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Research Experience Placements: Analia Cabello-Cano

Analia is a student at the University of Edinburgh in the School of Mathematics and spent her internship working with Dr Isla Myers Smith and Team Shrub on a project called Capturing the hotspots of Arctic greening and browning trends

What are you studying?

I am a direct entry Mathematics student.

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

I have been working with TeamShrub in “Capturing the hotspots of Arctic greening and browning trends”. This is an incredibly big project and it is divided into smaller sections: biodiversity, plant phenology, climate data, satellite data. In particular, I have contributed to three main parts. The first one is the data cleaning of the AVA dataset (this is a very big dataset from Alaska which was only recently released). The final aim of this task is to add this new dataset (once it has been fully processed to the required format). In my second task, I attempted to create a machine learning algorithm (R-CNN) to process the photographs from the phenocams so these could be later used to analyse the phenology data of the arctic plants. Due to the very limited time of the internships I wasn’t able to get a model working, instead I concentrated most my efforts in my third task: microclimates. I extracted the temperature data for a small region of Hershel island from 1995 to 2019 (May-August). This data can now be used to answer questions such as “Is there more carbon stored in particular microclimates?”.

What new skills have you learned while doing this internship?

During this internship, I have improved my coding ability in python and R. I have explored new modules such as os in python and raster in R. I have also come to realise that real world data requires a lot of processing which is often time consuming. Moreover, I have worked on my scientific communication skills as I had to present my work and findings to the rest of the interns (which were working on different projects and might not have been familiar with my project in particular. Finally, I have learned how to work in a team.

How have you found working with your research team here at the University of Edinburgh?

Working with a research team has been very exciting, as I was looking forward to working with real-world data to try and answer real-world problems and contribute to the research of TeamShrub. I do think that it would have been even better if this internship had been in person, as it would have been a lot easier to communicate and work along the researchers.

What has been the highlight of the internship for you?

The highlight of the internship was when I got to present to the rest of the interns my work. It was very fulfilling being able to present the extracted data and possible next steps to be taken to everyone.

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

Initially, I was inclined to become a Mathematics lecturer (and eventually professor) at university. This project has helped me get a glimpse of what the research part consists of. I still think I would like to become a lecturer. However, I am not sure if I will try to become a lecturer right away. This project has helped me see that there a lot of other areas where Mathematics proves to be very useful and that might be worth pursuing.