discussed will include cruise creation, merch spec setup, and Plot Hound use.   

There is no need to preregister.  Just go to and we will give you a complete walk through of how to start cruising with Canopy and Plot Hound.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

SilviaTerra Founder Speaks at Yale

Photo courtesy of YEI

SilviaTerra co-founder Max Nova spoke at Yale yesterday to a group of current undergraduate and MBA students in the Yale Entrepreneurial Institute's summer startup incubator program.  He walked the YEI Fellows through the process of taking technology from the lab to the real world.

SilviaTerra's patented technology came from co-founder Zack Parisa's work in Dr. Chad Oliver's lab at the Yale School of Forestry.  SilviaTerra was one of the first ever student-led companies to license intellectual property from Yale, and Max discussed some of the main challenges of turning an academic research project into an industrial-strength, efficient, scalable process.

Seven years ago, SilviaTerra went through the YEI summer program too!  We're very grateful for the support and mentorship we've received from the university and are always excited to pay it forward to the next generation of student entrepreneurs.

Interested in joining our team?
We're hiring!  See our jobs page for details.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Western Mensurationists 2017 - SilviaTerra Presentations

SilviaTerra was rolling deep at the 2017 Western Mensurationists conference at UBC this year.  With five biometricians, we were only smaller than the OSU and UBC contingents!

Zack gave a talk on "Deriving better treelists from imagery-assisted cruises" and Brian discussed his PhD work on "Plant traits datasets to improve general individual tree biomass models for natural forest inventories."  It was great to spend a weekend with the West Coast biometrics community and we're looking forward to the 2018 meeting!

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

2017 Q2 All-Hands - Seattle Edition

That's a wrap!  We just finished up our All-Hands meeting in Seattle, WA.  Because we're a totally remote company, every few months we rent a house and all get together to work on new development projects and get some in-person time with each other.

Our team of seven (and a half!) plus our two summer interns
getting a view of the Space Needle and Mount Rainier

This past week, we made improvements to our biometrics codebase and got the new version of Plot Hound prepped for public launch.  We also scheduled out the rest of our 2017 - lots of exciting developments in carbon assessment, open-source forestry tools, and growth modeling coming over the rest of 2017.

Mission success - we escaped the room at Locurio!

We had a great time at All-Hands and our team is growing all the time.  Interested in helping us build the future of forestry?  Check our jobs page for details.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Optimal Cruising for Your Forest Type

The following post originally appeared in the June 2017 issue of the Forestry Source.  It was written by SilviaTerra's lead biometrician, Dr. Nan Pond.

We're continuing the discussion in the Society of American Foresters's LinkedIn group - looking forward to hearing your questions and comments!

In the March edition of the Forestry Source, we discussed the importance of evaluating inventory decisions in the context of Cost + Loss. How much does a cruise cost to install, and how much do you lose by making imperfect decisions using the information from that cruise?

Taking this a step further, here’s a look at how this works for two different forest types - an upland hardwood forest and an unthinned loblolly pine plantation. In this example, we’ve simulated forest conditions. The upland hardwood forest simulation covers a 65 year old forest with about 150 ft2 of basal area per acre and 150 trees per acre.  The loblolly pine plantation simulation covers a 13-year-old plantation, with a starting TPA of 400 and BA per acre of 160 ft2.

This analysis follows the process outlined in that previous article - identifying a forest condition of interest, finding a similar FIA plot, simulating a forest and then sampling from it, and then growing the forest and the samples forward and comparing management options. Each forest type was tested using 10 different FIA plots and 100 simulations derived from each plot - a total of 1000 simulations each.

The cruising methods compared were the same for both simulations - BAF 10, BAF 20, and 1/10th acre fixed radius plots, installed at 1 plot per 5 acres and 1 plot per 10 acres - a total of 6 different cruise methods. In both forest conditions, the fixed radius plots were the ‘winning’ methodology.  Let’s note now that these results are very context-specific, and depend on the valuation and markets we chose, the discount rate, and the tested management options.

In the upland hardwood example, there was a tie - 4 of 10 FIA plots examined showed that 1/10th acre plots at 1 plot per 10 acres had the lowest cost+loss while another 4 showed the lowest cost+loss as 1/10th acre plots at 1 plot per 5 acres.  For the loblolly plantation, the optimal cruise methodology was 1/10th acre fixed radius plots at 1 plot per 10 acres.


These results may be surprising - they were to us. My coworker even commented that he’d been “cruising plantations wrong for years!”  The common line of thinking is that variable radius plots are faster, and easier. Because of this they’re far more likely to be chosen by cruisers and cruise managers. It’s cheaper to install a variable radius plot, and even more so to use a 20-factor prism instead of a 10 BAF.

In a cost+loss analysis, we’re able to see the real tradeoffs that are made. The trick here is that often, cruising decisions are made looking solely at the cost part of the equation - not the loss. In our simulations, the BAF plots were absolutely the cheapest approach - they take less time to install and involve measuring fewer trees.  However, the loss side of the equation came into play and tipped the scales each time.  In the loblolly plantation simulations, the mean loss from management decisions based on the BAF 20 cruises was on average twice as much as the loss from BAF 10 or the 1/10th acre plots.  Similarly, the BAF 20 cruises had a mean loss of 3 times greater than cruises using  1/10th acre plots.  The BAF 10 cruises showed twice the loss.   

The takeaway from this shouldn’t be “always use 1/10th acre fixed radius plots” - the key is really to think about the tradeoffs being made when choosing a cruising method. The sampling method used is a meaningful and influential decision. A cruise that doesn’t fully represent the conditions in the stand can lead to costly management mistakes.  

The same methodology can be used to evaluate other inventory approaches.  Is it worth incorporating satellite imagery or LiDAR into your cruising process?  Using the cost+loss approach, you can determine whether the increased precision of your cruise (and the resulting improvement in management) outweighs the cost of the additional data inputs. We’ll cover that in an upcoming article.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Our next "Biometrics Bits" article is now available in the Forestry Source!

Our next "Biometrics Bits" article is out in this month's edition of the Forestry Source!  This month, Dr. Nan Pond wrote about "Optimizing Cruising for Your Forest Type."  This article was a followup to our previous article "What is the 'Right' Amount of Information to Collect?" and in it Nan walks us through how that theory could be applied to a Southern loblolly pine plantation.

We've already gotten a bunch of emails about the article - questions about other forest types and sampling methods.  We love thinking about forest inventory - send us your questions at and let's talk!