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SENSE Internship Blogs 2022

Isabelle Wicks

Project Title

Using remote sensing to analyse Himalayan glacial lake thermal regimes 


Professor Duncan Quincey & Alex Scoffield 

Nathaniel Edward-Inatimi

Project Title

Using machine learning to predict the timing, magnitude and impact of solar flares from satellite imagery 


Professor Kathy Whaler & Dr. Ciaran Beggan

Sara Bennie

Project Title

Using big data to identify glaciers that surge 


Professor Duncan Quincey & Liam Taylor

Thomas Gilliespie

Project Title

Designing future lidar satellites for monitoring Net Zero 


Dr Steven Hancock

Arnav Sinha

Project Title

Multi Satellite Weather Files for Net Zero Developments 


Dr Daniel Fosas De Pano 

Qiusi Zou

Project Title

Using machine learning to identify buildings and land cover from very high-resolution satellite images  


Dr Sohan Seth  

Save the Date: 16th November 2022

SENSE Industry Event @ University of Edinburgh

SENSE and Space and Satellites @ The University of Edinburgh are planning a special in person event in Edinburgh on Wednesday 16th November 2022. This event will be for our students and academic and industry colleagues.

The purpose of the event will be:

  • To showcase the work in Earth Observation and environmental science already being done by SENSE and other areas of the university
  • To explore opportunities for collaboration between the centre, industry and the university
  • To network with students, companies, academics and other staff working at the forefront of EO
  • To explore future directions for research in Earth Observation and environmental science

Full details and registration information will be available in mid September however if you would like to register for updates please complete this form

For informal enquiries please contact

We look forward to meeting you in November

Polar Impact Polar Portals Outreach Project

Workshop 1 at the Alun Turing Institute 

Polar Impact is an inclusive network of racial and ethnic minorities and allies in the polar research community. In autumn 2022, we will send Polar Portals (Augmented Reality (AR) enabled postcards) via the Antarctic to schools in the UK to inspire and engage children to consider a career in polar research, especially among the target audience of 8 – 12-year-olds from racial and ethnic minorities. We will be commissioning original works from BIPOC artists living in polar regions which will be printed into several postcard designs. The postcards will present visual artworks connected to the theme of polar regions, exploration and science. On the reverse of the postcards, pupils will be able to access a QR code to learn about the postcard’s journey and bring it to life through AR. 

Concept postcard designed by Emma Armitage.  

With Royal Museums Greenwich an under-18s Postcard Design Competition will be held with local schools in East London. The winning postcard will be stocked in the UK Antarctic Heritage Trust Penguin Post Office and available for purchase. A temporary exhibition for all entries to the competition will be hosted at the National Maritime Museum in December 2022. 

Working illustration by Farid Hussein (2022). 

Polar Portals Workshop 1 – supported by SENSE and the Alun Turing Institute 

On Friday the 29th of July the SENSE EDI Champion Heather Selley led a workshop at the Alun Turing Institute to kick off the project. The volunteers included Prem Gill (Polar Impact Founder), Heather Selley (Project Lead Organiser), Kirsty Flockhart (Art and production officer), Keiron Bally (Augmented Reality Officer), Priscilla Wong (Digital Content Officer) and Farid Hussein (Illustrator). The workshop allowed the volunteer team to come together and meet for the first time after working virtually on the project for the last few months. The team includes polar scientists, art curators, illustrators, web developers and PhD students with a wide variety of skills and backgrounds. It also gave the team the opportunity to discuss the more technical aspects with the Alun Turing Community, who are data science specialists. A key aim of this project is to make it scalable and be able to be as automated as possible to ensure longevity. This workshop focused on automating the process of getting the polar explorer’s geotagged digital diary which can be shown on a map, tools for QR code tracking, and expanding the project’s augmented reality concept. They also got to try out the mythical Alun Turing Institute coffee machine. 

