GTP-2020-EOP-SME: Graduate or Master Student specialized in Earth observation or similar - Observing Forest Structure from Space (GTP-2020-EOP-SME)

German Aerospace Center (DLR)

Köln, Germany

Work group:


Area of research:

Vocational training

Job description:

Have you (almost) completed your degree studies? Are you inspired by space exploration and keen to pursue a career in this exciting field? If so, perhaps you should take a closer look at the German Trainee Programme. Organised by DLR, it offers you the chance to work shoulder to shoulder with experts from the 22 member states of ESA – keeping your finger on the pulse of Europe‘s space programmes. Over a period up to 24 months, you will actively contribute to the latest research and/or technology projects. This is complemented by a generous scholarship. What better way to launch your career in international space business? The next GTP commences on 1st February 2020.

This is your opportunity to join the team at ESTEC – Noordwijk, Netherlands
Observing Forest Structure from Space (GTP-2020-EOP-SME)

The Earth and Mission Science Division (MSD) is part of the Science, Applications and Climate Department, within the Earth Observation Programmes Directorate. The Division is responsible for ensuring the application of scientific and other user community requirements in all phases of the development of Earth Observation missions, from precursor studies through to initial in-orbit satellite operations, and for ensuring coherence throughout with the objectives expressed in the mission requirements documents, including the management of mission-specific advisory structures (where required). In support of the preparations for each ESA Earth Observation mission, the Division initiates and conducts supporting scientific studies (in house and external), and organizes, coordinates and executes related Campaigns for the purpose of acquiring airborne, balloon borne, or in-situ data.


Forests cover 31% of the land area on our planet. Through their active roles in ecological processes, forests are crucial elements of the Earth system. In response to the need to monitor these systems, Space Agencies are developing or have already launched a number of space-borne missions with a capability to map forest structure parameters such as above ground biomass (AGB) and forest height (e.g. NASA’s GEDI, ESA’s BIOMASS and DLR’s Tandem-L missions). These missions use innovative SAR and LiDAR technologies to measure forest biomass and forest height and their change with time on a global scale with much more precision than is possible today. This traineeship is in the context of the BIOMASS mission and will be conducted in close collaboration with the BIOMASS mission and algorithm development teams.

In this activity, the global variability in forest structure shall be analysed. The aim of this work is to investigate the spatial consistency of structure patterns which will provide critical input in the design of the BIOMASS biophysical parameter retrieval. To this aim the sensitivity of tomographic SAR reflectivity profiles (as will be available by BIOMASS and Tandem-L) and of full lidar waveforms (as provided by GEDI) to map different forest structure types shall be investigated. Two tasks are foreseen, in a first task data collected during the AfriSAR airborne campaign in Gabon shall be analysed and metrics shall be developed that allow the classification of these profiles. For this campaign ready to use processed data from DLR’s F-SAR (in L-band and P-band) and NASA’s LVIS lidar sensors are available together with extensive ground data. The purpose of this task is to understand the information contained in the different datasets and shall build on previous work by Tello et al. (2018) and Pardini et al. (2018). In a second task, the metrics defined in Task 1 shall be applied to global GEDI lidar waveforms and it shall be identified how they vary spatially. Based on the lessons learned from the AfriSAR and the global GEDI data analysis it shall be concluded how forest structure, as will be seen by BIOMASS, varies in space and how this impacts the BIOMASS biophysical parameter retrieval.

Tello, M., Cazcarra-Bes, V., Pardini, M., Papathanassiou, K. (2018). Forest Structure Characterization from SAR Tomography at L-Band. IEEE Journal of Selected Topics in Applied Earth Observations and Remote Sensing. DOI: 10.1109/JSTARS.2018.2859050.Pardini, M., Tello, M., Cazcarra-Bes, V., Papathanassiou, K., Hajnsek, I. (2018). L- and P-Band 3-D SARReflectivity Profiles vs. Lidar Waveforms: The AfriSAR Case. IEEE Journal of Selected Topics in Applied Earth Observations and Remote Sensing. DOI 10.1109/JSTARS.2018.2847033.

Please apply via recruiter’s website.

Quote Reference: GTP-2020-EOP-SME