Sometimes, growing a forest means being able to see the whole forest — which you can't do from the ground. At Terraformation, we can get a comprehensive view from our desks thanks to applications built by Daniela Angelova, our GIS analyst. GIS, which stands for "geographic information systems," is a versatile toolset that she uses to create superpowered applications and dashboards for the whole team.
Daniela first encountered GIS while studying at Sofia University in Sofia, Bulgaria, where she was born and raised. After graduating, she worked as a consultant in a management consultancy company, before concluding that she wanted to dive even deeper into the potential of technology to tackle environmental problems on a global scale. With that in mind, she headed to the Technical University of Munich for a Master of Science degree in sustainable resource management.
Her graduate work cemented her interest in pursuing GIS and remote sensing as a career. Picking a concentration in landscape management opened her eyes to the possibilities of remote sensing, harnessing the capabilities of the constellation of satellites that orbit Earth and monitor its land, seas, and atmosphere.
"GIS and remote sensing provide you with an opportunity to solve problems on a larger scale and support local communities in every corner of the world," she explains. "With the right tools, you can do all kinds of spatial analysis, correlation, and mapping."
Daniela brings expertise in building geospatial applications based on optical and Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) satellite technologies. In her previous role as a remote sensing analyst at ICEYE in Helsinki, Finland, she built solutions for agricultural and forest monitoring.
Prior to joining ICEYE, she was part of an international team at GAF AG, a geoconsulting company in Munich, Germany, where she drove the development of applications for urban and forest monitoring and coordinated large-scale projects with the World Bank, Asian Development Bank, European Space Agency, and local communities within developing countries.
At Terraformation, Daniela has been building dashboards that take advantage of satellite and geospatial data to monitor the health and conditions around every single tree. Each tree planted is stored within a geodatabase as a GPS point along with its taxonomy.
For each Terraformation project, the tree points are further overlapped with geospatial data (such as site polygon, restoration zones, irrigation systems, and soil types), thus producing metrics such as the total number of plants and trees planted, count per species, distance to water access points, species distribution within different restoration zones, and tree survival rate. Angelova is closely working with the R&D team at Terraformation to build the logic and relations between the different entities within the company’s geodatabase.
Daniela believes GIS and remote sensing are crucial to Terraformation's mission, as they enable the team to monitor the current status of all the work they're doing on the ground from anywhere. Her goal, she says, is to provide automated solutions that will help scale operations. This will be especially important as Terraformation establishes partnerships and engages with local communities elsewhere in the world.
"There are a lot of companies who are doing reforestation, but the thing that really inspires me about Terraformation is that we're not only focusing on reforestation, but helping local communities to improve their lives by planting native forest species, which is super crucial. I don't know any other company in the world doing this kind of reforestation."
Helping communities develop sustainable livelihoods was what drove Daniela to grad school in the first place. Now that she has the knowledge, tools, and experience to start providing that help, there's nowhere else she'd rather be.
Daniela Angelova is a GIS Analyst at Terraformation. She's been supporting Terraformation's work since February 2021.