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Research Experience Placement: Caitlin Frampton

Caitlin is a Zoology student who worked with our centre director Professor Ed Mitchard‘s research group and was supervised by Dr Charlotte Wheeler. Her project involved mapping forest height in Ghana using earth observation.

What are you studying?

I am studying Zoology at Newcastle University.

Tell us a bit about the project you have been working on this summer?

I worked on mapping the forest height in the South-West of Ghana using satellite imagery. With the aim to help support carbon-based conservation and aid the Forestry Commission of Ghana in their reporting. The aim was to create a model using random forest regression to map the heights of the different types of forest and repeat this to visualise where the forest was most affected by degradation over time.

I used Google Earth Engine to visualise the datasets from Sentinel-1, Sentinel-2, ALOS/PALSAR and GEDI. This was used as the input for the random forest model and the data was under sampled to allow for the balancing of heights across the forest. The model could be further improved by masking out areas of least importance and using a wider range of data to train the model.

One of the forest maps produced

What new skills have you learned while doing this internship?

I have learned how to use Java as a coding language to manipulate datasets, I have also learned how to use multiple analytical tools to achieve the outcome I was aiming for. My communication skills have vastly improved as I needed to convey my plans for the project and accurately explain any errors I was encountering. I also got a taste of problem-solving from a research perspective when things did not always go to plan.

How have you found working with your research team?

My research team were amazing and such a great help when it came to learning new skills. Dr Charlotte Wheeler in particular was always there to offer advice and guidance and I was made to feel very welcome in the Mitchard group as a whole.

What has been the highlight of the internship for you?

The highlight of the internship for me was getting to work as part of the research team and see the dynamic and collaborative environment each team member contributed to.

How has doing this internship changed your plans or thoughts about your future career?

This internship has given me a taste of what a PhD consists of and has led me to realise that this is definitely something I want to pursue in my future career. I thoroughly enjoyed the independent working aspect of the internship as well as conducting my own research and learning the variety of new skills required for achieving the outcome I desired.