Geomatics Specialist, British Antarctic Survey, Louise Ireland @lo_ise: A Day in the GeoLife Series

NAME:  Louise Ireland

CURRENT TITLE:  Geomatics Specialist at British Antarctic Survey

AREA OF EXPERTISE:  Collection and analysis of a range of satellite, airborne and terrestrial datasets


EDUCATION:  MSc Remote Sensing (University College London, United Kingdom), BSc Geography (University of Plymouth, United Kingdom)


What’s your job like?

I work within the Mapping and Geographic InformatIon Centre at British Antarctic Survey (BAS). We provide geographic, remote sensing and geographic information system (GIS) expertise to BAS science and operations teams.

Specifically, my work includes creation of digital elevation models and mapping products from stereo satellite imagery and air photos, processing of global positioning system (GPS) and airborne trajectory data, sourcing and analysis of global earth observation datasets and operation of airborne survey instrumentation.

I have yet to conduct work in Antarctica, but we are currently planning a field season for the end of 2015, where I will be flying around the Antarctic Peninsula whilst operating our airborne survey camera.


Satellite image draped in an elevation model of Barff Peninsula, South Georgia. Photo copyright DigitalGlobe, Inc. (used with permission)

What’s a typical day like?

A typical day in the office involves spending some time responding to the variety of different requests for help and advice related to mapping and remote sensing from science and operations teams. This can range from quick, 30-minute email exchanges giving advice on sourcing data to longer term support for a specific science program where my expertise can be of use.

My day can also be taken up with developing tools for improving access to polar geospatial datasets, such as QGIS (an open source geographic information system) plugins written in Python and providing support to the teams’ efforts to create web-based resources.

For times when I am involved in a larger mapping project, I can spend a whole day working with stereo satellite imagery to extract height and feature information as a basis for new products.

When I am engaged in an airborne survey campaign, my day is totally different. Typically, the day would start early to check weather conditions. Good weather can mean two survey flights a day. On return from flying, the work doesn’t stop. There’s data quality checking, post processing and archiving to do before the day is over.

What’s fun?

* When searching for satellite imagery of a remote part of Antarctica, you regularly come across some really stunning scenes.

* Flying around in a plane whilst operating airborne survey instrumentation.

* Seeing GIS-based tools you create for BAS and the wider community getting used.


Louise Ireland on airborne survey with British Antarctica Survey plane. Photo copyright Louise Ireland

What’s challenging?

The geospatial field is dynamic and is moving very quickly. Therefore, it can be hard to keep up with developments and stay ahead of the technology curve.

Because my team supports the whole range of work at BAS across all science programs and operations, the type of support we provide is very varied. I often have to learn on the job from day-to-day. Whether this is getting up to speed on a completely new subject or increasing my knowledge of one particular area, this can present an interesting challenge.

What’s your advice to students?

If you find something you enjoy doing, it probably means you’ll do it really well and become successful. Find something you are passionate about and go for it.

1 Comment

  1. plaguedparents

    This is so cool! Thanks for sharing about a career I knew nothing about!!

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: