Dr. Mat Disney
UCL Logo
Dr. Mathias Disney
Contact Details
Dr. M. Disney
PB 113, Dept. Geography UCL

Background material for MSc Remote Sensing and Environmental Mapping students

Students often ask about the mathematical (and general technical) content of the course before they arrive. These courses are quantitative and sometimes technical, and this does of course require students to develop skills in some areas of maths and computing. That said, we have long experience in taking students from a wide variety of first degrees and other experience, including environmental sciences, geography, earth science, forestry, biology etc as well as more technical subjects.

We believe that a strength of our Remote Sensing and Mapping courses is their breadth and hence appeal to students from varied academic backgrounds. As a result the majority of term 1 is devoted to core courses aimed at providing foundation numerical, computational and technical skills for all students. Our expectation is that students have a reasonable grasp of some key areas of high-school level maths before they start, but we also recognise that these skills may need re-visiting or extending. In addition, having a very basic understanding of computer pgragmming will stand you in good stead; we assume no prior knowledge, but onviously some experience is better than none. As a result, below are some links to basic mathematical, remote sensing and computing background tutorials which are intended to provide an insight into the level expected, and will give students a good grounding in these areas before they arrive. Above all, don't be put off by technical content - hard work will pay off and these skills are highly transferrable.


  • Basic review of mathematical notation and conventions courtesy of Dr. Roger Nix, QMUL.
  • A short introduction to calculus - differentiation and integration courtesy of Dr. Roger Nix, QMUL.
  • A short mathematical review: chapter 0 of Jeffrey Chasnov's lecture notes on Differential Equations. While the material on differential equations is useful, it is beyond the scope of most of our MSc material, but you should at least be familiar with the concepts in sections 0.1 - 0.13, basic calculus.
  • Numerical Methods: useful introduction to various mathematical and computational issues for handling numerical problems, from Jeffrey Chasnov's lecture notes on Numerical Methods. Sections 3-5 are perhaps the most relevant here.
  • Introduction to : Numerical Methods: useful introduction to various mathematical and computational issues for handling numerical problems, from Jeffrey Chasnov's lecture notes on Numerical Methods. Sections 3-5 are perhaps the most relevant.
  • A short note on approximation, courtesy of Dr. Roger Nix, QMUL.

    Remote sensing

  • The Natural Resources Canada (NRCAN) Remote Sensing Tutorial (also available as a 13MB PDF download). This is a reasonable, basic tutorial covering many of the fundamental concepts of remote sensing.
  • A US Geologoical Survey (USGS) educational resource on change detection.
  • The NASA Remote Sensing Tutorial, hosted by the FAS. A very good general introdction to principles, systems and applications.
  • Tutorial from Centre for Remote Sensing and Image Processing (CRISP), National University of Singapore, courtesy of Dr. S. C. Liew, NUS.
  • ESA RADAR remote sensing tutorials - some good material, if in a slightly odd ordering.
  • European Space Agency (ESA) RADAR tutorial - a good intro to synthetic aperture radar (SAR) remote sensing.

    Python Programming

    We use python as a programming and analysis tool frequently during our MSc modules. Don't worry - one of the core term 1 modules is designed to help you learn and master programming in python. There are many programming languages - we use python because it's free, easy to learn and vwey widely used across all types of applications (science, finance, engineering, web design etc. etc.). And once you've learned one programming language, others are much easier. There are a lot of free online python tutorials - this page lists many. A good place to start is here.

    Miscellaneous useful material

  • NASA's Visible Earth - excellent resource for applications of remote sensing.
  • ESA's Observing the Earth page - an introduction to European remote sensing activities, applications and some interesting examples of remote sensing data.
  • The UK's NERC National Centre for Earth Observation - the focus for NERC Earth Observation research.

    Material and examples are taken from some of these texts. Where a text is key, this will be detailed in the lectures and/or practicals, along with web links.

    Barnsley, M. J., 2007, Environmental Modeling: A Practical Introduction, CRC Press, 432pp.
    Boas, M. L., 198s (2nd ed) Mathematical Methods in the Physical Sciences, Wiley, 793pp.
    Campbell, G. S. and J. Norman (1998) An Introduction to Environmental Biophysics, Springer NY, 2nd ed.
    Monteith, J. L. and Unsworth, M. H., Principles of Environmental Physics, Edward Arnold.
    Sivia, D. S., with J. Skilling, 2008 (2nd ed) Data Analysis: A Bayesian Tutorial, OUP, 246pp.


  •   Maintained by Mathias Disney Last Updated: August 2014

    Department of Geography - University College London - Gower Street - London - WC1E 6BT - Telephone: +44 (0)20 7679 5500
    Copyright 1999-2014 UCL

    Search by Google