13 Dec 2023
Media Releases

SmartSat, Andy Thomas Space Foundation award two Dr Peter Woodgate Scholarships for research on Australia’s eucalypt forests and archaeological landscapes

13 Dec 2023

SmartSat, in collaboration with the Andy Thomas Space Foundation, today named two Australian PhD students as the inaugural recipients of Dr Peter Woodgate Scholarships for Earth Observation.

Donna Fitzgerald, from the University of South Australia, and Oliver Hatswell, from Flinders University, will each receive scholarships valued at $35,000 per year for their respective research projects.

Donna’s project involves quantifying the dieback of eucalypt forests and vegetation health changes over time using comparative remote sensing techniques to monitor forest health. The findings will be used to develop a remote sensing and scenario-based framework for dieback analytics in other forests.

(L-R) SmartSat CEO Professor Andy Koronios and Andy Thomas Space Foundation Chairman Michael Davis AO with scholarship recipients Oliver Hatswell and Donna Fitzgerald.

Professor Andy Koronios, CEO of SmartSat CRC, said that Donna’s experience in Environment and Natural Resources will contribute immensely to the research project.

“We’re delighted to award this scholarship to Donna Fitzgerald. We believe her project mirrors the scope of the scholarship, and the proposed research methods were very sound. Given Australia’s climate change challenges, her research is a critical area of work.”

“Dr Peter Woodgate began working in 1976 with the Forest Commission of Victoria as a crew leader in hardwood assessment. He later held positions as officer-in-charge of the Dieback Research Station in Yarram. The government highly sought his advice on forest change, ecology and conservation, amongst other areas. Donna’s project aligns with his vision and SmartSat’s mission of using space data to enhance decision making for land and sea-based environments.”

SmartSat CRC CEO Professor Andy Koronios with the late Dr Peter Woodgate.

Oliver Hatswell’s project involves the innovative mapping of archaeological landscapes in the Australian Arid Zone using satellite remote sensing. It will undertake an extensive trial of high-resolution remote sensing and machine learning methods to map key geomorphic features and inform understanding of archaeological potential, chronology, and depositional history.

Michael Davis, Chair, Andy Thomas Space Foundation, said that Oliver’s research will play an important role in cultural heritage management, working in collaboration with the Yandruwandha Yawarrawarrka and Wangkangurru Yarluyandi, Traditional Owners of the Simpson Desert and Coongie Lakes.

“Oliver’s research may contribute to Aboriginal cultural heritage and pastoral landscape management, which the committee considered would align closely with the values of the Andy Thomas Space Foundation and SmartSat. He has a very strong archaeological background and experience, with his Supervisor, Associate Professor Ian Moffat of Flinders University, a recent recipient of the Australian Research Council Future Fellowship. Using machine learning approaches to automatically detect geomorphic features in other locations based on elevation or multispectral data has shown significant potential.”

Download the full media release here