New centre for future leaders in Earth observation

A new research centre that will use satellite data and artificial intelligence to tackle global environmental changes has been launched.

Satellite image of Namib Desert
Satellite image of Namib Desert (credit: KARI/ESA)

The Centre for Satellite Data in Environmental Science (SENSE) is a nationwide project that will equip postgraduate students with the expertise and knowledge to address current issues – such as climate change and the growing strain on our natural resources.

Edinburgh has been announced as one of the centre’s key partners, as well as the University of Leeds.

Collaborative centre

SENSE will combine industry engagement with world-leading research facilities to train 50 new PhD researchers over the next 3 years.

The studentships are funded by a £2.2m investment from the Natural Environment Research Council, support from the UK Space Agency and a further £3.4m of matched funding from the Universities of Edinburgh and Leeds, the Data Driven Innovation Programme and industry partners.

The centre will also bring together expertise in satellite remote sensing and advanced data science – which makes it possible to collect and analyse data from inaccessible areas that are under threat around the world.

Training programme

SENSE students will be based in leading UK research institutions including Edinburgh, the University of Leeds, the National Oceanography Centre and the British Antarctic Survey.

The comprehensive training programme will provide all first year PhD students with advanced training in Earth observation systems and techniques and advanced data science methods, such as artificial intelligence.

Each student will have the opportunity to collaborate closely with the space and environmental science industry, through CASE partnerships and three month industry placements.

Recruitment is now open for the first cohort of students for the Centre - the deadline for applications is 19 January 2020.

Key partnerships

The centre will work with world-renowned research institutes such as the Met Office and the National Centre for Atmospheric Science as well as industry leaders and international space agencies including European Space Agency, the German Aerospace Centre and NASA.  

The National Oceanography Centre, a leader in marine science research, and the British Antarctic Survey, the UK’s principal centre for research in polar regions, will also host SENSE PhD students and provide key training.

We are looking for outstanding candidates from environmental science, maths, physics, engineering and computer science disciplines to undertake a PhD at this exciting and innovative centre. The students will belong to a happy, inclusive and stimulating research environment with supervision from world-leading earth observation scientists.

Dr Edward MitchardCentre Co-director and Senior Lecturer at the University of Edinburgh’s School of GeoSciences

Earth observation satellites collect hundreds of terabytes of data per day, delivering important information about how fast glaciers flow, the size of forest fires in the Amazon and the quality of air that we breathe. Through SENSE we have a fantastic opportunity to grow the community of researchers with the skills and knowledge to measure how our environment is changing.

Dr Anna HoggCentre Co-director and Academic Fellow in the School of Earth and Environment at the University of Leeds

Related links

Apply to become an Earth Observation PhD student

School of Geosciences

Bayes Centre

University of Leeds press release

UK Government press release