Four days in Argentina: my experience of the Climate Change and Plant Dynamics in the Andes Workshop

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From the 13th to 19th of August I flew out to Mendoza, Argentina to participate in a climate change workshop. The workshop, sponsored by Newton Fund and the British Council aimed to address plant dynamics and climate change in the Andes while helping develop and connect early career researchers across Latin America and the UK. The workshop had a great range of participants from a wide range of disciplines. As the participant with the least amount of experience I always felt included and respected. I have a remote sensing and GIS background with a strong interest in botanics and forests and it was great to learn some really contextual knowledge.

The Andes is a mountain region within Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Venezuela and covers an area of 2,500,000km². The Andes is a fascinating area to study as it covers all biomes, it is high in diversity and the elevation changes. Furthermore, the Andes, unlike any other mountain chain support a vast population, 85 million people live in Andean regions and a further 20 million rely on Andean mountain resources. As well as being biologically significant, with a high level of biodiversity and endemism the Andes is a wide source of ecosystem services providing much of the national economies through agriculture, minerals, water and energy.

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However, it has been noted that human activity may now be pushing climatic variation out of this natural variation. particularly precipitation and glaciers and solid water reserves are depleting and large forest areas are being impacted by drought. Considering the Andes as a whole his a huge task as there is so much variety and dependencies. As a remote sensor, what particularly interested me was concerns surrounding data gaps and data quality. Primary issues that were raised surrounding data quality were :

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  • Issues with scale
  • Issues with complexity
  • Do we have the technology available to fill the gaps?
  • What do we need to create a model of the entire Andes?
  • Is there complete data sets for the Andes, e.g. a full species list and what is the quality of this data?
  • Are conclusions being derived from enough data points?
  • The need to consider the Andes geographical boundary rather than political boundaries, and how to define this boundary.
  • Land use change and where anthropocentric change actually outstrips climate change damage.
  • Uptake of modern technologies in the Andean research is less than European counterparts.

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Overall it was an invaluable opportunity to present my work and gain connections for the future. Presenting my work in front of so many knowledgeable people was nerve wracking but very rewarding. It was also a really great way to end my university career.

I gained insights into advice for early career researchers, the key points I took away from this discussion were:

  • Facilitating
  • Gaining access to networks
  • The need for opportunities to share and collaborate
  • Importance of social skills and online presence, particularly understanding there are no stupid questions
  • Opportunities for women into science
  • Being a leader
  • The need to keep up to date with trends both at home and abroad
  • More live streams of workshops and conferences to help those who cannot travel
  • Finding publishing opportunities

This has definitely encouraged me that as someone in their very early career, that this is a viable career path and there is a chance to learn and collaborate with specialists on important projects. From my experience, I was inspired to create a list of opportunities to develop my career and understanding of the topic. I would like to:

  • Create more tutorials – particularly for radar processing:
    • It was also highlighted by a Peruvian counterpart that they would like to use more remote sensing but most material is in English and few members of their team speak English. My idea is to create videos, a screen capture of the process to reduce the effect of this language barrier. Furthermore I could translate my current tutorials into Spanish.
  • Do a project on radar and elevation: investigate the impact of elevation and slope on the usability of radar in the Andes.
  • I have identified a few projects where I could contribute a couple of radar scenes to aid in the development of the project.
  • Write more blog posts to share my collaborations and experiences.
  • Write a review of remote sensing opportunities in the Andes. 20180815_101425

Impacts of landslides on trunk roads in Scotland

Once again I present you a very dated case study – I must have preempted this as I have since moved to Scotland so this suddenly seems interesting again.

Scotland is connected by a series of trunk roads. Trunk roads are roads of strategic importance and closure of one of these roads can have widespread impacts. Scotland’s trunk roads carry 35% of all Scottish traffic and are valued at £20.8 billion. In August 2004 there was a series of landslide events across Scotland. The landslides affected key parts of the road network and limited access to travel and services, highlighting the potential financial implications of landslides (Table 1).

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