SatSchool Launches the Classroom into Space

On 6th April the SatSchool outreach project was launched at a hybrid meeting, showcasing the results of the team’s hard work over the past six months to put this fantastic program together. SENSE students and outreach representatives from each of our institutes, as well as from NERC, ESERO-UK, UKSA and IRIS were all in attendance. 

SatSchool is a high quality school outreach program which aims to introduce Earth Observation (EO) concepts to 11-15 year old (KS3/S1-S3) pupils, highlighting the relevance of school subjects in EO and future STEM career pathways.  We have developed 12+ hours of engaging classroom resources in collaboration with teachers to ensure they are closely tied to the UK school curriculum. Pupils will have the chance to learn about satellites and how we use them to study the Earth from space, as well as getting hands on with some EO data! 

The outreach package also aims to ease the pressure on EO experts when doing outreach as the SatSchool materials are ready to take into the classroom. We have established a network of EO Ambassadors based in Edinburgh, Leeds, Southampton and Cambridge who can take these resources into schools and act as role models to inspire the next generation of EO experts. We hope this network will expand in the future!

The program contains six different modules, each with cross-curricular links across six STEM subjects:

  • Introduction to Earth Observation (Physics / Geography)
  • Hands on with Data (Computer Science / Maths / Geography)
  • Cryosphere (Geography / Maths / Physics) 
  • Biosphere (Biology / Geography) 
  • Atmosphere (Chemistry / Geography / Physics) 
  • Oceans (Geography / Biology / Physics)

Each module contains an introductory presentation to the subject which the presenter can use to introduce the topic. It also contains a self-guided ArcGIS StoryMap where students can work through the activities on a laptop/tablet/smartphone or it can be led through by a single presenter. The modules have worksheets for pupils to complete whilst doing the activities to keep them focused, as well as a  guide for the presenters on how to run the session. The sessions run between 30-60 minutes and activities can be adapted to the kind of session you want to run or you can follow the lesson plan provided. 

Calum Hoad and Sol White presenting the Intro to EO module at Bathgate Academy on 16th March 2022.

On March 16th we ran a successful first SatSchool visit to Bathgate Academy, where we trialled the Intro to EO module to two classes of S3 pupils. Co-founder Calum Hoad and Module Leader Sol White presented the module to two classes and the resources were well received. We are hoping to roll out SatSchool to more schools in the near future.

SatSchool team members Emily Dowd, Bryony Freer and Morag Fotheringham presenting our SatSchool poster on the final day of ESA’s Living Planet Symposium in Bonn, Germany. May 2022.

The SatSchool team was grateful for the opportunity to present a poster of the outreach project at the European Space Agency’s Living Planet Symposium in Bonn, Germany during May 2022. It was a really great opportunity for us to share SatSchool with an audience outside the UK and people were excited by the resources. We hope that the exposure at Living Planet will help to expand our EO Ambassador network and reach more schools.

Finally we would like to thank a lot of people for their support in their project. These include: 

  • NERC for awarding us an ‘Engaging the Public with Environmental Science’ grant
  • The SENSE CDT for their support in the project.  
  • ESERO-UK for their guidance, outreach training and putting us in contact with the Ogden Trust. 
  • The Ogden Trust and Chipping Campden School for arranging and taking part in the teacher workshop. 
  • IRIS & Bathgate Academy for the school visit
  • Space Hub Yorkshire for the extra funding to help advertise SatSchool
  • The SatSchool Team for all their hard work

You can explore the modules and find out more about the project on our website: 

You can also follow us on Twitter @SatSchool_ or email us

SENSE in Bonnie Scotland– Field Skills Week @ Firbush, May 2022

In May 2022 SENSE cohort 1 and 2 students made their way to Firbush the University of Edinburgh outdoor centre near Killin in Stirlingshire for a week of field skills training. This is part of the core training for the CDT students which due to Covid had been delayed on several occasions.

Although most of our students use satellite data for their research collecting ‘ground truth data’ in the field is an important part of research as it can be used to validate satellite data in gaining a better understanding of the area being analysed.

