Sheffield professor recognised for work on 3D-mapping satellite

A new satellite which can map the world’s forests has won a University of Sheffield professor a distinguished award.

Professor Shaun Quegan, of the University’s School of Mathematics and Statistics, received the Economic Impact Award from the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) for his work on the BIOMASS mission with the European Space Agency on Monday.

The BIOMASS satellite will map forests in 3D and measure the weight of the wood within them in order to create terrain maps, which can be used over time to assess the effects of climate change.

The project will now be taken forward by Airbus UK, who secured a £192m contract to build the satellite. It is estimated the satellite will be functional and ready for launch by 2022.

The award was presented as part of the NERC Impact Awards in the Hintze Hall at the Natural History Museum in London.

Prof Quegan said after the presentation that he was glad to see his work making a difference to the industry.

“It’s great that tackling a central issue in climate change science has led to high-value jobs and technical advances for industry, which is what this award is about,” he said.

“It’s also a tribute to the outstanding team of European scientists I’m privileged to work with through the European Space Agency and the long-term support I’ve had from the University of Sheffield.”

The awards are intended to celebrate those whose work in environmental science has made a significant impact on society and the economy in the UK and internationally. The judging panel consists of a variety of academics, industry figures and government officials. The winner of each category receives £10,000 from the Council, with the category winner judged to have had the greatest overall impact receiving a further £30,000.

Prof Nick Monk, Head of the School of Mathematics, congratulated Prof Quegan on the honour and said it showed the wide-ranging effect that work from the University is having.

“Professor Quegan’s work is ground-breaking and for the first time will provide us with vital information about the structure of the world’s forests to help us monitor climate change in the future,” he said.

“Research from the University of Sheffield is making a hugely positive impact on real-world issues.”