Google Earth Engine Award for Martin Herold and colleagues

Published on
August 6, 2015

Martin Herold, Jan Verbesselt, Arun Kumar Pratihast and Eliakim Hamunyela of the Laboratory of Geo-information Science won a Google Earth Engine Award 2015. This is an unrestricted gift of 60.000 dollar to support the work of world-class full-time faculty members at top universities around the world. In Europe only two universities were rewarded: the University of Valencia and Wageningen University.

The Google Earth Engine Award is an initiative of Google. “At Google, we are committed to developing new technologies to help our users find, use, and create information,” says Dave Thau of the Google Earth Engine Team. “While we do significant in-house research and engineering, we also maintain strong ties with academic institutions worldwide pursuing innovative research in core areas relevant to our mission. As part of that vision, the Google Earth Engine Research Awards program aims to identify and support world-class, full-time faculty pursuing research in areas of mutual interest.”

Martin Herold and his team are using the gift for a project on interactive forest monitoring using satellite data and community-observations in the Google platform. Arun Pratihast explains: “By monitoring forests with satellite data we can provide wall-to-wall information about locations where forest disturbances are occurring, but there are limitations related to its top-down approach. Interactive forest monitoring using satellite data and community-observations is an evolving paradigm that we have not exploited widely, but has high potential to reduce deforestation and forest degradation across the globe. In this way we can assure the participation of the local communities, whose forests are being monitored. This participation is very important for the success of the preservation of forests around the world.”

New Google technologies offer a unique opportunity to implement interactive forest monitoring using satellite data and community-observations. The benefits of an integrated monitoring system include reduced operational cost, efficient forest change detection and seamless collaboration among institutions and local communities through sharing transparent information. Arun Pratihast: “Despite this opportunity, Google technologies have not been fully exploited in the context of satellite-community forest monitoring. That’s why we want to integrate the existing Google technologies in a community-oriented monitoring system. We want to implement and operationalize it in Ethiopia and Peru. In our research, we will demonstrate how Google technologies can be coupled to improve forest-monitoring system by ensuring the participation of local communities. And with this Google Award we can make our project a success.”