As team SENSE headed north spirits were high as this was going to be the first time all together as a full group and everyone was looking forward to spending time together and getting to know each other properly.

After settling into the centre and trying out some watersports on Loch Tay the group were ready to start out activities which were led by staff from the school of Geosciences at the University of Edinburgh.

Drone operation was led by Tom Wade (Airborne Geoscience) and Liz Poulsom (E4 DTP) who explained the risk assessment required for flying drones, discussed planning missions and gave practical demonstrations. There is a lot to consider when flying drones and everyone was surprised how much you have to consider including informing the military who may be using the area for operations. Once the safety aspect sorted then it was time to fly and the students all managed to have a shot of the smaller drones and some even got experience of the larger more complex ones (while avoiding the pesky fishermen).

The group were joined by Jack Gillespie from the NERC Field Spectroscopy Facility. Field spectroscopy relates to the measurement of the optical characteristics of a surface and provides quantitative measurements of radiance, irradiance, reflectance or transmission. Analysis of specific areas of the spectral data can infer properties of the sample material, and various indices exist to quantify various parameters. Jack had brought some of the portable equipment used by the unit and the students had a great time looking at different spectral properties of things they could find around the site. The FSF facility lends out spectroscopy equipment to the research community and some of which is carried on drones and Jack had brought along some of the equipment to show us including the headwall camera.

The third activity was forest inventory and tree measuring with Dr Ian Davenport and Wequan Dong from the Mitchard research group. Forest survey is used in calculating the biomass of a forest and is important in validating satellite data although often in exotic locations than a Scottish forest. Ian also shared some work he had carried out using Lidar on a fixed wing UV looking at peat in the Congo forests.

The final activity was a walk up Creag Buidhe a nearby hill overlooking Loch Tay where we were able to discuss the forestry around the area and find out more about the history of the area from the Firbush staff including hydro schemes and crannogs. It was quite a steep walk but more than worth it for the amazing views and also the chance to take a drone selfie thanks to SENSE student Sam Bancroft.

As well as the training activities the students were able to take advantage of the excellent facilities at Firbush and enjoy cycling, walking, football, windsurfing, sailing, kayaking and swimming in the loch. Evenings involved games, a quiz and a taskmaster event as well as time to chat and get to know each other. With conferences coming up there was also time to work on talks and posters and it the first chance for the full team for Sat School our amazing outreach programme to celebrate their hard work (and model the very cool Satschool t shirts).

Cohort building is very important within SENSE as forming professional and personal bonds during their PhD will be essential to our students as they continue their journeys in science and the group took full advantage of this week to do that.

Thank you so much to the Tom, Jack, Liz, Ian, Dong, Eleanor and the Firbush staff for making this such a memorable trip. It was an amazing week with lots of fun and memories made and the group look forward to getting together again soon.

International Day of Women & Girls in Science

SENSE student Charlotte Walshaw will talk about her passion for satellite data and environmental science for International Day of Women & Girls in Science. Charlotte studies vegetation change in the Antarctic as the climate changes at the University of Edinburgh.

IRIS (Institute for Research Into Schools)’s is hosting a webinar for 14-18 year olds, follow the link in the tweet below to get a ticket.

SENSE Students Win Funding For SatSchool

Four second year SENSE CDT researchers (Bryony Freer, Emily Dowd, Calum Hoad and Morag Fotheringham) have won National Environment Research Council (NERC) funding for their proposed outreach project “SatSchool”. This bid was made as part of a wider NERC initiative to engage the public with environmental sciences.

The project aims to create a high-quality school outreach package consisting of a general introduction to Earth Observation and five specialised modules – Getting Hands on with Data, Atmosphere, Oceans, Cryosphere and Biosphere. SatSchool will highlight the cross-curricular nature of environmental science and STEM careers, address the digital skills agenda and promote NERC science highlights. 

