I am running a Master's project researching Greater prairie-chicken nest and brood survival. Some of my intended covariates include local vegetation measures using digital imagery. I would like to use remote sensing/GIS software to estimate % cover of vegetation classes (i.e. forbs, grasses, dead vegetation).
I need something that can do object-based classification; however, I attend a small university and we do not have an eCognition license, nor can we afford one. I'm in the process of seeing if UW-Madison is using it. If that is the case, I may be able to piggy-back through the UW-system. If not, is there a free trial that I could do this with? Are there any open source software packages or GIS extensions that can be used for these analyses with acceptable accuracy?
Additional Info: I have digital photos (20 mega pixel resolution) of 1 sq. m. daubenmeire frames at nest sites.