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Our Firbush Special Guests

In 2023 SENSE was lucky enough to be awarded Skills Enhancement funding by our funder NERC which will allow us to create some additional opportunities for our own students and also open our current training activities to students outwith the CDT. With our field skills trip to Firbush scheduled for June 2023 we were excited to create this opportunity and a few months before the trip launched an application process for this. We were really lucky to be joined by some excellent PhD colleagues from various universities around the UK.

Estelle Darko is a student at the University of Birmingham whose research is focussed on forest diversity. Estelle was particularly interested in the forest inventory activities as it is directly aligned with her research. She said of the week:

I found the training to be surprisingly useful and quite relevant to my research so I would consider the funding as having been used well. I was also able to meet researchers in my field who go to similar conferences who I may have otherwise not easily spoken to otherwise so it was effective networking.

Fiona Woods is based at the University of Southampton and is looking at native oyster reefs in the Solent. As much of Fiona’s research is based in the lab and in situ measurements she was really keen to expand her knowledge of remote sensing. As well as gaining knowledge of the technical aspects of the training the best part of her week was:

To be Able to meet other PhDs doing completely different research to myself, and how willing everyone was to share their work and ideas

Fiona was also very interested to hear about the NERC Field Spectroscopy facility and how their equipment was available to hire for free and at a low cost.

Ian Willey is based at the University of Leeds and he has recently started a PhD evaluating woodland creation schemes in the UK, Ian is currently exploring different remote methods in his research but keen to find out more about the potential of using satellite data for this. The best thing about the course for Ian was:

Hands-on experience with equipment, approachability and knowledge of staff/demonstrators, the Firbush setting itself together with the food, structure of the day and facilities. Beyond this, doing activities with other PhD students and having dinner with them everyday helped discussion and created bonds which are great for learning.

Anna Stanforth is also based at the University of Southampton and working on a assessing ecosystem services from local to landscape scale to improve agricultural sustainability and productivity in Papua New Guinea. Anna was really keen to pick up some field techniques and pick up some tips and tricks before heading in the field herself.

My own DTP does not offer anything near this training and therefore being able to tag onto another training course was invaluable. It also helped with networking and generally getting out of my own PhD environment which can easily become a bubble.

Nitin Ravinder is based at CPOM at the University of Leeds working on Detecting Ice Sheet Dynamical Imbalance using Satellite Altimetry and was keen to gain experience of drone flying before potentially taking part in some field campaigns on ice sheets.

Firstly, a big thank you to NERC for the funding and hence the opportunity. Most of the training was a first experience for me. I learnt quite a lot about field work, the kind of planning that goes into one, the kind of adaptability required for completing one, the unexpectedness of it all. I’m hoping to use this knowledge in any future field work opportunity I might get and only build on what I have learnt. I’m confident in being able to take part in field work in more challenging environment that comes with my field of research and I only have this training to thank for it.

Luke Richardson-Foulger is studying at Kings college London looking at  High Latitude Peatland Fires and their Greenhouse Gas Emissions and was keen to gain experience of some of the methods which will be used in his research

Luke particularly enjoyed the drone activities and the ACDP demonstrations and found it very useful to network with other PhDs

Rachel Walker studies at the University of Nottingham as part of the Geospatial Systems CDT and her research focusses on developing a product to assess the success of peat restoration techniques through the integration of geospatial methods and will be using a variety of range of remotely sensed data (hyperspectral, multispectral, InSAR, thermal and lidar) for this.

It was beneficial as my CDT does not offer training on UAV or field spectroscopy and these both directly link to my research. It was also interesting to meet people from the SENSE CDT and elsewhere to find out what they are doing and network.

Safaa’Al Awadhi is based at the School of Geoscience at the University of Edinburgh and is working on Oil spill detection in the offshore marine environment using thermal and SAR remote sensing and was keen to gain techniques to use UAV’s in the safe detection of oil spills. Safaa particularly enjoyed the talks from Calum Hoad and Charlotte Walshaw on their fieldwork experiences>

I liked seeing the PhD students progress and their EO applications in Antarctica and the Arctic. Their talk method had an element of storytelling with lots of  photos and humor which I thought was great.

She said of the week in general:

Thank you for the invitation. As an internationally funded PhD student, it can be isolating not being part of a cohort such as NERC E3 or E4 or SENSE, etc. Being part of the SENSE field training for a week provided some opportunity for shared activities with fellow PhD students and a chance to network with them. I look forward for future similar opportunities.

Thank you to all of those who joined the trip this year – it was great to see everyone getting to know each other and working together in groups. It was brilliant to expand our network and meet new people. Thank you very much to NERC for funding this – we are already making plans for next year’s training and hope to make places available to attend this and other training events.