SatSchool will run in two phases. The first phase is the funded development of SatSchool between now and March 2022. SENSE PhD students will use their expertise to build the outreach modules by creating new resources and collating existing ones. Consultation with a high school teacher will then allow the modules to be tailored to the school curriculum. We have also partnered with ESERO-UK, who will aid in the development of materials and contribute to outreach training for SENSE PhD students. This collaboration means SatSchool will contribute to ESERO-UK’s One Million Interactions initiative.

After March 2022, SENSE students will use the resources and guidance developed by SatSchool to deliver outreach throughout their PhDs. The preparation time and stress associated with school outreach visits will be reduced, while allowing the delivered outreach to be consistent and of high-quality. SatSchool should empower SENSE students to become role models for the next generation of Earth Observation Scientists.

Nick Homer wins Alan Turing Enrichment Scheme

Huge congratulations to SENSE student Nick Homer, for his successful application to the Alan Turing Institute Enrichment Scheme. Nick will be spending 9 months from March 2022, working part-time at the Alan Turing Institute in London.

The Turing Enrichment scheme offers students currently enrolled on a doctoral programme at a UK university the opportunity to spend up to 12 months at the Turing in London. The Enrichment scheme has been designed to give students undertaking a PhD the opportunity to support and enhance their current research by accessing the facilities and opportunities available at The Alan Turing Institute and its partners. Students usually join in their second or third years of a typical doctorate, to further the work they are undertaking for their research project and support the completion of the PhD.

Applications for 2021 have now closed, but if you’re interested in applying for next year you can view this information session on Turing’s YouTube channel

The Alan Turing Institute logo

SENSE nominated for Leeds partnership award

SENSE are delighted to have been nominated for a Leeds Partnership Award this year for our work on improving equality, diversity and inclusion in recruitment procedure.

The SENSE team were nominated for going ‘above and beyond’ in their work on improving equality and inclusion in SENSE’s postgraduate recruitment procedure, and for continually pushing this agenda in the School of Earth and Environment and across the University.

So thank you for our anonymous nominator, and congratulations to the winners!

Watch this space – SENSE students complete Earth Observation and machine learning training course

The first cohort of NERC SENSE CDT students have finished 8 weeks of intensive training in Earth Observation and advanced data techniques, split into an Edinburgh block and a Leeds block. This training aims to give this next generation of Earth Observation experts an overview and the skills they need to succeed in their PhD, as well as create a bonded cohort of students.

The multi-disciplinary training included weeks on software carpentry, vegetation, machine learning and cryosphere and solid earth. In the future, students will have sessions on oceanography and fieldwork (postponed due to covid).

Software Carpentry programme icon
Vegetation: LiDAR & Polarimetry programme icon
Land Surface: Optical & SAR programme icon
Time series analysis & filtering programme icon
Atmosphere: Spectometry & Radiometry programme icon
Machine Learning & AI programme icon
Cryosphere: Interferometry & Altimetry programme icon

“The breadth of topics covered on the training allowed me to think outside of the world of glaciology for a while and consider some other approaches I could take forward in my project, such as machine learning. And despite everything running virtually, we were able to get to know each other better as a SENSE cohort. I think we will all be a valuable support network for each other over the next few years and hopefully could lead to some exciting scientific collaborations!” 

Bryony Freer, British Antarctic Survey and University of Leeds

Many hands make satellite work

A key part of this training is the group work aspect, allowing the students to network, share expertise and work together on ideas. The final piece of group work was to design a new Earth Observation mission, and present this to a panel. Here are the exciting new satellite missions that they have created!

INSPECT: the Insect, Pathogen and Environmental Change Tracking Satellite.  

The main purpose of the mission is to monitor distribution and potential expansion of certain (sub-)tropical environments that are the preferred habitat of mosquitos – a known vector of many deadly diseases including malaria. The hyperspectral sensor (with thermal bands) onboard INSPECT will be able to map temperature, humidity, vegetation conditions and location of stagnant bodies of water. These observations will allow the distribution of the species to be modelled as a function of environmental conditions.

