Undergraduate Funding/Research Opportunity

ESI & CI International UROP Positions Open for Summer 2018

Using Drones to Combat Deforestation in the Peruvian Andes

MIT’s Environmental Solutions Initiative (ESI) is partnering with global NGO Conservation International (CI) to pursue technologically innovative nature-based solutions to major environmental challenges.  In summer 2018 we launch the first in a series of UROPs that will include on-the-ground experience in some of CI’s 30+ field sites located around the world.  Read more about this partnership at MIT News.

Every year, nearly 80,000 square miles of forested land are cleared of trees.  Rates of deforestation are particularly high in tropical forests in South America.  Tropical forests provide critical services to humanity including regulating climate change, filtering water, supporting biodiversity, and preventing soil erosion.  Deforestation threatens those services but is challenging to measure and monitor.

Rapidly evolving drone technology is a promising avenue for monitoring forest changes and informing local conservation efforts.  This UROP offers MIT students the opportunity to develop sensing and drone technology and to test tools and ideas in an ongoing conservation project located in the Peruvian Andes.

The Alto Mayo Protec​​ted Forest is located in the San Martín region of northern Peru and spans 450,000 acres — an area twice the size of New York City.  Despite ​its protected status, the forest has had some of the country’s highest deforestation rates. C​​I is working with several partners, including local communities, corporations and Peru’s government, to protect the Alto Mayo forest.  CI and their partners in Peru are piloting the use of drones for monitoring deforestation and biodiversity and are excited to work with MIT students and faculty to improve their drone monitoring system.

Project priorities include (1) developing a tool for using a multispectral sensor for land cover (agricultural crop types with emphasis in coffee) and land use change monitoring system using drones; (2) improving the use of drones to monitor real-time deforestation and forest degradation events; (3) innovating software tools or alternative/complementary software tools to monitor deforestation and forest degradation; and (4) developing apps and designing/creating a database for drone monitoring system improvements.

This UROP project includes travel to the Alto Mayo Protected Forest (AMPF), which is a Natural Protected Area (450,000 acres) in Northeastern Peru (eastern slopes of the Andes) between 800 and 4000 meters (mostly cloud forest) in elevation.  Dates for the project travel are TBD.  Students will stay in Rioja or Moyobamba, Peru, in student facilities operated by Conservation International’s local NGO partner, Proyecto Mono Tocon.  Hourly wage $15/hour for 40 hours per week for 10-12 weeks, plus all costs for project travel, lodging, and meals.

Overview of Conservation International’s work in Peru | Introduction to ESI

Prerequisites: The most important attributes are interest in sensor and drone technology innovation and field testing, and interest in travel to Peru.  GIS and remote sensing skills are required, as is basic Spanish.  The applicant is expected to work 40 h per week during the summer.  The majority of the UROP will be spent on the MIT campus, with a 2-3 week field deployment in Peru (likely early August).  Seeking applicants ASAP who can make a firm commitment to this project.

Contact: Amanda Graham (agraham@mit.edu)

ESI UROP Positions Open for Summer 2018

Multiple positions are open for summer 2018 UROPs at ESI.  Projects range from creating short videos for the web, to mapping and visualizing environmental information, to prototyping campus sustainability ideas.  Students will receive an hourly wage of $11.50 per hour. ESI supports UROPs in any department.

Interested?  Email Hannah Loomis at hloomis@mit.edu with your resume and a one-paragraph description of your interest in environment and sustainability.