'We are looking for innovative satellite applications for monitoring biodiversity'

Satellite data can play an important role in monitoring Earth's biodiversity. How exactly? Dutch companies can propose solutions in the context of the SBIR competition. Researcher Joris Timmermans is one of the jury members: 'The Netherlands can be a guiding country!'

What makes you an ideal jury member for the SBIR Satellite Data and Biodiversity Competition?
‘I got my teeth into the subject of biodiversity. In particular, how to research – and perhaps even improve – biodiversity on Earth using satellite data. The idealist in me thinks there is still a lot to be improved here. This can be by developing new technology, but also by making better use of data that is already available.'

Why is biodiversity research so urgent?
Researcher Joris Timmermans in his natural habitat. Photocredits: MakeMyPhoto.

‘Very simple: biodiversity is not doing well. The number of animal and plant species is declining sharply. Habitat quality is declining. Areas in Spain are already desertifying. It gets so dry that nothing survives. The Netherlands will also have to deal with such drought in the future. To ensure that we still have a healthy planet in 2050, we must pay attention to biodiversity.'

How do we do that?
‘Almost all countries in the world are members of the Convention on Biological Diversity. The Netherlands as well. This organization sets very concrete goals. For example, about the amount of protected nature reserve, the quality of these areas and about connecting habitats so that animals can move freely. Each country can make its own policy for the conservation of biodiversity. To find out which policy works best, we need to intensively monitor the status of biodiversity.

Can satellites help with that?
“Very good, I would say. Research is already being done with satellites on forest cover, vegetation growth and major changes in nature areas. But the use of satellite data for essential biodiversity variables is still in its infancy. We need smart applications that look at existing data in a new way: with ecological relevance. And to new technologies for research into biodiversity. This is what the SBIR competition is all about.”

What will you pay attention to as a jury member?
“An idea must be relevant to research or promotion of biodiversity, that is number one. Collaboration is number two for me. You usually don't come up with a good idea alone. Companies can talk to governments, so that they know exactly what the need or question is. This way you increase the chance that an application can actually be used. Because that is of course the goal.'

Where should companies that want to get involved start?
‘I can advise people to come to the information meeting in Den Haag on 30 August. I would prefer to see a very diverse group of startups and established companies, governments, implementing organizations and knowledge institutions. Together they have the knowledge and experience to come up with smart ideas. They can make the Netherlands a leading country in the world in this area.'

More information
Register until Wednesday 23 August for the SBIR information meeting on 30 August 2023.
More information about the SBIR competition ‘Satellite data for biodiversity’.
Questions can be submitted until 5 September at the latest via sbir@spaceoffice.nl.