Comprehensive Atmospheric Radiation Records After Ten PM (CARRAT)

The proposed Earth Explorer mission Comprehensive Atmospheric Radiation Records After Ten PM (CARRAT) came about by asking ‘who knows what happens when the sun goes down?’. The aim of this satellite is to monitor the Earth’s atmospheric composition and pollution of cities at night by observing the atmospheric scattering of city lights. It will provide an insight into night time pollution and chemical species that contribute to global warming, as some chemical species go through photochemical and dark chemical cycles. In addition to monitoring the atmosphere, CARRAT has the potential to monitor urban development and observe lightning, bioluminescence, airglow and zodiacal light.

Have they (or)bit off more than they could chew?

WEL: Water Exploration Lidar

A mission to study land water sources as climate change and population growth continues to put stress on the worlds water cycle and increase water scarcity

Collaboration and wider impact

The training included a JASMIN workshop from the CEDA (Centre for Environmental Data Analysis) team. JASMIN is a globally unique supercomputer for environmental science, which many of the students will use to process their satellite data and investigate topics such as global warming and environmental change. The CEDA team regularly runs hands-on interactive training workshops for users of JASMIN, and the workshop for SENSE students was the first to be held virtually. This had 25 attendees and included a mixture of live lectures, recorded talks, exercises and tutorials. The CEDA team is funded by NCEO (National Centre for Earth Observation) and NCAS (National Centre for Atmospheric Science).

The machine learning week also featured an Alan Turing Institute – SENSE hackathon event. The goal of this challenge was to automatically identify sea, ice and land in satellite images of Danmarkshavn on the east coast of Greenland. Seven Alan Turing Institute PhD students joined the session, and using Sentinel-1 images the students worked in small teams to build and train a model to classify sea, ice and land in a dataset spanning a year, using data prepared for the ExtremeEarth project.

SENSE’s training programme is extremely important to the centre. Of the students who filled in the feedback from, 100% of students agreed or strongly agreed that SENSE’s training programme affected their decision to apply to or accept a PhD position at SENSE. The training was an opportunity to the students to learn a variety of new skills and to bond as group.

The training not only benefitted SENSE students, as we opened it to first-year students at Edinburgh, Leeds, NOC (National Oceanogrpahy Centre) and BAS (British Antarctic Survey). Nineteen PhD students joined the SENSE cohort for at least one week training from across these institutes.

The SENSE training has introduced me to a broad range of Earth observation tools and methods which have given me a good basis for the start of PhD and beyond. It was also a great opportunity to work with other PhDs during the group projects and allowed me to get to know the SENSE cohort which would have been difficult otherwise with the current restrictions.”

– Emily Dowd, University of Leeds

Where there’s a skill there’s a way

As well as learning technical details of Earth Observation and advanced data techniques, the training featured ‘soft skills’ sessions, to teach the students to be all-round academics and researchers. Tom Richardson from Nature Geoscience gave a presentation on ‘Publishing with Nature Geoscience’ with eighty-six attendees. Tom Lyons from STEM Centre and Andy Clarke presented on outreach and how the students can engage, which led to a number of students signing up to be STEM ambassadors. The students learnt valuable tips and tricks for working with the media in a session by Ian Rosser from the University of Leeds press office. Finally, Jurgen Neuberg gave the students some dos and don’ts for face to face and online presentations – which will be useful for the students in their first-year presentations and future conference contributions.

A SENSE of direction – looking to the future

In their second year, the SENSE students will do a 3-day Science Communication and Outreach course, run by Professor Mark Brandon and colleagues at the Open University. They will then do a 1-week Space Industry week, hosted by the Satellite Applications Catapult and European Space Agency (ESA) in Harwell. In their third year, the students will do a residential course in ESA’s ESRIN facility near Rome, Italy, as well as doing their 3-month industry placement. And finally in their final year the students will have career and CV coaching sessions, along with courses on Entrepreneurship and Intellectual Property.

As the students embark on their exciting new PhD projects, SENSE are thrilled to give the students this expert training, which will equip the students with skills, knowledge and confidence to thrive in their PhDs and future careers.