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Research Experience Placements: Ferdinand Becker

Ferdinand worked with a interdisciplinary team of Professor Ruth King and Dr Stuart King from the School of Mathematics and Dr Murray Collins from the School of Geoscience. His project allowed him to use his computing skills for a conservation and earth observation project.

What are you studying?
My name is Ferdinand Becker and I’m studying informatics at the University of Edinburgh. I’m
especially interested in data handling and processing and I’m about to move into my 4th year.

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

I was working on Investigating the ‘Potential of Earth Observation data for Conservation
Management’ project. The main aims of this project are to find elephants in satellite imaging, use
these samples to train a detector and then perform statistical analysis on the results of that
detector to try and gain a better understanding of the elephant population. This is motivated by
the fact that accurate population estimates are very important for effective conservation policies,
and if these estimates could be produced using satellite data it could avoid the need for ground
and aerial surveys which are more disruptive to wildlife.

What new skills have you learned while doing this internship?
I think I was able to learn lots of new skills on my internship. One of the main ones was learning
how to handle satellite imaging, not only in ArcGIS Pro but also programmatically using Python.
Additionally, I became more familiar with popular image processing techniques like convolutional
neural networks. I think the project also really improved my confidence in working through
problems independently, but also how to work and communicate in a large interdisciplinary group,
which I think will be really helpful in the future.

How have you found working with your research team?
I really enjoyed working with my colleagues. I think it gave me really good experience in working
with people outside of my own field and also gave me insight into the sort of expertise that is out there. I think our team got on well which, even though it was done remotely, made it great a

What has been the highlight of the internship for you?
I think the highlight of the internship was when I was finally able to find elephants in the imaging. The team had spent a lot of effort figuring out the best data and the best places to look, so it felt
really good for that to pay off.

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

I think this internship has given me a much better insight on the sorts of possibilities that are out
there for me to apply the skills I’m learning on my informatics course and I definitely know of
some cool opportunities in academia that I didn’t before.