Congrats On Fellowship, Shannon

Plum Creek forester Steve Griswold examines a map of the Checkerboard forest.

Good maps and models show us how things are shifting – and are likely to shift in the future — under climate change © Benjamin Drummond

I am happy to meet Shannan this way:

Meet the NatureNet Science Fellows: Shannan Sweet (Cornell)

Conservancy NatureNet Science Fellow Shannan Sweet spends most of her time these days thinking about climate change, agriculture and, well, maps. But the maps that interest her most are not about road trips, or hiking adventures. They’re not even as much about a place as they are about a destination.

Her destination of choice? A world that can feed 10 billion people without exhausting its resources or exacerbating climate change.

“My focus,” she says, “is on how to effectively plan for, implement and incentivize agricultural practices that help farmers not only adapt to, but also mitigate climate change. To even begin to do that, we really need up-to-date, highly detailed maps.”

And by “up-to-date, highly detailed,” Sweet means the kind of high-resolution maps she creates from remote imagery (usually from satellites or aircraft). These are maps so precise they can show what’s growing on agricultural plots as small as one quarter of an acre, made from imagery, Sweet says, detailed enough to allow her “to ‘train’ specialized remote sensing computer programs to recognize specific types of land cover – like apple orchards and corn fields, vineyards, farms and subdivisions.”

In many cases, this is also imagery that wasn’t available to most people as little as five years ago – either because it was too costly, too classified, or because remotely sensed imagery at that resolution just didn’t exist.

“At the end of the day, it’s not about the maps themselves,” says Sweet. “It’s what they enable us to do. Good maps and models show us how things are shifting – and are likely to shift in the future — under climate change, and guide us as we try to figure out how to intensify agriculture in specific landscapes without, for example, spoiling our water supplies, or exacerbating climate change.”

Getting a Clear Picture of the Whole Landscape

“We can do so much now with remote sensing technologies, spectral imaging and climate models,” says Sweet…

Read the whole article here.

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