Doctor of Philosophy candidate
For his PhD, Subhash Chand is using drone technology to investigate the spatial dynamics of nearshore marine habitats for marine conservation planning.
“The heart of my research is multispectral and RGB cameras on drones, with a focus on seagrass, oysters and saltmarsh habitats. Using photogrammetry and 3D mapping, we are hoping to identify human impacts on these habitats for marine conservation planning.
“This involves creating a 3D model, calculating seagrass biomass and assessing the connectivity between these habitats using remote sensing in a temperate intertidal marine ecosystem. As proof a concept we are using drones to fill the gap between in-situ marine sampling and other remote sensing techniques in New Zealand.”
Subhash’s research is supervised by Associate Professor Barbara Bollard from AUT’s School of Science, with Dr Nick Shears from the University of Auckland and Professor Lindsey White from AUT as his secondary supervisors.
He has already had the opportunity to share his work with other researchers at the United Nations Workshop on the Application of Global Navigation Satellite Systems and at the Student Conference on Conservation Science at the University of Queensland in Australia.
A passion for drones
His interest in drones was sparked by a love of planes, says Subhash who came to AUT as an international student from Fiji.
“I was fascinated with aeroplanes at an early age and had a desire to be a pilot. I used rubber bands to launch small model planes and always wanted to know more about this technology. But in life, things do not always work out as we wish. However, when drones were the new kid on the block, I became interested in drones technology and realised that I might one day be able to pilot a drone.”
A few years later, he did his master’s degree at the University of the South Pacific in Fiji, using satellite, aerial images and geographic information systems to detect and calculate coastline changes. When Subhash realised he wanted to do more research on the latest technologies to capture remotely sensed data, a PhD was the obvious next step.
“I was researching innovation and technologies that revolutionised conservation, GIS and remote sensing, and was drawn to the work of Associate Professor Barbara Bollard who leads the AUT drone team. She is a world-leading expert in the field of geospatial science and is renowned for her research in environmental monitoring and 3D mapping using drones for conservation planning. This inspired me to pursue a PhD at AUT.”
An enjoyable postgraduate journey
He would recommend doctoral study at AUT’s School of Science to other students, says Subhash whose studies are supported by AUT’s Queen Elizabeth II Golden Jubilee Scholarship.
“I would certainly recommend this programme to others. AUT has professional yet compassionate academic staff who take care of you and guide you throughout your postgraduate journey. I enjoyed having access to world-class supervisors at AUT.
“Throughout my studies, I have made many new friends from abroad and could socialise with them at AUT events. I was also able to fulfill my dream of becoming a pilot, and am now a New Zealand Part 101 certified drone pilot.”
Expecting to complete his PhD in October 2021, Subhash already has a clear idea what he wants to do next.
“I am planning to become a postdoc to do further research on intertidal marine biodiversity and ecology using more sophisticated cameras and drones. I am interested in the inclusion of citizen scientists and drones for marine conservation and planning. Eventually I would like to be involved in innovations for sustainability and conservation for a cleaner and greener planet.”