Satellite data in environmental science

The Earth Observation Centre is training a new generation of industry-experienced satellite data specialists. Satellite Data in Environmental Science Centre for Doctoral Training (SENSE) is an exciting new centre for doctoral training that will train 50 PhD students to tackle cross-disciplinary environmental problems, by applying data science methods to the wealth of satellite data collected each day.

The centre supports the growing strategic importance of remote sensing within the UK space sector, and strengthens the UK’s profile as an international leader in Earth Observation science.

Among the centre’s many aims, it wants to build partnerships between academia and industry, which stimulates use of satellite data and seeds new research ideas. It also aims to create satellite datasets and techniques that will help establish valuable new roles in industry, NGOs, government and academia.


Sharing research

One of sense’s industry partners, Eoghan Darbyshire, from Conflict & Environment Observatory, said: “CEOBS decided to get involved in SENSE to mentor a high quality candidate in understanding the scope of Earth Observation applications outside academia, in so doing building our networks with academia and the world-leading UK space sector, whilst sharing our research ideas and methods.”

Another partner, Martin Ewart, CEO of Earthwave, commented: ‘As a business we are very excited about this potential for extracting value from large satellite datasets using cutting edge AI and machine learning methods. The benefits from linking the space sector with AI and data science will be significant in terms of the generation of new products, which will drive economic growth and help us solve environmental problems, but taking advantage of this will require the development of a skilled workforce and significant knowledge transfer. Of major concern to us is the skills shortage in EO Science and so the SENSE programme is very interesting to us as it aims to address this shortage.”


Working collaboratively

Graduates are supervised by a consortium of world-leading UK scientists, with topics co-developed with the UK’s most innovative spatial data companies. Students participate in a specially designed training programme that encourages them to work collaboratively, think creatively, and be comfortable in an academic and business environment.

One of SENSE’s 2020 students, Amber Turton, explained why she applied to the project: “I was attracted to the program as it offers an exciting and versatile training program with great connections to industry. There is the opportunity to develop my understanding of data analytics, statistics, and to improve interpersonal soft skills; while making a positive impact on environmental problems which are becoming increasingly important. I am also looking forward to being based in the beautiful city of Edinburgh.”

SENSE is 50% funded by the Universities of Edinburgh and Leeds, with a portion of the UoE share coming from the DDI initiative. Additional funding comes from the Natural Environment Research Council and the UK Space Agency. SENSE’s 50 PhD students come from environmental science, maths, physics, engineering and computer science disciplines, and will obtain a PhD from the University of Edinburgh or the University of Leeds.

Photo of satellite in space

Of major concern to us is the skills shortage in EO Science and so the SENSE programme is very interesting to us as it aims to address this shortage

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