Where are you from, and what is your study and/or work background?
I grew up in small village in Aberdeenshire in the Northeast of Scotland. I then moved to Stirling to complete my undergraduate degree in Environmental Sciences, where I was first introduced to satellite remote sensing. Afterwards, I completed a master’s in remote sensing at the University of Edinburgh. I also undertook an ERASMUS+ internship in Barcelona for a private Earth Observation company where I was involved in a range of international research projects using a variety of different satellite data sets.
During my university studies I have also been a member of the UK Polar network undertaking education and outreach events aimed at early career polar research scientists. This experience ultimately led to me become a committee member of the Norwegian Association of Polar Early Career Scientists helping to organise these events in Norway.
What motivates you to spend time with your research?
As a child I have always been fascinated by polar regions through reading about Arctic indigenous communities and the famous tales of polar explorers, as well as watching endless nature documentaries. During my university studies I became interested in the physical science of these regions when being taught about the vital role that the polar regions play in regulating the world’s climate and ocean currents. Learning of the rapid rate the Arctic has warmed (more than twice the global rate)and with the IPCC predicting in their Sixth Assessment Report that a practically ice-free Arctic summer minimum will be observed at least once by 2050 has been the personal drive to better understand these environments.
The role remote sensing satellites have played in understanding our environment through providing consistent global data has been invaluable. The opportunities that this data can provide and the range of different types of remote sensing data available is something I find exciting to use and ultimately has been the motivation for undertaking a PhD in Arctic remote sensing.
What is the purpose of your visit in Tromsø?
The PhD is funded through the SIRANO (Sea Ice Retrieval and data Assimilation in Norway, cryo.met.no/sirano) project led by the Norwegian Meteorological Institute with CIRFA as a partner. I am currently in Tromsø to undertake educational courses needed to undertake the research as well as to be trained in the Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) sea ice classification algorithms that CIRFA have developed. The goal is to learn this SAR expertise from CIRFA to then use the SAR in synergy with passive microwave data later in the PhD.
How will your research make a difference for people and companies that are operating in icy waters?
Arctic sea ice environments are highly dynamic systems, fluctuating in thickness, type, extent, and concentration. Socioeconomic activities, such as ship navigation, and scientific understanding require the accurate measurement and forecasting of the sea ice. This research aims to better comprehend how to best obtain the accuracy and sub-daily imaging capabilities of the passive microwave data (currently used in sea ice forecast models) and the higher resolution SAR data in synergy to produce an accurate and high-resolution sea ice concentration product. This new product could then potentially be assimilated into sea ice forecast models helping to improve their accuracy.
What benefits do you expect for your professional development?
This opportunity will enable me to develop a deep and broad technical understanding of the subject as well as provide the opportunity to constantly develop and improve my research skills. Also, by undertaking the PhD there is the unique opportunity to learn and work alongside leading experts from a range of different academic backgrounds. This multidisciplinary environment will enable me to constantly develop new technical skills and methods to apply in the research and overall become a more versatile researcher in my later professional career.
Feel free to add a thought on what you enjoy most about living and working in Tromsø or Oslo..
Having always been keen on outdoor activities and a love of cold environments has meant I have always wanted to come visit Norway. Therefore, when seeing this position advertised, I was very excited at the prospect of being able to come here for 3 years. What I most enjoy about living in Tromsø is being able to walk up into the mountains from the city and generally being surrounded by scenic views. There is a strong sea ice research community with multiple institutions involved in Tromsø which is great to be a part of.