The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) in South Africa is one of the leading scientific and technology research, development and implementation organisations in Africa. It undertakes directed research and development for socio-economic growth.

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Earth observation


Basic exploration of the world around us is required to provide avenues for the extension of newfound knowledge to real-world situations, which adds tangible value to intellectual discoveries. The basic-applied research interaction is critical to the development and funding of any research program, and ultimately completes the circle of inquiry, from idea conception and development to implementation.
It is in this latter aspect that the CSIR remote sensing core expertise is very well positioned. The three defined CSIR remote sensing entities, Ecosystems Earth Observation (EEO), the Meraka Institute, and the CSIR Satellite Application Centre (SAC), are well positioned to provide broad leadership in applications research, research integration, and research implementation – a comprehensive remote sensing base. Although uniquely defined and overlapping interests do occur, these are structured in complimentary, as opposed to competitive fashion.


The vision of the Earth Observation research group is to be a world-class remote sensing of natural resources unit that

  • provides comprehensive spatial data (remote sensing and GIS) support, specifically in terms of hyperspectral, structural, and multitemporal sensing, as well as spatial modelling support, to the CSIR NRE and broader CSIR to address institutional strategic research initiatives,
  • plays a leading role in directing remote sensing research at the CSIR and tailoring current institutional environmental research efforts to cutting-edge initiatives in terms of remote sensing strategic thinking,
  • provides remote sensing research leadership and promotes the science at the national level,
  • continuously strives to deliver high-impact peer-reviewed research outputs, and
  • actively contributes to the national human capacity development in terms of remote sensing and general spatial technology expertise.


The Earth Observation group conducts basic-towards-applied and core applied remote sensing research towards improved understanding, management, and monitoring of natural resources. The group addresses the niche that exists between ecosystem scientists or managers and the need for accurate, spatially explicit, and accessible system state information across various scales. This is achieved through close collaboration with experts in the natural resource domains and by developing current and extending future remote sensing scientific capacity.

Broad and specific research thrusts

  • Natural phenomena as systems, as opposed to stand-alone processes
  • Multi-temporal nature of spectral and structural sensing parameters
  • Specific interests :
    • Spectral species separability
      • reduction of hyperspectral data dimensionality,
      • developing algorithms for selection of wavelengths necessary for discrimination, and
      • extension of remotely sensed species separability to forest inventory. 
    • System structural assessment using appropriate sensors (e.g., lidar)
    • Object-oriented approaches to natural resource management
      • researching algorithm suitability,
      • determination of operational suitability of such an object-oriented approach, and
      • application of management methods to derived objects to facilitate the optimization of natural resources use and measurement
    • Other interests:
      • vegetation system state assessment, e.g., growth, foliar chemistry, and composition
      • application of remote sensing and GIS technologies to precision management,
      • fusion of multiple remote sensing data sources to address specific research and operational issues related to natural resources,
      • water & carbon housekeeping in vegetation systems,
      • structural-spectral interaction in terms of rehabilitation and vegetation dynamics,
      • multi-temporal in situ and hyperspectral study initiatives, and
      • development of operational implementations, e.g., “off-the-shelf” products in cooperation with large-scale remote sensing data providers.

Research team

Dr Stewart Bernard
Dr Stewart Bernard is an oceanographer, specialising in remote sensing of the ocean. His particular interests include multi-scale and - sensor marine observation, ocean colour, bio-optics and harmful algal bloom research.

Dr Melanie Lück-Vogel
Dr Melanie Lück-Vogel is an interdisciplinary scientist, specialising in the assessment of vegetation characteristics and dynamics, using ecological and remote sensing techniques.
Dr Moses Azong Cho
Dr Moses Azong Cho is a remote sensing scientist, specialising in hyperspectral remote sensing of biophysical and biochemical parameters using both empirical and physically-based modelling approaches.
Abel (Selaelo) Ramoelo
Abel (Selaelo) Ramoelo is a geographic information systems (GIS) and remote sensing (RS) scientist, specialising in advanced spatial modelling and analysis as well as advanced satellite image analysis, interpretation, change detection and classification. The 26-year old has accomplished much in his relatively short life.

Heidi van Deventer
Heidi van Deventer is a geographer specialising in geographical information system (GIS) and the use thereof in land use planning in South Africa.

Russell Main
Russell Main is a researcher in the field of earth observation/remote sensing. He specialises in using remote sensing technologies to detect, monitor and interpret changes occurring on the earth's surface.

For more information on the Ecosystems Earth Observation research group, contact the research group leader, Dr Renaud Mathieu.

About this section
Overview: Natural Resources & the Environment
Overview: Global Change
Meet our research leaders
Brochures and fact sheets
Contact details
Research groups
Biodiversity and ecosystem services
Coastal and marine pollution
Coastal systems
Ocean systems and climate
Earth observation
Ecosystem processes and dynamics
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