Conservation from space

Nathalie Pettorelli is a scientist in ZSL’s Institute of Zoology, the research branch of the Zoological Society of London. Her research focuses on the use of satellite imagery to support conservation efforts around the world.

Remote sensing of a landscape in Libya.

Put simply, Nathalie looks at ways to learn about highly conservation relevant areas from space. She uses satellite data because a lot of her work happens in relatively large places, targets regions where ground-based data are simply unavailable or extremely difficult to gather and relies on being able to access data that have been collected in a systematic and standardised manner. In that respect, satellite remote sensing offers a relatively inexpensive and verifiable means of getting regular environmental information from everywhere in the world. Interestingly, satellite imagery can also be used retrospectively, meaning that the data collected by satellites today will probably help solve issues we are not currently even aware of – an advantage which is invaluable.

Examples of her work include how free satellite data can be used to (1) detect unknown oil extraction

Satellite image of deforestation in Amazonia. Photo by NASA via Wikimedia Commons

activities in the Sahara region, particularly in key places for antelope conservation; (2) inform reintroduction plans, such as those currently being implemented in Chad for the Scimitar oryx; (3) track the impacts of change sin climatic conditions on vegetation phenology and productivity around the globe; (4) monitor habitat loss and degradation in and around key protected areas; and (5) assess the relative vulnerability of various ecosystems to climate change, thereby informing conservation planning and helping achieve adaptive management in the face of climatic uncertainties.

Want to know more?

Follow Nathalie on Twitter: @Pettorelli

Read more here:


Watch a video of Nathalie talking about her work.

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