Last week, I received news that our abstract was accepted for oral presentation at the Living Planet Symposium 2016 (LPS16), based on the scientific committee reviews. Our paper entitled, Identifying priority high conservation value areas using earth observation data to support site-level interventions in Northern Sierra Madre Natural Park, Philippines, is scheduled for presentation on Day 3 as part of the series of biodiversity sessions.

I am not sure whether there are other presentations from the Philippines in this upcoming symposium, or if others have been made in the past symposia. But I am elated for sure that we have an opportunity to share our past work at LPS16 on 09 to 13 May 2016 in Prague, Czech Republic.

In addition to presenting our paper, I am looking forward to the discussions about remote sensing for Essential Biodiversity Variables (RS4EBV); applications of earth observation for biodiversity and conservation; the topics on tropical forests, forest biomass, and REDD+; updates about earth observation missions such as ALOs-2, the Sentinels, and BIOMASS; and the dedicated tutorials and demonstrations.

The LPS16 is organised by the European Space Agency (ESA) with support from the Ministry of Transport, Ministry of Environment and Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports of the Czech Republic. The main objectives of the symposium are to:

  • Present the progress and plans for the implementation of ESA earth observation strategy and the relevance of ESA’s EO programme to societal challenges, science and economy;
  • Provide an international forum to scientists, researchers and users to present and share state of the art results based on ESA’s earth observation and third-party mission data;
  • Review the development of earth observation applications.
  • Present the Copernicus space component and operational services.
  • Report on ESA’s exploitation programmes such as the Climate Change Initiative, Data User Element, and Scientific Exploration of Operational Missions, among others;
  • Introduce the current and future planned earth observation missions;
  • Outline ESA’s international cooperation in the field of earth observation; and
  • Provide dedicated thematic tutorials and demonstrations.

For more information, you can the ESA LPS16 website and check out the preliminary programme.

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ALOS-2/PALSAR-2 global mosaics released.

A few days ago, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency finally released the long-awaited global mosaics from the ALOS-2/PALSAR-2 satellite, which was launched in 24 May 2014.

The 2015 data consists of the 25m mosaic data (at HH and HV polarisations) and the forest/non-forest map product, both at global coverage and free of charge for public use. The datasets can be downloaded through their website via this link. In addition to the 2015 dataset, the historical data acquired by PALSAR annually from 2007 to 2010 may also be downloaded from the same page. New users will be required to register prior to gaining access to the datasets, while users with existing accounts only need to remember their log-in details.

Of course, as soon as I read this news, I downloaded the dataset straightaway. To whet your appetite, enjoy the next couple of images of the surrounding environs of Manila Bay in the Philippines to showcase the mosaic datasets: first, showing a 2015 PALSAR-2 color composite; and second, a multi-temporal color composite consisting of 2007-2010-2015 images.


A 2015 PALSAR-2 color composite image (RGB: HH-HV-HH/HV) showing Manila Bay, Philippines and its environs, including parts of Metropolitan Manila, Bulacan province, Bataan Peninsula and Subic Bay, Cavite province and portion of Taal Lake. (Copyright: JAXA/METI)


A multi-temporal color composite image combining PALSAR and PALSAR-2 HH-polarisation data (RGB: 2007-2010-2015). Shown here is Manila Bay, Philippines and its environs. Generally, colored pixels indicate changes in landscape features from 2007 to 2015, while grey pixels indicate no change. (Copyright: JAXA/METI)

A huge thank you to JAXA, the Japanese government, and most especially the people of Japan for this great contribution to science and to the world.

You can also read more information about the global 25m resolution PALSAR-2 mosaic data and 2015 forest/non-forest map from JAXA’s press release.

11 inspiring TED talks on technologies for conservation.

Geospatial technology refers to equipment used in visualisation, measurement, and analysis of the earth’s features, typically involving such systems as remote sensing, global positioning systems for tracking and navigation, and geographic information systems to put spatial data together for analysis and decision support. Remote sensing technologies, in its broadest sense, involve data acquisition by hand-held and fixed ground-based sensors such as camera traps and acoustic recorders, and sensors on airplanes and satellites [1].

In this post, let me share eleven of my favourite interesting TED Talks about conservation efforts around the world that made use of geospatial technologies, in either conventional or unusual and exciting ways, and about technologies, both old and new, that tell compelling stories or show potential for conserving biodiversity. (Excerpts lifted from the individual TED Talks pages.)

