Earth From Space

Earth From Space's Executive Producer Jo Shinner introduces us to the series.

Published: 9 April 2019
Our mantra from the get-go was, what can satellite imaging add to the natural history genre that feels fresh, revelatory and from a new perspective?
— Jo Shinner, Executive Producer

"When I first started out on my journey with Earth From Space I travelled with Chloe Sarosh, Series Producer, and Barny Revill, Series Director, to a trade park outside Madrid. This is the headquarters of UrtheCast, the satellite imaging company who we were about to embark on a great adventure with.

Hanging on the wall were breathtaking images of the world from space. One of them was a design of perfect circles, a space-view of agricultural patterns in America created by circular irrigation arms. We were intrigued, delighted, amazed - and then our next thought was, what happens in the diamond shaped spaces between the circles?

When we looked into it we discovered they had been co-opted as conservation areas for breeding quails - tiny oasis of bio-diversity in what would otherwise be a mono-cultural bio-desert - and a great story for us!

This approach became part of our ethos in creating the series. Our mantra from the get-go was, what can satellite imaging add to the natural history genre that feels fresh, revelatory and from a new perspective?

What could you discover from space that you didn’t know before? How could these discoveries help scientists monitor the fragile health of our natural planet? How had animals helped make the extraordinary patterns that emerged only when seen from such a distance? And what were the strategies other species used to survive within these patterns? How have animals contributed to the rainbow hues that splash the world with vibrant colour?

We learnt so many things: that satellite cameras have revolutionised how scientists can monitor the natural world; how new populations of species such as penguins have been discovered; how we can follow migrating animals; how extraordinary lacy dune formations on the coast of Brazil become a filigree of pools where brightly coloured turtles hunt fresh water fish; how experts can monitor the health of coral reefs from the patterns of sand around them; how a wombat population is thriving from a landscape spattered with tiny marks that is their burrow.

In addition there is no doubt that images from space are simply awe-inspiring. Beautiful. Epic. Sometimes you gasp at seeing places you know from a different angle. Other times you simply can’t work out what on earth they could be.

One of our favourite games was playing guess the image. Turquoise swirls like abstract art turn out to be gigantic ocean blooms of microscopic phytoplankton that are the lungs of our planet. Black dots on a sandy background turn out to be rubbish dumps of old tyres in a desert, and what looks like an exotic coral fan turns out to be a beautiful delta in Guinea-Bissau.

And there is no doubt that the most sobering and extraordinary insight of all is being visually confronted with the incontrovertible truth of just how fast our planet is changing. Time-lapses over years show cities growing and swallowing up the countryside around them. Huge swathes of forests are decimated before your eyes or converted into regular agricultural patterns. Ice melts away from mountain tops and glaciers.

It is like having an exclusive ring-side view on how the planet works and the secrets hidden in its remote corners."

Pictured: Satellite image of the Sundarbans, the largest delta in the world. Image Credit: Deimos Imaging SLU

FS

Related Programme Information