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Our second forest research trip to Gabon

Carbon stored in the forests of Gabon

Hi, we’re Tom and Annabel. We joined Sylvera in late 2021 as part of the multi-scale light detection and ranging (lidar) team. 

Our team collects state-of-the-art laser scanning data from both the ground and air, that describe forest structure. These data are used to train our advanced machine learning models that use satellite data to estimate the carbon stored across forested landscapes. The goal of our team is to collect enough of these data so that we can provide uniquely accurate insights into forest state and change globally. 

In early 2022, we traveled to Gabon as part of this work. This was the second trip Sylvera has made to Gabon as part of our multi-scale lidar project. 

Read on to learn more about our experiences and achievements.

Why are we studying Gabon’s forests?

Gabon is roughly the same area as the United Kingdom, with approximately 85% forest cover, of which two-thirds is still intact primary forest, meaning that it hasn’t been significantly disturbed by humans for many decades. This makes it an interesting location to study and understand pristine forests.

What did we achieve during our second research trip to Gabon?

We built on the work our team completed when they first traveled to Gabon in early 2021. On our second trip we collected data using our unoccupied aerial vehicle (UAV). This dramatically expanded the amount of forest we were able to sample. 

With the help of local scientists, we were able to successfully collect 1,000 hectares of first-of-their-kind UAV laser scanning data. This likely amounts to over 500,000 individual trees!

Our team using UAV technology to laser scan forests in Gabon

How did we measure half a million trees?

First, we were trained on how to use the different laser scanners, and gained a deep understanding of the data we would be collecting. Then we put everything into practice. This included collecting ground-based lidar data deep in the forests and working alongside our great team of local scientists, as well as planning flight missions and then undertaking them with our UAV-mounted lidar system.

About our experience laser scanning forests in Gabon

Tom: Working on the African continent was a new experience for me, and I loved it! I made great friends working with the local team, despite the language barriers. The team at Sylvera was also incredibly welcoming, giving me space to learn, develop new skills and naturally find my place. With all work, there are challenging days, but sitting and watching monkeys pass you by while you plan your next UAV flight isn’t so bad! 

Annabel: It was a dream of mine to visit central Africa’s tropical forests and, ultimately, to see forest elephants. This trip gave me that opportunity. For me, Gabon exceeded any expectations I could ever have had because I was able to see forest elephants on multiple occasions. The work itself, naturally, had challenging moments but our team has been so supportive. We’ve had such incredible moments that all the challenges seem so small in comparison to what we’ve been able to achieve.

Gabonese forest elephant

About us: Tom and Annabel

Tom Perry

I joined Sylvera late in 2021. Prior to working at Sylvera I worked as a Geophysicist and then an outdoor guide. I had been searching for a way to combine technical and outdoor work in the environmental sector. This opportunity with Sylvera was the ideal match and it has far exceeded expectations! I am proud to be working for a company that is building towards creating solutions to reverse climate change and protect our planet’s forests.

Annabel Locke

I’ve been working for Sylvera since December 2021. I pursued this role because I believed that it would be a great opportunity to combine my interests in nature and science. I’ve always wanted to use my knowledge and passion to be able to create positive change. Before this role I was working for a biotech startup alongside working on my MSc in Conservation Management of African Ecosystems. So far, I’ve loved the opportunity to travel, see some amazing wildlife and meet brilliant people. I look forward to our future trips!

Black and white colobus monkey in Gabon

What’s next for the Sylvera multi-scale lidar team?

For Sylvera and our team, these trips to forests in Gabon, Peru and the United Kingdom, are just the first few of many planned campaigns over the next two years and beyond to build a world-first dataset.

Joining Sylvera has been an exciting and rewarding experience for us. The Gabon project was a huge success and we’re excited to continue our work all over the world starting with our next trip in April 2022. Every day is different at Sylvera, and we are all motivated by a passion to protect our forests and truly believe in the potential of the data we’re collecting. 

If you’d like to join us, and think you might have the right background and appetite for learning, we’re hiring in our team. Apply here.

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About the author

Tom Perry and Annabel Locke are part of our multi-scale lidar team. Before joining Sylvera, Tom worked as a geophysicist and an outdoor guide, while Annabel worked for a biotech startup alongside working on an MSc in Conservation Management of African Ecosystems.