Dr. Mat Disney
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Dr. Mathias Disney
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ESA Sentinel 2A image over Shanghai (click for full resolution), China from 16/12/2015. A great image showing the extent of urban development, river shape and flow as well as sediment, and the haze over the city in the lower right. Sentintel 2 is the first optical sensor from ESA's Sentinel range of EO platforms, which will fulfil a huge range of monitoring applications, starting with the launch of Sentinel 1A RADAR in 2014.

Principles and Practice of Remote Sensing (PPRS)

GEOG3051 (UG 0.5 cu module)

Convenor: Dr. M. Disney

Personnel: Dr. M. Disney (MD), Dr. Jose Gomez-Dans (JGD) and Prof. Philip Lewis (PL).

Moodle: GEOG3051 but note these pages are the most up-to-date resource for this module.

Unit value: 0.5 units Year: 3 Term: 1


Course description
This course builds on the 2nd year module GEOG2021 and will provide an introduction to the concepts and principles of remote sensing in both the optical and microwave domains. The module will provide an introduction to the concepts and principles of remote sensing in both the optical and microwave domains. The first part of the course returns to the fundamental principles of remote sensing that were only touched upon in GEOG2021. The first 3 sessions cover the physical bases of the remote sensing signal: basic laws of electromagnetic radiation; absorption, reflection and emission in the optical and thermal domains; atmospheric effects; radiation interactions with the surface. Following this, we explore the application-specific instrument, orbit and data handling choices: spatial resolution; temporal resolution; sensor design considerations; orbits and swaths; applications of optical remote sensing, particularly of the terrestrial surface and vegetation. The course also provides an introduction to active remote sensing techniques including Lidar and RADAR. The lidar session covers: lidar principles, discrete and waveform systems; example missions (proposed and flown); information from lidar; terrestrial laser scanning. The RADAR session covers: RADAR remote sensing instruments and techniques; RADAR interactions with the terrestrial surface; synthetic aperture RADAR; RADAR interferometry and applications.

It is expected that students spend around 8 hours per week reading material suggested in the reading list as well as other, related material, to consolidate the lecture learning. Additionally, it is expected that students spend signficant time covering the topics for revision, and undertaking the example problems provided.

Intended learning outcomes
Students will acquire knowledge and understanding of the fundamental concepts and principles underlying remote sensing in the optical and microwave domains, as well as the trade-offs used in instrument design and operation. Students will be able to discuss these fundamental principles in relation to various applications of remote sensing. They will be able to derive solutions to simple problems regarding the application of the various fundamental principles covered.

Pre-requisites and Relationships to other Courses
Students must have taken GEOG2021: Environmental Remote Sensing in their second year.

Method of teaching / assessment
Lectures, seminars. Assessed poster (30%) at the end of term 1 and 2 hour examination in the summer term (70%). The assessed poster will be based on an application of remote sensing to be decided during seminar sessions, and approved by Dr. Disney, and will be presented with the other students (and open to other staff and students). Students will be expected to prepare he poster, and then discuss the content with Dr. Disney and others at the poster session. Full details are given below.

Coursework: assessed poster session 2-4 pm Tue 12/12/2017

Topic: recent remote sensing applications

The assessed poster session will take place on the afternoon of the last session of term.

The poster should showcase your knowledge and understanding of a recent remote sensing application - i.e. from the last 2 years. You should research topics and discuss them in the seminar sessions, and let Dr. Disney know your final choice.

The more specific you make your application, the easier it will be to present i.e. avoid general themes like Remote Sensing of Oceans/Forests/Ice Sheets etc. You will need to identify the key scientific questions your application solves or aims to address, and why it is of interest.

Your poster will present:

  1. An introduction to the particular scientific problem your chosen application addresses;
  2. The particular spatial and temporal scale(s) at which your application is directed;
  3. The choice of EO data and properties (sensors, wavelengths) most appropriate or useful for the application
  4. Results & Discussion including consideration of limitations (of the data, analysis, methods etc);
  5. Conclusions, references.
You will be expected to have your posters mounted on the provided boards during the poster session so that staff (and other students potentially), can come and ask you about your work, as presented on the poster. Your posters will be marked according to the following criteria:
  1. SCIENCE AND RESEARCH CONTENT (rationale, analysis, coherence)
  2. POSTER DESIGN AND ORGANISATION (clarity, quality and effectiveness of figures and design)
  3. ORAL PRESENTATION (response to questions, conduct, fluency)

IMPORTANT: You MUST submit a pdf copy of your poster via moodle (DEADLINE: noon, Fri 16/12/16 i.e. the last day of term). You must ALSO submit a text only copy to TurnItIn (link). This should just be a word document with the text from your poster, including references, but no tables or figures. This is the file that will be assessed for plagiarism and thefore the text MUST match that in the poster pdf. Failure to do either of these will result in an incomplete submission, and so may be liable to a mark penalty.

