GsAL Student Research Highlight: Radhika Bhargava

Written by Oz Brown

Google Earth Engine India Workshop

A hugely productive summer for USF’s Geospatial Analysis Lab (GsAL) began with one of our graduate research assistants, Radhika Bhargava, attending the 2017 Information and Communications Technologies for Development conference in India, in May. The focus of the conference was improving the use of data and technology to help the drive toward development in less developed countries and meet the UN’s sustainable development goals and was well attended by representatives from around the world.

Radhika’s key assignment for the week was to collaborate with Google to deliver training in the use of Google Earth Engine (GEE) at Google Hyderabad to around 60 participants from technical and non-technical backgrounds. This kind of training and collaboration is greatly valued by participants as it allows for groups working within and across nations to connect with each other, share ideas and improve common understanding of the contexts surrounding local, national and global development issues. GEE combines colossal geospatial data-sets and petabytes of satellite imagery with formidable planetary-scale analytical capabilities to provide researchers with the ability to identify, quantify and study the effects of changes to the Earth’s surface – and by harnessing the power of their Cloud technology, this is all possible on a standard home computer. The sense of purpose, learning and new ideas for applications at the conference were all outstanding, and extremely encouraging for the future of progress towards meeting the UN sustainability goals.


Summer Internship on Coastal Management

In July our graduate research assistant at GsAL, Radhika Bhargava, worked with the Suganthi Devadason Marine Research Institute (SDMRI) in Tuticorin, in the state of Tamil Nadu in India. After convincing the director of SDMRI, Dr J. K. Patterson Edward, to offer her a short research placement there, she spent two weeks learning about the issue of bycatch in the Gulf of Mannar, by Tuticorin’s coastal village fishing industry. Bycatch is the unavoidable process of catching fish or other marine life that are not of target species, age, sex or weight. In the case of Tuticorin, a key concern is the bycatch of soft and hard coral species, and sponges, which could easily be seen in the early morning in the fishermen’s nets. The fishermen assert that they do not target coral-rich areas as coral can destroy fishing nets, but there is approximately 10 kilograms of benthic substrate – essentially, the material that makes up the floor of a given body of water, in this case coral – being pulled up per boat, per day. The types of nets are consistent among the villages and each village operates from 100-300 boats, so it is clear that there is a need for the excellent work that SDMRI and other environmental research organizations are doing to learn about the effects of destructive fishing practices and work with communities towards more sustainable economic activity.