PostDoc Research Fellow, Snowpack Evolution Modeling, Wassim Mohamed BABA @MatarNissan: A Day in the GeoLife Series

Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Wassim Mohamed BABA ©2020 Wassim Mohamed BABA

NAME: Wassim Mohamed BABA

CURRENT TITLE: Postdoctoral Research Fellow (Mohammed VI Polytechnic University, Morocco).

AREA OF EXPERTISE: Snowpack evolution modeling, remote sensing, data assimilation, data analysis and geographic information system (GIS).



– Since July 2020: Postdoctoral researcher at Mohammed VI Polytechnic University (Bengurir, Morocco): Monitoring the snowpack evolution in the High Atlas mountains. 

– July 2019 – June 2020: Post-Doctoral researcher at LEGOS (Toulouse, France): Implemation of a scheme to derive the bathymetry from Sentinel-2 images.

– December 2018 – June 2019: Post-Doctoral researcher at CESBIO (Toulouse, France): Mapping the snow cover area at high spatio-temporal resolution with remote sensing images.

– November 2015 – November 2018: PhD at CESBIO (Toulouse, France): Application of remote sensing to model snowpack evolution in the High Atlas .

– September 2012 – June 2015 : GIS Engineering at EHTP (Casablanca, Morocco).

TWITTER NAME: @MatarNissan

What’s your job like?

I am working on monitoring the snowpack evolution in the High Atlas mountains (Morocco) by using several data sources (e.g. meteorological reanalysis, remote sensing images, etc.). My work is mainly computer-based, improving existing models by adding new blocks, evaluating the models, and interpreting their results. 

In the future, I will be occasionally involved in some fieldwork (e.g. measuring snow height and installing some automatic weather stations). How soon I do this will depend on how COVID-19 evolves!! (I hope it will develop in a positive sense!!!).

What’s a typical day like?

A typical day involves around 7-8 hours of focused work (actually, remote work). My primary task is to model the snowpack evolution in the High Atlas with high spatio-temporal resolution (it can reach ~200 m of spatial resolution and 1 hour of temporal resolution). To have a proper simulation, we need to optimize different parameters of the model, and/or use a data assimilation scheme to correct forcing errors. This is very costly in terms of execution time. Thus, I spend a lot of time fighting with various FORTRAN/shell/Matlab codes to implement these optimization/assimilation schemes. During my cofee breaks, I often try to read the latest news of the villages of the High Atlas. I’m also looking for the latest photos in social networks (Instagram & Twitter), which have been taken in the High Atlas summits. There are some days when I don’t code, and I’m either reading scientific papers related to my work or promoting our research work in the form of scientific articles.

Plan of the areas where the depth of the snow would be taken. ©2020 Wassim Mohamed BABA

What’s fun?

The most fun for me is simply: converting coffee into code!! I also enjoy processing satellite images.

What’s challenging?

Our study area is the High Atlas mountains. In this area, there are very few studies that address how to model the snowpack evolution. There are also few in-measurements and automatic weather stations in the elevated areas (where snow generally fall). So, we don’t have a solid background (in terms of bibliography and in-situ measurements). So we try to go beyond that and with an ambitious team we are trying to develop this “background.”

Panoramic view of the High Atlas Mountains during winter. ©2020 Wassim Mohamed BABA

What’s your advice to students?

For all the students, I advise to learn two languages: English and Programming. English will allow you to access the latest information technology (IT)/GIS and remote sensing articles and news. While Programming will allow you to use and process the different sources of remote sensing data. Then, it will push you to solve several scientific challenges. 

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