BGU | The Sky is No Limit

Aiming for the Stars Dr. Shimrit Maman, Director of the Earth and Planetary Image Facility at BGU, combines groundbreaking space technology with the study of natural phenomena for a wide range of applications, from astronomical research to resource conservation and disaster relief and management.

Using satellite data we can generate infromation for research, monitoring, and even search & rescue operations.

Dr. Shimrit Maman, Director of the Earth and Planetary Image Facility (EPIF) and Head of the UN-SPIDER Israel Regional Support Office, found her calling early. From the outset, she found research fascinating, challenging, and fun, on top of “constantly having to be doing something, moving things forward, striving for achievements”, as she put it. She first encountered remote sensing during her undergraduate studies in the Department of Geography and Environmental Development at Ben-Gurion University. From there she went on to study for a master’s degree in the Department of Environmental Physics and Solar Energy at the Jacob Blaustein Institutes for Desert Research, where she researched water problems in Central Asia by mapping the clay soil that holds water reserves in Turkmenistan. She was one of the first researchers to conduct research of this kind in a post-Soviet country. Maman returned to the Department of Geography for her PhD and then was a postdoctoral fellow at BGU’s Kreitman School of Advanced Graduate Studies. While conducting field measurements in the heart of the Red Sand (Kyzylkum) Desert in Uzbekistan for her doctoral research, a satellite

passed above, photographing the Earth’s surface. Dr. Maman then realized just how transformative the field she had chosen was, combining groundbreaking space technology with on the ground study of natural phenomena. “I had studied climate change in the sand deserts of Central Asia for several years before I arrived there in person,” she says. “Using satellite data to obtain images of the Earth and other planets, we can generate information for research, monitoring, and even search & rescue operations without having to physically be at the site we want to investigate.” Analysis of the images taken from space makes it possible to learn about places that are difficult and sometimes even impossible to access, such as minefields, unstable ground with sinkholes, and disaster areas where access is too dangerous. In recent decades, applied research has increasingly been using this kind of information in disaster management and disaster risk mitigation. Today, disaster response based on satellite data begins with emergency mapping for rescue and continues with the designing of plans for long-term rehabilitation.

According to Dr. Maman, the images generated through satellite remote sensing allow us to acquire essential knowledge that cannot be obtained in any other way. When a disaster such as a flood or an earthquake drastically transforms the Earth’s surface, remote sensing can provide answers to the most immediate and pressing questions, such as: what routes can rescue teams use to safely access the disaster zone? Which areas are in most need of immediate relief? And which will require rehabilitation? One of Dr. Maman’s most important responsibilities is selecting the sensors that will provide the information most vital to disaster management. The information is then processed to produce maps that help minimize the damage and long-term effects of the disaster. At the beginning of the millennium, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev and NASA, the American space agency, signed an agreement to establish a regional planetary imaging laboratory within the University’s geography department. As part of the agreement, NASA provided

18 | English Edition | November 2023

Made with FlippingBook - Online Brochure Maker