2023 SAG Award Winners

Saudi Aramco

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Project Goal

This project used GIS and remote sensing to develop a high-resolution biodiversity values map for all terrestrial areas within the Kingdom. We devised an innovative formula for determining the likelihood that Company projects will interact with high priority conservation species. First, we developed a Conservation Priority Score for every species in Saudi Arabia, and created heat maps of the summed conservation priority scores at each point in the Kingdom. Second, we developed a Site Quality Coefficient by scoring five predictors of biodiversity for every point in the Kingdom: (i) distance from human structures; (ii) proximity to vegetation; (iii) proximity to wadis, wetlands, and coastal areas; (iv) proximity to protected areas; and (v) topographic complexity. By multiplying the Conservation Priority Score by the Site Quality Coefficient, we were able to determine and map the likely biodiversity value of each specific point in the Kingdom.
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Business Problem Solved

In an effort to protect the Kingdom’s vast natural resources, Saudi Aramco needed a tool for identifying high conservation value habitat and its associated high conservation priority species. One of the solutions was to develop the biodiversity values map. With this tool, the company is able to avoid impacting terrestrial areas that are likely to contain internationally valuable biodiversity, develop mitigation strategies, and to prioritize and reserve high quality habitat.

Technology Implemented

ESRI technology used in the creation of the Biodiversity Values Map included ArcMap 10.8, Spatial Analyst and Portal for ArcGIS.

Development Team Biography

Bruce Burwell is a GIS and Remote Sensing Specialist working for the Geomatics Services Division of Saudi Aramco in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia. With over 25 years’ experience, Bruce has experience in using GIS and Remote Sensing in solving problems for Renewable Energy, Environmental Protection, Land Administration, Oil and gas Exploration and Pipelines Management. Bruce graduated with a Master's degree in GIS from the University of Calgary, Alberta Canada.

Dr. Chris Boland obtained his PhD in Ecology at the Australian National University. He then lectured for five years at the ANU. He has since worked on numerous wildlife conservation projects internationally. From 2012 to 2021, Chris worked as a Terrestrial Ecologist with Saudi Aramco’s Environmental Protection Department. Chris has published over 30 manuscripts in international peer-reviewed journals. Chris currently lives and works near Sydney, Australia as an independent contractor.