Founder Alex Hickman (left) and Dr Ralph Clark, Director of the ARU
African Mountain Research Foundation Founder Alex Hickman (left) and Dr Ralph Clark, Director of the ARU

In a move towards accelerating the collection of geospatial data in the Southern African region, the African Mountain Research Foundation (AMRF) has entered into a two-year ground-breaking partnership with California-based company Planet Land.

Planet operates the largest privately owned fleet of satellites in the world. These circulate the globe on a daily basis, taking images of every inch of the planet and allowing subscribers to their website the opportunity to monitor changes to the earth’s surface on a daily basis.

Essentially, the partnership will provide 100 students, scientists, and researchers based in the Southern African region with access to geospatial data on how tree coverings, water levels, and soil are changing on a daily basis, as well as on a long-term basis. This will be done through a departmental licence that will be hosted by the Afromontane Research Unit (ARU) on the University of Free State Qwaqwa Campus.

Alex Hickman, one of AMRF’s founders, said the departmental licence, which is worth 15 000 dollars, was given to the ARU for free for a period of two years. The partnership is a fantastic opportunity to support the community of mountain science practices in South Africa and the region, he said. “It’s really an exciting opportunity for students, researchers, and academics from the UFS, as well as South Africa and Southern Africa. The ARU will host the licence, so interested students should get in touch with Dr Ralph Clark (Director of the ARU).”

Dr Clark described the partnership as a huge privilege, not only for the ARU, but as a service to the region and those who will benefit from it. “Apart from climate change being a big problem in the region, immediate land use transformation is possibly the more important issue, because of the way the land is being used. It’s being vastly degraded, causing mass extinctions, loss of biodiversity and water resources. Planet’s data will allow us to track land use on a larger scale, in a much easier way, and at a much larger resolution.”

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