Thesis Award for Nature Conservation 2012
for Yiwen Sun
How to reassess giant panda habitat with satellite-derived bamboo information? This was the central question in Yiwen Sun’s MSc thesis for which she carried an extensive study in the Qinlling Mountains in China. Yiwen Sun is runner-up for the Van Heest / WWF Thesis Award for Nature Conservation 2012.
Sun designated the potential habitat of the giant panda in China. She worked this out on the basis of the potential distribution of bamboo, the most important food for the giant panda. The data on the actual distribution of bamboo and other vegetation are derived from satellite information. The specific case studied by Sun is satellite data and other information on the Qinling Mountains in China. This is a location where the giant panda is still living in its natural habitat, but where it is only found in fragmented parts of the habitat.
Sun concluded in her thesis that data on the distribution of the giant panda can be used as surrogate data for the spread of bamboo. This is the conclusion Sun drew after she had charted the spread of bamboo on the basis of models that indicate the distribution of the giant panda in relationship to the vegetation present.
The jury is of the opinion that the scientific quality of the thesis is extraordinary, the societal relevance is high and that the ideas Sun advances are very innovative.
In 2010 ITC student Tawanda Manyangadze was runner-up in the same competition with his thesis entitled Forest fire detection for near real-time monitoring using geostationary satellites.