2004

The Foundation gave awards in 2004 with a total of $2,500

Mud Volcanoes on Earth and Mars

Category : Using environments on Earth to understand other worlds / exobiology

Institution : University of Texas, USA

Mud volcanoes on Earth (regions where boiling hot water emerges in muddy sediments in deep marine regions) are thought to have equivalents on ancient Mars. Gases and water released from the subsurface of Mars may have caused similar features to form on the surface and they would have been more common when water was more abundant on the surface of the Red Planet. This expedition will travel to the coast off Trinidad to study life within Earth’s mud volcanoes. Using molecular biology and other techniques, the University of Texas expedition will seek to understand what extreme types of life might exist within the volcanoes, using new types of chemical energy. The expedition will reveal insights into one of Earth’s more unusual extreme environments and it could help scientists seek out new forms of life on other planets, particularly Mars.

Snow Leopards in Remote Asia

Category : Use of space technology to maintain the Earth as an Oasis

Institution : University of Newcastle, UK,

KIMPEP University, Kazakhstan

In the remote Dzhungarian regions of Kazakhstan are some of the worlds’ last remaining snow leopards. Increasingly threatened by human expansion, this expedition will seek to understand places where there are human-snow leopard interactions. Using GPS to navigate this remote region and to make maps where interactions with the snow leopards have occurred, the expedition will help develop new methods for using space technology to understand our interactions with wildlife. The expedition will systematically compare its methods and results to similar projects in India and Mongolia. The ultimate objective of this work is to reduce interference between humans and animals and to create a better co-existence between them. The expedition will also quantify the cost of such co-existence with humans and to see to what degree co-existence can be made realistic for people to implement.

Unprecedented vegetation mapping in Belize

Category : Use of space technology to maintain the Earth as an Oasis

Institution : University of Edinburgh, Scotland

Some of the most internationally important and unusual ecosystems are to be found in the Rio Bravo Conservation and Management Area in Belize. This area, the largest protected area in Belize, contains savannahs and rainforests, and they contain some of the world’s most unusual biodiversity. An accurate and precise inventory of the plants is essential for protecting and managing this region successfully. However, its undisturbed state also makes it difficult to access. One way to monitor the region is from space. This expedition will use new X-band Interferometric Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) that has a sufficiently high resolution to map individual vegetation types. The expedition will map the area using this technology and carry out the ground-truth to validate its use. Based west of Belize City in the high forests of the park, they will send ground parties to take samples across the protected region on foot. They will also measure the heights of the forests and correlate this to vegetation type. This work will allow them to see how good the space technology is and whether it can be used in future to watch these protected areas and study their biology without extensive land surveys.

Ancient Art in Mongolia

Special Focus: Mongolia

Category : Use of space technology to maintain the Earth as an Oasis

Institution: University of Edinburgh, Scotland

One way to protect the Earth’s environments is to find practical and useful reasons to look after them. Across the steppes of Mongolia are ancient rock paintings that attest to ancient cultures that once lived there. With a comprehensive knowledge of these assets, the Mongolians can better appreciate their environment and they might use these assets to create conservation plans. This will be the third expedition to Mongolia that the Foundation has helped fund. Mongolia is a country that is still emerging from its Cold War years. Its highly unspoilt environment provides an opportunity to test new approaches for technological development, but consistent with ‘maintaining the Earth as an Oasis’. The Foundation awarded two
expeditions in 1997
to use satellite technology to study the routes of ancient people in Mongolia and to help Mongolian farmers to plan grazing regions better. This expedition will use GPS and GIS technology to locate and map rock art in Mongolia and to put it into the context of existing infrastructure (roads, towns etc.). They will produce a report that will enable the Mongolian government to develop a conservation plan. This Earth and Space Award further exemplifies the Foundation’s commitment to the notion of using space technologies to improve environmental protection, but consistent with encouraging technological progress.

Protecting Extraordinary Biodiversity in Madagascar

Category : Use of space technology to maintain the Earth as an Oasis

Institution :Stony Brook University, New York, USA

Madagascar is recognized as one of the world’s 25 biodiversity hotspots, housing a unique and specialized fauna containing many endemic species found nowhere else on Earth. Among these species are 45 species of lemur, a group of primates found only in Madagascar. Sadly, much of Madagascar’s forest habitat has been devastated since humans arrived about 2000 years ago. Lemurs, being among the largest mammals, have been greatly affected. The fossil record contains 17 forms of lemur that have gone extinct in the very recent past, and many surviving species are on the brink of extinction. Forest loss and fragmentation pose a continuing threat to lemur populations. Yet, little is known about (a) which aspects of fragmentation are most damaging or (b) which lemur species are most vulnerable to these effects. In 2001 a census of lemurs in 37 was carried out in isolated and semi-isolated rainforest fragments in the Tsinjoarivo region of eastern Madagascar. While the census results yielded valuable information about the region as a whole, little can be said about the precise effects of forest fragmentation on lemur populations without a corresponding spatial analysis. The level of detail required for this analysis (some forest fragments are less than 50 m in breadth) means that high-resolution imagery is a necessity. This analysis is not possible using Landsat 7 images already acquired (resolution = 30 m) from space. This expedition will use a smaller-area, high-resolution IKONOS satellite image (captured in 2001) as a basis for this spatial analysis. The result of the expedition will be new insights into the human impact on this region and new approaches for protecting it.