Third Irish Earth Observation

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Third Irish Earth Observation Symposium
GSI, November 2009

Enda Gallagher

Earth observation images

Irish scientists make infrastructural projects more efficient by contributing information gathered remotely. That’s one of the messages that was repeatedly communicated at Ireland’s premier gathering of Earth Observation specialists which took place in GSI offices 12-13 November last.

Earth Observation is a fast-growing area of scientific research and, from a small base just a few short years ago, Ireland is now contributing a range of outstanding research methodologies and projects to global understanding of the dynamics of our Earth. The Third Irish Earth Science Observation Symposium proudly showcased some of the best contributions by Irish scientists to date.

Screen shot from GSI’s new geovisionary software
Screen shot from GSI’s new geovisionary software

According to the Symposium’s Technical Director, Michael Sheehy (GSI), "information being acquired in Ireland is contributing to a global understanding of climate change and how our planet functions. For example, such information is being used to develop strategies for coping with coastal and river flooding, and it is also being applied to indentify areas susceptible to landslides." He went on to explain that Earth Observation is primarily delivered via a mechanism of remote sensing, whereby the sensor being used is not in contact (remote) with what it’s recording (sensing). Various applications are involved in Earth Observation – land, sea, air and space – and the technologies used include satellite, ship-based and airborne.

A recurring theme throughout the proceedings was Ireland’s overall importance in the global Earth Observation story. Our unique geographical position at the edge of continental Europe and the North Atlantic presents interesting challenges in acquiring Earth Observation data. Many of the presentations, delivered by a strikingly youthful band of Irish scientists, demonstrated remarkable achievements in successfully negotiating these challenges.

The Symposium attracted over 80 delegates who, as well as gaining exposure to a wide-ranging programme of talks, were treated to two different demonstrations by GSI and the Ordnance Survey of Ireland on their work in Earth Observation. GSI unveiled its new geo-visionary suite in a very well-received workshop. The Symposium’s keynote speaker was the highly respected Earth Observation expert from the British Geological Survey, Dr. Colm Jordan, himself Irish. The Symposium also touched on the work of the European Space Agency, enabling Ireland to maximise her return on investment in this organisation. Proceedings concluded with Dr. Fiona Cawkwell, UCC, announcing that UCC were hoping to convene a working group/steering committee that will consider the future directions of Earth Observation in Ireland. Further details on the symposium, including the presentations, can be found at the dedicated web-pages available here