Welcome back to another episode of “The Permian Podcast” where we explore the latest innovations in conservation focused technologies and practices and their impact on our projects.
Today we have a special guest joining us. He’s a Remote Sensing and GIS (Geographic Information Systems) specialist with a clear passion for protecting our planet’s forests. Please welcome Dr. Javier Ramos.
Dr. Ramos: Thank you, Mike. It’s great to be here on the podcast.
Mike Greenwood: We’re thrilled to have you, Javier. Let’s jump right in. Can you tell us a little bit about the roles technological advancements can play in helping protecting our forests?
Dr. Ramos: Absolutely. Technology has played a pivotal role in forest protection. More specifically, Environmental monitoring has experienced a great revolution over the past decade. The technological advances made over the past years have resulted in a wide range of tools that can now be applied to environmental or forest monitoring. Before going into too much detail perhaps it is important to provide a bit of context about Remote Sensing. Remote sensing or Earth Observation involves collecting data about the Earth’s surface from a distance, typically using satellites, drones, or even aircraft equipped with various sensors. As I mentioned, the number of types of sensors and technologies has exponentially grown over the past decade.
This differs from the scenario that we had 30 years ago, where we were constrained to the use of medium resolution optical data. Nowadays, we have many sensors and tools that can be specifically applied to different areas of forest monitoring.
As part of the technical team of Permian global, we use, on a daily basis, various technologies and data that provide us with a wide spectrum of information for monitoring and assessing the current state of the forests.
Mike Greenwood: That sounds fascinating! Could you explain what remote sensing actually entails?
Dr. Ramos: Of course. Remote sensing involves capturing information about the earth’s surface or any object on the earth’s surface and their surroundings without physically being there. Focusing on forest ecosystems, this includes collecting data on forest health, density, and changes over time.
It can be done using various sensors, such as optical and infrared cameras, lidar, and radar. These sensors collect data like vegetation cover, temperature, and even moisture levels.
Mike Greenwood: With all the data already collected, why is it important to get high-resolution data?
Dr. Ramos: Well… this is a very interesting question. I would say that, indeed, using high resolution imagery can help us to better assess the state of the forest in most cases, however this does not solve all our problems as there are other aspects that have to be considered when monitoring the forest.
Generally speaking, when talking about high-resolution, we refer to spatial resolution of the images. In other words, the higher the spatial resolution of our image the finer/smaller the pixel size and therefore the greater definition of the image. This is highly valuable as it can helps us spot issues like deforestation, illegal logging, and habitat degradation early on, allowing us to take action before it’s too late. However, I would also highlight that there are other aspects that also play an important role as the temporal resolution (data), allowing us to have frequent or near-real time information, or a wide spectral signature
Mike Greenwood: That makes sense. Now, when using satellite monitoring, what are the primary purposes?
Dr. Ramos: Satellite monitoring is incredibly versatile. It’s used for various purposes, including estimating carbon content in forests, monitoring forest health, and tracking changes in land cover among others. We employ a large number of datasets and platforms that require a lot of data fusion techniques in order to generate information that can be then used to assess the present or past state of the ecosystem as well as forecasting potential disturbances, forest growth.
Satellite data also helps us detect and respond to forest fires quickly, minimizing damage. Additionally, it assists in understanding land-use changes, which can impact biodiversity.
Mike Greenwood: It’s amazing how technology is so integral to forest conservation. Finally, Javier, what does the future hold for your work, and how will AI, for example, aid your work in the future?
Dr. Ramos: The future looks very bright. As I previously mentioned, there have been many advances in recent decades that have contributed to enhancing the general understanding of the importance of remote sensing. I would say that now people have a better understanding of why it is important to invest in all this technology as it plays a critical role not only in fighting climate change but also in other areas such as disaster response and evaluation, regional dynamic forecasts and so on.
As you well mentioned, we are entering a new era, where we are seeing lots of changes in technology with the arrival of Artificial Intelligence. Obviously, this has also had an impact on remote sensing and GIS with a new set of tools, platforms and machine learning approaches that are significantly helping us to study natural ecosystems.
All these new advances are and will help us to reduce efforts, especially when performing analysis over large areas and processing large volumes of data. However, I believe that the human-validation roles played by technicians and scientists will always remain. Climate change is a serious concern that needs solid and robust responses. This is why I continue to envision seeing actual scientists at the top of the ‘problem-solving’ pyramid.
Mike Greenwood: It’s exciting to hear your thoughts and details on our conservation roadmap into the future, Javier. Thank you for sharing your insights on the technology behind forest protection. It’s been a pleasure having you on the podcast today!
Dr. Ramos: Thank you, Mike. It’s been a pleasure being here and discussing the exciting possibilities in GIS and forest conservation.
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