Remote sensing: science for all, says Herold

Remote sensing, observing the earth from an airborne or spaceborne platform, is the basis for monitoring and understanding the world. It therefore offers huge o…
Remote sensing, observing the earth from an airborne or spaceborne platform, is the basis for monitoring and understanding the world. It therefore offers huge opportunities for developing scientific knowledge. The scientific field of remote sensing is perfect for involving interested members of the public in science (summarised as Science 2.0; compare with Web 2.0) as a means of generating new collective intelligence and as a way of ensuring a broad basis for decision-making, said Prof. Martin Herold, Professor of Remote Sensing at Wageningen University, Netherlands, in his his inaugural address earlier this month.Remote sensing involves processing information about large parts of the earth’s surface without direct contact and at a distance. This can be achieved via satellite images or aerial photography. But the information thus gleaned only becomes really useful once it has been enhanced with observations from the ground. As the data provided by remote sensing is freely accessible, it can be analysed by anyone. It is the enhancement at ground level that makes remote sensing a science for all. It has benefited from the democratisation of interaction between society and science. Developments like Web 2.0 or the widely-used Google Earth show how this works, explains Prof. Herold in his inaugural speech, Remote Sensing Science 2.0. To illustrate his point, he cited the stream of images from the ground during the nuclear disaster in Fukushima, Japan, earlier this year. The images were published via Twitter and formed valuable feedback and enhancement for the images taken from the air and from space.Much scientific data is spatial by nature and is in some way derived from remote sensing, says Herold. Many scientific sub-fields, particularly in Wageningen, make use of the information generated by remote sensing. These often involve fields of major and topical social relevance, such as monitoring deforestation across the globe and measures to counter this process.The UN recently reached an agreement designed to give developing countries a greater role in reducing carbon emissions by, for example, protecting the rain forests in their territories (the REDD programme: ‘Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation’). This requires a robust and transparent monitoring system for reporting and verification. Using Google Earth Engine, for which there is now a prototype, people can make their own maps. Remote sensing enables local authorities and local citizens to carry out ‘real time monitoring’, whereby observations of abnormal changes made with remote sensing can immediately be verified on location and interventions organised where necessary. This is what proves that remote sensing is a real Science 2.0, according to Prof. Herold.Martin Herold (Leipzig, 1975) was appointed Professor of Geo-Information Science and Remote Sensing, in the spring of 2010. He previously worked at Friedrich Schiller University in Jena, Germany. Herold studied geography in Jena and urban and regional planning in Weimar. In 2004, he was conferred with a PhD from the University of California in Santa Barbara.
Posted on: 16 September 2011 • 10:52am

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