Aims and guidelines: recent remote sensing applications
What is a scientific poster for? A poster is something we use to communicate our work rapidly and concisely, typically at scientific meeting, conferences and workshops. A poster can be a very effective way of communicating your science, making new research connections, find out how your work comes across to other people in the field, as well as how it comes across to people outside the field e.g. if you are presenting for a general audience, the public, schools, work etc. A key aim of course is to engage with the people who are viewing your poster - remember, if they come to read, you can always tell them about what you do in more detail. If they never stop to read in the first place then you can't. You can also use posters to try things out, preliminary results, present new data, before you may have had time to analyse in detail or write up for peer-reviewed publication. Also, you can keep a poster - if it looks good you can use it on the wall in an office or lab to show people what you do. But, a bad poster can also be a way to fill people with dread! The screeds of tiny text with poor or no figures, and tons of equations and wonky boxes.

Format and templates
Your posters should be A1 in size. To make life easier for printing, I have provided PPT slide templates you can use, which allow you to form your poster from our A3 pages/slides, to be arranged in portrait orientation i.e. 2 x 2. These can be printed on a standard print@ucl printer. You are however welcome to print your poster on a single A1 sheet, at your own cost (commercially or via UCL print services).

PPT slide templates

Resources, style guides and examples: Below are links to some external resources on how to produce scientific posters. You'll note that there isn't a definitive way to do this - everyone has theur own style and preference. BUT there are some common things you should definitely do AND avoid. Number 1 golden rule for a poster: LESS IS MORE!, particularly when it comes to text. One of the guides below suggests 850 words as a maximum limit, another 250. The suggestion that a poster is essentially an illustrated Abstract is quite useful one - a poster is intended to get across the key things you want to say quickly, concisely and while holding a viewer's interest. It's far too easy to get carried away with text, busy graphics and layouts and so on - you will lose the reader's attention very quickly, or, even worse, ut them off right at the outset. All your hard work is then wasted!

  • A useful guide to more technical posters
  • A very detailed HOWTO guide. This has useful technical tips.
  • Another, rather more discursive guide. This is more useful on some of the aesthetic aspects.

    Look around for real scientific poster sessions for conferences - a quick search will throw up many examples you can use to see about layout and what works and what doesn't. But remember, your submission MUST be original.

    GEOG3051: detailed course outline, reading list and assessment (docx MS Word file; PDF file).

    GEOG3051 past exam papers

    See the library pages for full details, but the format is a 2 hour exam in Term 3, and you need to answer 2 questions from a total of 5. Note that the past papers were all based on the course assessment being 100% exam, and so were 3 hour exams with 3 questions answered from 9.

    May 2009 (PDF)
    May 2010 (PDF)
    May 2011 (PDF)
    May 2012 (PDF)
    May 2013 (PDF)

    Lecture notes and associated texts/papers

  • Introduction to remote sensing & EM Radiation I (PDF file; Disney (2014) book chapter; ESA (2006) Strategy for EO and climate; Grace et al. (2007); Woodhouse RADAR analogy, PDF file)
  • EM Radiation II (PDF file; Schaepman-Strub et al. Reflectance quantities and definitions (2006); Barnsley et al. (1997) Multiangular information and BRDF; Asner et al. (2006) Amazonian logging I), Asner et al. (2010) Carbon stocks and emissions; Myneni et al. (2001); Myneni et al. (2007); Brando et al. (2010), Verrelst et al. (2015) review of retrieving terrestrial vegetation parameters.
  • Spatial, spectral resolution and sampling (PDF file; Cracknell paper ("What's in a pixel");
    Foody (2002) Land cover classification accuracy)
  • Angular, radiometric resolution/sampling (PDF file; Barnsley et al. (1997) Multiangular information and BRDF; Hansen et al. (2008); Morton et al. (2006))
  • Pre-processing, atmosphere, ground, scanning: (PDF file; Rahman and Dedieu (1994) Atmospheric correction;Vermote et al. (1997) The 6S Atmsopheric Correction model; Berk et al. (1998) MODTRAN4)
  • LIDAR: (PDF file; Lewis et al. (2010) comprehensive introduction to LIDAR remote sensing ; Baltsavias lidar equations); Disney et al. (2009) Modelling spaceborne lidar)
  • LIDAR II: (PDF file; PPTX file;Raumonen et al. (2013) Tree reconstruction from TLS; Calders et al. (2014) TLS estimates of above-ground biomass compared to destructive; Hackenburg et al. (2014) Another method to reconstruct volume from TLS.
  • RADAR I: (PDF file; PPTX file; CCRS Tutorial on RADAR;CCRS Tutorial PDF including RADAR Woodhouse RADAR analogy, PDF file; ESA SAR tutorial, PDF; Notes: SAR summary)
  • RADAR: II (PDF file, PPTX file; SRTM Hokaido avi movie; SRTM movie 2; SAR fundamentals; Wingham et al (2006))
  • Revision: (PDF file; PPTX file)
  • Textbooks