Yann Arthus-Bertrand. [2009]. A wide-angle view of fragile Earth.

In this image-filled talk, Yann Arthus-Bertrand displays his three most recent projects on humanity and our habitat — stunning aerial photographs in his series “The Earth From Above,” personal interviews from around the globe featured in his web project “6 billion Others,” and his movie, “Home,” which documents human impact on the environment through breathtaking video.

Patrícia Medici. [2015]. The coolest animal you know nothing about… and how we can save it.

Although the tapir is one of the world’s largest land mammals, the lives of these solitary, nocturnal creatures have remained a mystery. Known as “the living fossil,” the very same tapir that roams the forests and grasslands of South America today arrived on the evolutionary scene more than 5 million years ago. But threats from poachers, deforestation and pollution, especially in quickly industrializing Brazil, threaten this longevity. In this insightful talk, conservation biologist, tapir expert and TED Fellow Patrícia Medici shares her work with these amazing animals and challenges us with a question: Do we want to be responsible for their extinction?

Blaise Agüera y Arcas. [2007]. How PhotoSynth can connect the world’s images.

Blaise Aguera y Arcas leads a dazzling demo of Photosynth, software that could transform the way we look at digital images. Using still photos culled from the Web, Photosynth builds breathtaking dreamscapes and lets us navigate them.

Greg Asner. [2013]. Ecology from the air.

What are our forests really made of? From the air, ecologist Greg Asner uses a spectrometer and high-powered lasers to map nature in meticulous kaleidoscopic 3D detail — what he calls “a very high-tech accounting system” of carbon. In this fascinating talk, Asner gives a clear message: To save our ecosystems, we need more data, gathered in new ways.

Barbara Block. [2010]. Tagging tuna in the deep ocean.

Tuna are ocean athletes — fast, far-ranging predators whose habits we’re just beginning to understand. Marine biologist Barbara Block fits tuna with tracking tags (complete with transponders) that record unprecedented amounts of data about these gorgeous, threatened fish and the ocean habitats they move through.

Dan Berkenstock. [2013]. The world is one big dataset. Now, how to photograph it?

We’re all familiar with satellite imagery, but what we might not know is that much of it is out of date. That’s because satellites are big and expensive, so there aren’t that many of them up in space. As he explains in this fascinating talk, Dan Berkenstock and his team came up with a different solution, designing a cheap, lightweight satellite with a radically new approach to photographing what’s going on on Earth.

Lian Pin Koh. [2013]. A drone’s eye-view of conservation.

Ecologist Lian Pin Koh makes a persuasive case for using drones to protect the world’s forests and wildlife. These lightweight autonomous flying vehicles can track animals in their natural habitat, monitor the health of rainforests, even combat crime by detecting poachers via thermal imaging. Added bonus? They’re also entirely affordable.

Fei-Fei Li. [2015]. How we’re teaching computers to understand pictures.

When a very young child looks at a picture, she can identify simple elements: “cat,” “book,” “chair.” Now, computers are getting smart enough to do that too. What’s next? In a thrilling talk, computer vision expert Fei-Fei Li describes the state of the art — including the database of 15 million photos her team built to “teach” a computer to understand pictures — and the key insights yet to come.

David Griffin. [2008]. How photography connects us.

The photo director for National Geographic, David Griffin knows the power of photography to connect us to our world. In a talk filled with glorious images, he talks about how we all use photos to tell our stories.

Will Marshall. [2014]. Tiny satellites show us the Earth as it changes in near-real-time.

Satellite imaging has revolutionized our knowledge of the Earth, with detailed images of nearly every street corner readily available online. But Planet Labs‘ Will Marshall says we can do better and go faster — by getting smaller. He introduces his tiny satellites — no bigger than 10 by 10 by 30 centimeters — that, when launched in a cluster, provide high-res images of the entire planet, updated daily.

Source: TED Talks [www.ted.com/talks]

Julianna Rotich. [2013]. Meet BRCK, Internet access built for Africa.

Tech communities are booming all over Africa, says Nairobi-based Juliana Rotich, cofounder of the open-source software Ushahidi. But it remains challenging to get and stay connected in a region with frequent blackouts and spotty Internet hookups. So Rotich and friends developed BRCK, offering resilient connectivity for the developing world.


[1] Pettorelli N, H Nagendra, R Williams, D Rocchini, E Fleishman. 2015. A new platform to support research at the interface of remote sensing, ecology, and conservation. Remote Sensing in Ecology and Conservation. doi:10.1002/rse2.1