Scottish Alliance for Geoscience, Environment and Society

Dr. Edward Mitchard

Research interests:

I study ways in which we can use satellite data to monitor woody cover and biomass from space, especially in the forests, savannas and woodlands of Africa. Tropical forests, savannas and woodlands support over 1.4 billion of the world’s people, with many of them living in poverty. They also supply a great service to the rest of the world, as apart from containing over 80 % of the world’s biodiversity they moderate and modulate our climate, protecting water resources and absorbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. I hope that my research can help prevent deforestation and degradation of these valuable resources by enabling the development of viable alternative livelihoods for those people that live there.

In my PhD (completed summer 2011) I did fieldwork and projects in Cameroon, Uganda and South Africa, and was also involved in projects in Gabon and Mozambique. My PhD was funded by Gatsby Plants, and my principle supervisor was Dr Patrick Meir, with second supervisors Sassan Saatchi (NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory), Iain Woodhouse (University of Edinburgh) and France Gerard (CEH Wallingford).

After my PhD I obtained a Research Fellowship from the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), funding me to research new methods for using satellite data to monitor forests, again mostly in Africa, and to communicate these results to projects and governments. My research followed a number of different threads all relating to the satellite remote sensing of Africa’s forests, woodlands and savannas, and also expanded to include pantropical biomass mapping and comparing such pantropical maps. I am now a Chancellor’s Fellow, still at the University of Edinburgh, and manage a group of postdocs and PhD students. My group is funded by NERC, the UK Space Agency, the European Space Agency, and the US Forest Service.

Research themes (Abridged):

1. I study the response of satellite radar data to aboveground biomass. I have published papers on using the ALOS PALSAR and JERS-1 satellites to monitor biomass and biomass change in Cameroon, Uganda and Mozambique.

2. I also look at using optical satellite data for studying landcover change as well as woody cover and biomass mapping.

3. I am interested in working with end-users to discover the most useful and cost-effective ways satellite data can be used.

4. The above are all at a local to regional scale. However, I am also interested in scaling up these methodologies, and I work on mapping aboveground biomass at a continental and pantropical scale.

I also have some other projects/areas of interest, including:

– I have done a number of field campaigns in Africa to produce biomass data for the calibration and validation of remote sensing data. I am interested in refining and optimising field methodologies to enable the highest quality data to be collected in minimum time. In combination with my supervisors I have advised various different groups on field methodologies and equipment. I am also interested in developing field methodologies that can be used by local communities (linking to 3 above)

– I have spent about 6 months of my PhD based in Los Angeles, at both the Center for Tropical Research at UCLA, and the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory. At UCLA I have become involved in some other projects, covering topics such as the spatial modelling of biodiversity and the importance of transition zones for speciation.

Career history:

Present: Chancellor’s Fellow / NERC Research Fellow, University of Edinburgh

1 Jan 2011: Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), Using satellite remote sensing to quantify woody cover and biomass across Africa, University of Edinburgh

Active research projects:

Commercialising radar-based detection of deforestation and forest degradation

Mitchard, E.

1/04/15 – 30/04/16


Investigating the effect of fire dynamics on aboveground carbon storage in the Bateke landscape

Mitchard, E.

1/02/15 – 31/12/18

Non-EU other

Converting developments in the use of satellite radar data to detect deforestation and forest degradation into market products

Mitchard, E.

1/11/14 – 28/02/15


Recent publications:

Joshi, N., Baumann, M., Ehammer, A., Fensholt, R., Grogan, K., Hostert, P., Jepsen, M.R., Kuemmerle, T., Meyfroidt, P., Mitchard, E.T. and Reiche, J., 2016. A Review of the Application of Optical and Radar Remote Sensing Data Fusion to Land Use Mapping and Monitoring. Remote Sensing, 8(1), p.70.

Avitabile, V., Herold, M., Heuvelink, G., Lewis, S.L., Phillips, O.L., Asner, G.P., Armston, J., Ashton, P.S., Banin, L., Bayol, N. and Berry, N.J., 2016. An integrated pan‐tropical biomass map using multiple reference datasets. Global change biology.

Collins, M. and Mitchard, E.T.A., 2015. Integrated radar and lidar analysis reveals extensive loss of remaining intact forest on Sumatra 2007–2010. Biogeosciences Discussions, 12(22), pp.6637-6653.

De Grandi, E.C., Mitchard, E.T., Woodhouse, I.H., Verhegghen, A. and Muirhead, F., 2015, July. Statistics of TanDEM-X DSM, coherence and backscatter for the characterization of tropical forest structural configuration. In Geoscience and Remote Sensing Symposium (IGARSS), 2015

De Grandi, E.C., Mitchard, E., Woodhouse, I.H. and De Grandi, G.D., 2015. Spatial Wavelet Statistics of SAR Backscatter for Characterizing Degraded Forest: A Case Study From Cameroon. Selected Topics in Applied Earth Observations and Remote Sensing, IEEE Journal of, 8(7), pp.3572-3584. IEEE International (pp. 1805-1808). IEEE.

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