    An excellent summary of key RS principles and examples produced by the Canadian Centre for Remote Sensing. This is available online or as a 250 page 13MB pdf file, so is quite detailed and comprehensive.

    Jensen, John R. (2006) Remote Sensing of the Environment: an Earth Resources Perspective, Hall and Prentice, New Jersey, 2nd ed.
    Jones, H. and Vaughan, R. (2010, paperback) Remote Sensing of Vegetation: Principles, Techniques, and Applications, OUP, Oxford.
    Lillesand, T., Kiefer, R. and Chipman, J. (2004) Remote Sensing and Image Interpretation. John Wiley and Sons, NY, 5th ed..
    Monteith, J. L and Unsworth, M. H. (1990) Principles of Environmental Physics, Edward Arnold: Routledge, Chapman and Hall, NY, 2nd ed.
    Rees, W. G. (2001, 2nd ed.). Physical Principles of Remote Sensing, Cambridge Univ. Press.
    Warner, T. A., Nellis, M. D. and Foody, G. M. eds. (2009) The SAGE Handbook of Remote Sensing (Hardcover). Limited depth, but very wide-ranging - excellent reference book.

    Papers to read Radiative Transfer theory and modelling
    Disney (2014) Review of EO applications, and introduct ion to radiative transfer for vegetation
    Disney et al. (2000) Monte Carlo methods
    Feret et al. (2008) PROSPECT-4 and 5
    Jacquemoud and Baret (1990) PROSPECT
    Lewis and Disney (2007) Scattering across scales
    Nilson and Kuusk (1989) Homogeneous RT model
    Price (1990) Soil basis functions
    Walthall et al. (1985) Empirical soil model

    Reviews & applications:
    Disney (2014) Review of EO applications, and introduct ion to radiative transfer for vegetation
    ESA (2006) ESA's outline and strategy for EO for climate and societal we llbeing; an excellent introduction to EO and Earth System Science
    Barnsley et al. (1997) Multiangular information and BRDF
    Grace et al. (2007) "Can we measure photostynthesis from space?"
    Asner et al. (2005) Amazonian logging
    Brando et al. (2010) Climate and vegetation indices over the Amazon
    Asner et al. (2003) Global LAI synthesis
    Turner et al. (2005) Site-level MODIS NPP validation
    Asner et al. (2006) Amazonian logging II
    Asner et al. (2010) High resolution carbon stocks and sinks in the Amazon
    Disney et al. (2000) Canopy modelling methods
    Disney et al. (2006) Optical and RADAR models
    Disney et al. (2009) Modelling spaceborne lidar
    Rahman and Dediue (1994) Atmospheric correction
    Foody (2002) Land cover classification accuracy
    Quaife et al (2008) Land cover uncertainties and carbon fluxes
    Hansen et al. (2008) Humid tropical forest clearing
    Morton et al. (2006) Cropland expansion and deforestation
    Ollinger et al. (2009) Canopy nitrogen, carbon and albedo in temperate and boreal forests
    Myneni et al. (2001) Carbon sink in northern boreal forests
    Myneni et al. (2007) Amazon seasonality
    Stoy et al (2009) Upscaling ecological data via remote sensing
    Wingham et al (2009) Mass balance of the Antarctic ice sheet
    Quegan et al (2009) Using Satellite Observatopns in Regional Scale Calculations of Carbon Exchange, in The Continental-Scale Greenhouse Gas Balance of Europe, Dolman, Han; Valentini, Riccardo; Freibauer, A. (Eds.), Ecological Studies vol 203, Springer, 390p, ISBN: 978-0-387-76568-6.


      Maintained by Mathias Disney Last Updated: Sept 2013

    Department of Geography - University College London - Gower Street - London - WC1E 6BT - Telephone: +44 (0)20 7679 5500
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