Find good people to work with and build comradery: Meet Merry Crowson

I am a Remote Sensing Technician at the Institute of Zoology, Zoological Society of London. My research focusses on mapping deforestation in Sumatra, Indonesia, where large areas of tropical peatland forest are being lost and replaced by plantations. I monitoring deforestation using freely available satellite images and open source software – essentially making maps from space! During the Soapbox Science London event on 26th May I will be exploring some of these satellite images with the audience and discussing the potential of using them to study the surface of the earth from afar.


SS: How did you get to your current position?

MC: My career has taken such a roundabout route that I couldn’t possibly fit it all into a single paragraph, but it involved lots of muddy fieldwork, circus skills, language learning and hard work. I had to the opportunity to do a Masters in Geography whilst living Berlin, where university education is free, and it was there that I developed skills in coding, data management and remote sensing analysis. It was these skills that led me to my current role at the Institute of Zoology and I am extremely happy to be here.


SS: What, or who, inspired you to get a career in science?

MC: I enjoyed science at school, but in terms of getting a career in science I think my sister was my biggest inspiration. She just went for it!


SS: What is the most fascinating aspect of your research/work?

MC: My research produces lots of maps and I find them endlessly fascinating. You can keep asking them different questions and gaze at them until they tell you something.



SS: What attracted you to Soapbox Science in the first place?

MC: The opportunity to challenge the mainstream view of scientists – I think lots of young people do not realise how different one scientist is from the next, and how many different skills you can bring to the table.


SS: Sum up in one word your expectations for the day – excitement? Fear? Thrill? Anticipation?

MC: Adventure


SS: If you could change one thing about the scientific culture right now, what would it be?

MC: I would make it more diverse. We had a great lecture series during my Bachelors about the history and development of Geography, but I used to refer to it as the “pictures-of-men-with-beards lecture”, as they appeared in one slide after another. Hopefully, in 100 years’ time, prominent scientists will be more of a mixed bunch.


SS: What would be your top recommendation to a PhD student considering pursuing a career in academia?

MC: Find good people to work with and build comradery.




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