Finding water in the driest place on Earth

Published on
February 27, 2014

Roberto Chavez will present his work during the DIES Natalis symposium of Wageningen.

Roberto is a Forest Engineer from Universidad de Chile and finishing his PhD in Wageningen at the Laboratory of Geo-information Science and Remote Sensing.

The Atacama Desert, located in the northern part of Chile is the driest place on Earth. Due to mining exploitation there is a big pressure to use groundwater (the only water source) and  the impacts of groundwater extraction on natural ecosystems need to be assessed. In his PhD, Roberto concluded that we can map water stress of desert trees (Prosopis tamarugo) using satellites. This can be achieved by detecting changes in reflectance between morning and midday and between winter and summer associated to leaf angle adjustments to avoid facing direct solar irradiation. This is a good example of combining biology and remote sensing technology to solve an important environmental problem. The research was carried out here in Wageningen.

Roberto comes from Santiago, Chile and his favourite hobbies are hiking and photography. He has visited amazing nature sites in Chile like Patagonia, the Central Andes and the Atacama Desert.