Studentenverhaal

Student Amalia Castro - MSc Geo-information Science

Amalia came to Wageningen as an Erasmus Exchange student and thereafter started the master Geo-information Science. Now she is working on her thesis on how to improve deforestation monitoring in near-real time in Brazil.

We learned different methodologies, and got to practice with various kinds of equipment during fieldwork sessions

Background

I followed an Environmental Sciences Bachelor at the Autónoma University of Madrid, Spain, during which I had the chance to come as an Erasmus Exchange student to Wageningen. The main courses I followed during this bachelor were related to Ecology, Water Quality and Soil Quality. However, the bachelor was broad and we also dealt with Environmental Economics and Policies or Zoology, for example. 

Experiences and courses

Coming to Wageningen as an exchange student was a great experience, where I always felt encouraged and supported by the teachers to improve my skills.  I wanted to keep working in an international environment with high quality education, and Wageningen had specialized knowledge in Environmental Sciences. So I was looking forward to come back as a master student. I choose the Msc Geo- Information Sciences study because of the flexibility of this discipline in dealing with environmental issues. Those problems involve ecological and socioeconomical factors, and it was very motivating to see how GIS could enable the link between both. Furthermore, GIS is a quickly growing field where a wide range of techniques is being developed, and for very varied topics.  In my case, I valued the possibility to monitor different aspects of the environment or different events with similar techniques, e.g. use satellite data to locate areas affected by drought, or by a flood, or to monitor the change in ice cover. This adaptability was very stimulating and useful.

The courses started from the basics and were building up in complexity towards the end. I felt we had a good level of support and supervision throughout them, and the teachers were accessible and open. I think the courses gave me a good overview from the theoretical and practical point of view. I valued that we learned different methodologies, and got to practice with various kinds of equipment during the fieldwork sessions.

Thesis

I learn the most during my thesis, which is focused on improving deforestation monitoring in near-real time. We use satellite images of an area in Mato Grosso (Brazil) and do the analysis on a scripting language, to know precisely which areas have been deforested shortly after they do. I work under the supervision of a PhD student and an assistant professor, and in this new part of the master I enjoy the combination of independence with more in-depth work. In the beginning I was concerned about not having enough scripting background and therefore I took extra courses to improve it. I find the level of supervision and support from my supervisors motivating, and value that it allows me to take independent decisions. Monitoring the environment is a fascinating topic for me, and for the internship I would like to explore how to use other kind of data for that purpose.