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Monitoring the world’s forests with satellite data – Assistant Professor Miina Rautiainen granted 2 million in ERC funding

Detailed knowledge on the state of forest resources and climate change can be produced through more effective interpretation of satellite images.
Aalto University School of Engineering

Thousands of satellites orbit the Earth, generating an ever-increasing amount of data. Assistant Professor of Remote Sensing Miina Rautiainen aims to develop a mathematical model for processing the information in satellite images in order to help monitor forests from space with significantly greater detail than is currently possible.

The European Research Council (ERC) granted Rautiainen nearly two million euros through the ERC Consolidator Grant programme to fund her research project, entitled From needles to landscapes: a novel approach to scaling forest spectra. The five-year project aims to further the basic theory of remote sensing and to use these advances to monitor forests around the world.

The area of remote sensing and surveying has long a tradition in Aalto University, but the research evolves rapidly with new technology.

”Satellites observe the Earth on many wavelength bands, which can be combined with new spectral analyses to produce a precise view of the forest, its structure and its understory vegetation”, Rautiainen says.

”Our main focus is on basic research and developing a new theory. Mapping applications will follow from theoretical development work”, Rautiainen says.

”In the future the new applications will provide information on the structure of forest trees and the state of a forest. At the same time, we will gain insight into climate change”, says Rautiainen. “Satellite images can also be used to learn about photosynthesis in plants, which is used to study the interaction between vegetation and the atmosphere”, she adds.

”I am very proud of the excellent work of Miina Rautiainen and her research team”, says Dean Gary Marquis from the School of Engineering. “During the recent years we have significantly invested on research and this is an indication of research excellence”, he continues.

The research project will be conducted in cooperation with Boston University, Seoul National University, the University of Zurich, Tartu Observatory and the Czech Global Change Research Institute.

The European Research Council funds new scientific initiatives and pioneering research. In all of Europe this year, only nine projects received funding from the ERC panel on Applied life sciences and nonmedical biotechnology. It marks the first time that the School of Engineering has received funding from the European Research Council

Remote sensing is taught in Aalto University’s Master’s Programme in Geoinformatics, studies in which include satellite image analyses and spectral measurements.

For further information:
Assistant Professor Miina Rautiainen
Aalto University Department of Built Environment
Otakaari 4, 02150 Espoo
tel. +35850 432 6633
[email protected]

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