Professor Shaun Quegan has been shortlisted for a NERC Economic Impact Award for “Weighing the world’s forests from space: the ESA BIOMASS mission”
Professor Shaun Quegan, of the NERC National Centre for Earth Observation and the University of Sheffield, was instrumental in securing a £192 million contract from the European Space Agency for Airbus UK to build the first ever satellite able to map the amount of biomass locked in the world’s forests. Research grants from NERC and NCEO facilitated both the environmental science that underpins how the satellite is able to work, as well as oversight of the research team involved in the bid for the contract. Using radically new technology, the BIOMASS satellite will create 3D maps of the forests, measure their biomass and height, and make an accurate map of the terrain they are standing on. Crucially, it will allow us to understand how much carbon is held in forests, providing information vital to help us monitor climate change in the decades to come.
Professor Quegan joins five other shortlisted finalists for the NERC Impacts Award. The winner will be announced at a ceremony at the Natural History Museum on Monday 3rd December.
Shortlisted and judged by independent panels of esteemed academic, industry and Government figures, these awards celebrate NERC-funded scientists, as individuals or teams, whose work has had a big impact on the economy or society in the UK or internationally.
This year’s judges include former UK environment secretary, Lord Deben, now chair of the House of Lords Committee on Climate Change, and BBC presenter and Professor of Public Engagement in Science, Professor Alice Roberts.
Dr Peter Costigan, environmental consultant and chair of the 2018 judging and shortlisting panels, said: “Headlines celebrating scientific breakthroughs may grab our attention, but the reality is it can take a long time for golden nuggets of research to have an impact in our everyday life. Delivering impact is about keeping sight of the bigger picture – understanding how the detailed work in the lab or analysing complex datasets can translate into real world benefits.
“This is my second time acting as chair of the Impact Awards judging panel, and I still find reading impact case studies fascinating. This year’s shortlist reminds me that NERC-funded research is dynamic, exciting and incredibly varied. And the impact can be just as exciting and varied, and sometimes comes in ways that were not obvious or expected at the outset.”