Tech tools for natural resources in eastern Indonesia

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Tech tools for natural resources in eastern Indonesia

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The use of satellite data for mapping and monitoring has become an important tool assisting effective and timely natural resource management throughout the world. Crucial in the analysis of satellite data is the application of local knowledge to interpretation of mapped landscapes, observed changes and for influencing management and policy. Currently, most satellite based assessments of natural resources in Eastern Indonesia are conducted by non-locals. However, with evolving technologies and changing research methods, new opportunities are arising for the wider use of satellite technology. The application of satellite imagery, once an expensive and specialist skill, has become cheap and accessible due to the drastic decrease in hardware costs and the availability of high quality free satellite data and software.

Training participants

Training participants

As part of ongoing collaborative engagement between CDU and Nusa Cendana University (Kupang, Indonesia) two one week intensive workshops have been conducted in West Timor, with support from the Australia Indonesia Institute, training government and university staff in the use of satellite data for landscape mapping monitoring and modeling.  Crucial to the sustainability of these workshops is the use of open source software, freely available satellite images and elevation data and the focus on locally relevant applications.  This approach empowers local governments and NGOs to use advanced tools for informing local management decisions.

The decentralisation of technologies that enhance transparency and promote common interests in sustainable environmental management and economic wellbeing could be an important component of regional development in eastern Indonesia. Informed natural resource management could improve landscape health, and consequently food security and access to clean water, as well as protecting biodiversity.

Rohan Fisher explaining the interpretation of Landsat imagery in the field.

Rohan Fisher explaining the interpretation of Landsat imagery in the field.

The training sessions covered a broad range of applications focused on local issues including:

  • The monitoring of forest cover change focusing on an example near Kupang, of a remnant patch of lowland rainforest decimated by years of logging and agricultural expansion.
  • The hydrological modeling of local catchments and the development of wetness indices that can be used to predict malaria occurrence.
  • The development of models for assessing the inundation risk from storm surge of new city developments in Kupang Bay and erosion risk assessments in Sumba.

In addition to the practical training, senior representatives from the Indonesian Nation Space Science research agency (LAPAN) joined the second workshop (5-9 March) from Jakarta to share information about their work and learn about West Timor.

Assisting me with the delivery of these workshops was Sarah Hobgen (RIEL PhD student) who has been applying the same tools to her catchment modeling research in Sumba and replicating the Kupang workshops for local NGO and government staff in Sumba. Additional lectures were given by Dr Karen Joyce (SELS)  and Dr Ian Leiper (RIEL).

It was personally very satisfying being engaged in the delivery of these workshops as it formed a logical extension of the capacity building work I have been involved with over the last ten years in the region. Importantly, the workshops also enabled me to enact one of the central recommendations from my recent masters research, investigating forest cover change in West Timor, for decentralized capacity building in the use of remotely sensed data for natural resource management.