Can you describe how your experience relates to space technologies and water?
What struck me when I was studying meteorology was that many hurricanes are now recorded thanks to space information that would have been missed in the past. As a matter of fact, many of them happen over the oceans and are only detected via satellite information, which is available since the mid 60ies. Knowing that hurricanes can cover areas between 50 to 600 miles in diameter, and at maturity release the energy of several nuclear bombs each second, gives a good idea to which extent observations - other than those based on satellites - are insufficient over water, where observations are still rare and expensive. This is also the case over deserts and war areas.
Considering that the Earth is covered by more than 70% of oceans, and around 30% of Africa is covered by deserts, just to mention one continent, satellites are critical for a good knowledge of the status of the atmosphere, the state of the oceans and climate change impacts. Weather forecasts require an extensive use of satellite imagery mainly visible, infrared and water vapor but not only.
Satellites are not only useful for observation, but also for telecommunication which is also a challenge over these areas.
There are several other challenges related to water. Water is critical for life. Many types of disasters are caused by too little or too much water: floods, droughts, avalanches, landslides, tsunamis, etc. I myself was stuck in Venezuela in December 1999 when heavy rains have triggered landslides that resulted in tens of thousands of dead and several hundred thousand homeless people. The situation was critical. I was checking the weather forecasts and satellite imagery day and night to see if the rain would keep on. The water from the tap was brown, and as European, even if I had travelled a lot, it was probably the only time in my life where I really understood the importance of having an easy access to drinkable water.
The less information you have, which is the case over the oceans or in disaster situations, the more critical it is to be able to use all the information you can get, to integrate that into a consistent and critical understanding in a reasonable time to be able to support decisions. This requires standards.
I am from a region in the south of France where the very strong winds impact your daily life regularly, but I really ended up studying meteorology, because I loved math and physics. Meteorology is not anymore about frogs and not only about looking at the sky, it is a lot about math, physics, science such as teledetection and modelling, computers and networks. My interest in meteorology and oceanography first came from my interest in the sciences.
Environment, meteorology and oceanography don’t have borders, they are global and require global cooperation. WMO is an outstanding reference in terms of global cooperation, building interoperability since the 50ies. All countries need information from each other and WMO has defined telecommunication and data standards to make this data exchange possible. I worked on the integration of information needed by forecaster’s specialized decision tool using WMO standards for many years. Then, I designed and coordinated many projects integrating these data in decision tools for other business experts such as the Defence experts, the CSG European Launching platform in Kourou, the Airline company Air France and others. This also needed some engineering to define relevant architectures, based on different standards, because the military and the aeronautics have their own ones. Joining the Open Geospatial Consortium was the perfect following step to go further in interoperability and integration of information to support all types of decisions.
Considering the specific domain of Hydrology, OGC has facilitated the incubation and development of the waterML 2.0 standard needed by the hydrology community. Part 1 and 2 of this open standard have been adopted by WMO and this is a major step for water information exchange.
Space technology has evolved very quickly which regularly brings new possibilities and challenges linked to the volumes of data. On the one side we benefit from new technologies such as the Cloud, machine learning, DataCubes, and more, and on the other side we face new types of challenges with the increase and diversity of uses across all domains. This highlights the need for specific work with standards to face technological, scientific and societal evolutions.
My work is fascinating, because it is very useful for the sustainability of humankind and for business development: any improvement is very quickly adopted and implemented. I also love it, because I learn new things every single day and meet outstanding people very committed to their daily challenges. There is such a huge potential of innovation ahead for the benefit of all!
Could you tell us about your current work, your latest project or your proudest professional moment?
I work with the Innovation Program of the Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC) in Europe. This program is a type of research laboratory of the OGC, where we manage or contribute to initiatives looking for challenges and the best ways to solve them. I am currently involved in two European H2020 projects, NextGEOSS and E-SHAPE, and in a Disaster Risk Reduction Initiative in connection to NextGEOSS.
NextGEOSS is a major contribution to EuroGEO providing a major European data hub to access Earth Observation data, via services, which are useful to any Earth Observation application and preparing these applications for deployment on any cloud. It gathers 27 partners and will end in 2020. Work will be ongoing to secure the sustainability of the projects results and activities. Via the Disaster Risk Reduction Initiative we work on the interoperability of the Regional and global GEOSS components.
