Prof.dr. Andrew Skidmore is amongst a select group of researchers to receive a prestigious ERC Advanced Grant from the European Research Council. The ERC announced this year’s successful applications today. Andrew Skidmore, who is a professor in Spatial Environmental Resource Dynamics at the ITC Faculty of Geo-information Science and Earth Observation of the University of Twente, will conduct research on improving monitoring of biodiversity.
In the project named BIOSPACE, a fundamentally different approach to terrestrial biodiversity monitoring will be developed, coupling next generation satellite remote sensing with environmental DNA (eDNA) profiling, complemented where available by legacy human-observed datasets.
“The exciting idea proposed here is that the DNA of species extracted from environmental samples at a very local scale, combined with insights provided through remote sensing, will allow us to understand the abundance and change in biodiversity at regional and eventually global scale”, Andrew says. “The project builds on more than two decades of research at ITC in hyperspectral remote sensing, and combines this work with the rapidly emerging field of environmental DNA; merging two extremes in scale in an exciting bid to advance biodiversity modelling.”
Andrew: “When thinking about limitations in current biodiversity monitoring, the issue that keeps emerging is the challenge of quickly and efficiently sampling.” Traditional monitoring involves the field observation of species by trained specialists, aided by skilled volunteers, whose expertise is restricted to specific biotic groupings. In a process that is both time consuming and inconsistent across time and space, botanists identify and record the presence of plant species and ornithologists the bird biota, resulting in 'unpopular' biotic groups such as fungi, bacteria and insects being under-observed or escaping identification altogether. eDNA sampling can resolve this, but its scale is a very limiting factor. Searching for a link between eDNA and remote sensing is hoped to lift biodiversity monitoring to an entirely new level.
About the ERC Advanced grants
ERC Advanced Grants are the largest of the three personal grants that are awarded by the European Research Council annually. They are designed to support excellent scientists in any field at the career stage at which they are already established research leaders with a recognized track record of research achievements in the last ten years. This year, the Advanced Grants were awarded to 222 researchers, with around €540 million earmarked in the ERC Work Programme for the grants, including three researchers of the University of Twente. For ITC, it is the first time the highest grant from the ERC is awarded to a researcher of the faculty.