Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Earth Observation Summit Recap

Last post, I mentioned that I would provide a recap of the Earth Observation Summit in Montreal, June 20-22th. I am very happy to have had the chance to both learn about up and coming earth observation technologies, as well as present my own research at the summit. Admittedly, you, dear readers, are probably more interested in hearing about my Arctic Adventures to Axel Heiberg Island (July 5th-20th), but I haven't quite sorted through my notes and photos from the trip yet to write a blog post about it. Soon! Likely for next week.

I had the pleasure of attending both the Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) Workshop and the Summer School. During these seminars, we learned about different applications of SAR, types of hyperspectral remote sensing, and the use and application of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) for research, military, and civilian purposes. Something that really stuck out to me was the level of resolution and detail attainable from hyperspectral analysis. I knew that spectroscopy could be used to differentiate rocks, mineral content, vegetation, and man-made structures as I have done similar classification in remote sensing coursework and for my thesis. But at the workshop I learned that "level three" hyperspectral imaging can be used to differentiate between specific types of plants and roofing materials of buildings. This surprised me, and I'm really impressed by the versatility of spectroscopy, and all the fields it can be applied to. I suppose it makes sense, I mean, if spectroscopy can differentiate between different minerals, why wouldn't you be able to detect different types of plants and polymers? I never thought about it. In a different session, I also learned that the spectral signatures of plants are seasonably variable based on phenological changes. This is intuitive, since plants go through different phases of growing, leave production, and leaf loss, but again, it is something I hadn't thought about.

Before the SAR Workshop, I knew radar had a variety of applications in ground subsidence, natural disaster monitoring, and military intelligence, but did not know the nuances behind how these techniques were applied. Now I have a better understanding of the many Interferometric SAR processing steps for monitoring ground movements, and how RADARSAT-2 is used for naval surveillance in the Canadian Arctic.

My presentation “Polarimetric radar for remote geological mapping of salt diapirs on Axel Heiberg Island, Nunavut” was well received in the Polarimetric SAR Processing session. The session was well attended, and some audience members asked insightful questions about my work. One gentleman asked if we were potentially detecting limestone in addition to gypsum and anhydrite with our Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer (ASTER) spectroscopy and in our radar images because both limestone and gypsum can show similar signatures. This is another case of where radar and topographic information may be useful in differentiating the differences between different rock lithologies based on their morphology and surface textures. I am delighted and honoured to say that my talk won second place for “Best Student Presentation” at the Congress. I am always happy to talk about rocks and satellites, and would love the opportunities to continue to share my knowledge and research in salt diapirism and polarimetric radar remote sensing at future conferences and meetings. Anyone who has been around me in the past few months has probably heard my three-minute thesis half a dozen times as I elucidate new quarry about the wonders of remote predictive mapping.

Over the course of the congress, I had many opportunities to connect and reconnect with colleagues and industry professionals. It was a pleasure to speak with representatives from the Canadian Space Agency again after meeting them last November for the Mars Sample Return Simulation at the University of Western Ontario. I also reconnected with people I had met at the Canadian Space Exploration Workshop whom I discussed the status of the RADARSAT Constellation Mission. Since I've been using RADARSAT-2 data for my thesis, I'm curious about the coverage the Constellation Mission will provide improved coverage over the Canadian high Arctic. I also met one of the Advisory Board members for the Students for the Exploration and Development of Space (SEDS-Canada) for the first time that I had been in contact with through e-mail. I'm currently the Vice-Chair of SEDS-Canada, and working with the Board of Advisors is one of my roles in that.

In summary, the Earth Observation Summit was a very productive meeting. I learned a lot about SAR, which is beneficial to my M.Sc. research work, as well as other methods of remote sensing that has given me a more well-rounded and diverse understanding of Earth observation methods. I met many satellite industry professionals and learned a lot about Canada’s contributions to the space industry. This opportunity has given me a broader global understanding of space systems sciences. I look forward to being able to apply what I have learned at the Summit towards my future career aspirations in planetary mission work and space administration.

Soon you will hear about my Axel Heiberg adventures.  Soon.

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