E-SHAPE is coordinating the development of 27 pilots from seven thematic domains to help them scale up in terms of performance, geographical area, operational maturity, technologies, etc. in the best way taking the best earth observation resources available in Europe. E-SHAPE provides a strong co-design activity that will help evolve into a very user centric approach, which shall smoothen the cooperation between the partners and for a better adoption of the results by the users.
All my projects are currently related to Earth Observation, which perfectly fits my background.
The success of each of my projects has always been a proud professional moment as it was the result of hard teamwork that produced tangible results. Most of the systems resulting from these projects are still operational after many years and they are regularly evolving taking into account the evolution of data or connected systems. By the way, this is a good example of the importance of architectures based on standards to keep connected components that can evolve independently.
Considering the proudest professional moment, of course I have to mention the OGC Gardels award, which I received in 2017, based on my contributions to OGC while I was working with Meteo-France. Joining such a distinguished panel of experts was a great honour. Being the first woman who has received the award is just an amazing opportunity to encourage young ladies selecting their career to join geospatial sciences.
What do you need to innovate?
There are different types of innovations and different ways to approach it. OGC Innovation Program offers a portfolio of initiatives to address some of them based on criteria such as maturity of the technology and size of the initiative, which is somehow connected to a diffusion effort. This Program provides a collaborative agile process for solving geospatial challenges. Organizations (sponsors and technology implementers) come together to solve problems, produce prototypes, develop demonstrations, provide best practices, and advance the future of standards. Since 1999 more than 120 initiatives have been taking place ranging from in-kind interoperability experiments run by a working group to multi-million-dollar testbeds with hundreds of participants.
The starting point is always a real issue provided by the sponsors. We then engage participants who are interested in the topic, from experts to beginners, building innovative solutions based on open standards and new technologies. The process itself supports the diffusion. Engineering Reports are always produced as deliverables for longer term and broader benefits.
My personal approach to innovation is also based on cross fertilization between domains as I have 30 years of experience in operational meteorological systems and some in oceanography, I try to adapt this knowledge to other domains. There is so much to be done!
What do you think is poorly understood or unresolved within the area of sustainable water management and research? Why is this so? How do you believe space technologies add value?
In situ observations are a permanent challenge in all areas. They do not comprise big volumes such as space data, but they are much more diverse. Their governance is extremely fragmented and their quality can be challenging when you want to build long series. It requires real expertise to clean up and homogenize in situ data. Nevertheless, they are critical to calibrate any Earth Observation product, including value added products derived from space observations. They are also critical to the calibration of the climate models and the analysis of climate change impacts, because we have longer time series of in-situ observations, sometimes over several centuries. Investments in in situ observations are often going down and the efforts in managing and preserving these data are recognised as insufficient. Space technology provides a global coverage of observations, which adds tremendous value, but people have to understand that each type of data complements and leverages each other, brings value to the science, and their combination increases the innovation potential.
Over land, social media and citizen observatories can be an interesting source of information for instance for real time data, but they are not so much useful for climate impact analysis.
We need to define the optimum level of effort in in situ data collection and management to leverage the best value of space technology.
What do you see as the main conflicts among those who research water and space technologies or those who work with water and space technologies?
Earth Observation and Environmental sciences require a lot of cooperation, even when there is competition for budgets. In my career I have seen managers pushing volunteer competition between teams as a method of management, and a tool to look for excellence. This can work short term if it is accepted by all, but it has a lot of drawbacks in the long run. Considering the importance of the challenges and the huge amount of work ahead, I think that it is important to encourage the value of cooperation, openness, and teamwork. Teamwork is compatible with recognition and distinctions to encourage efforts.
What is your favourite aggregate state of water?
Solid, because of the variety of snow elements. Do you know that the Sami have 180 words and the scots claim to have 421 to designate the different types of snow. This illustrates the impact of snow on the lives of these populations over centuries. The different physical structures of snowflakes are fascinating. This is not my speciality, but I could have liked being a snow expert!
If there is anything else you would like to share with an audience of professionals, with young professionals and other practitioners in the space and water domain, what would it be?
There is a lot of fascinating work still to be done in this area. Unfortunately, water will be one of the resources most impacted by climate change. We have already explained, how essential satellites are to observe and transmit data, to forecast relevant information and to manage resources.
So if you are looking for a job adding value to the good, for humankind and above all want to have a very interesting job, surrounded by amazing working partners, you should definitely consider the space and water domain. If you are already in, hold on, even if it is complex at times, because our Earth system is complex. Global human behaviour is also complex, and water resources are impacted by both. The space and water domain is both, useful and beautiful.