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Remote Sensing for Environmental Management

Module titleRemote Sensing for Environmental Management
Module codeGEO2441
Academic year2019/0
Module staff

Dr Karen Anderson (Convenor)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks


Number students taking module (anticipated)


Description - summary of the module content

Module description

Spatial data acquired by satellites, and other flying craft are increasingly used in decision-making processes about the natural environment. These ‘remotely sensed’ data are fundamentally measurements describing the way that electromagnetic radiation interacts with materials and substances on the Earth’s surface and scientists can use these to create dynamic maps of Earth system processes through space and time. In this module you will learn about the different ways that we can use remote sensing to monitor the Earth, starting from the ground and working upwards into space where Earth observation satellites are in orbit.

Module aims - intentions of the module

This module explores the wide range of methods used by scientists for ‘remote sensing’ the Earth’s many complex processes. The module is designed so that you can explore remote sensing from a range of scales and perspectives. We begin on the ground, learning the fundamentals of electromagnetic radiation using case studies and hands-on practical classes with spectroradiometers. This allows you to grasp the background physical principles underlying the remote sensing approach. From here, we begin to scale up – firstly to UAVs – lightweight aircraft operated from the ground that are emerging as the latest, and most opportunistic remote sensing tools for environmental managers to use. Then we move to manned aircraft systems, and LiDAR – a remote sensing tool for capturing information about land surface structure. Finally, we move into space where you will learn about the plethora of Earth observation systems in operation.

You will gain hands-on experience in working with data from these systems as we move through the module, utilising remote sensing software to explore data within environmental management contexts. We will use a variety of case studies to teach you how to use algorithms for converting remote sensing data into spatial information products that are useful to the environmental sector. By the end of the module, you will have an appreciation for the range of remote sensing systems available to environmental managers, and will be able to make decisions about the best techniques and technology to utilise for different environmental applications in your future career. These skills will be especially useful if you are seeking jobs in the environmental sector, particularly within consultancy or management companies, who are frequently turning to remote sensing to assist in environmental decision-making.

The teaching contributions on this module are drawn from practical research experience gained by Karen Anderson, principally in areas of research including field spectroscopy, laser scanning, landscape modelling, drone-based sensing and satellite data analysis.

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 1. Recall the fundamental physical basis of remote sensing, and to describe key elements of the electromagnetic spectrum
  • 2. Describe the main differences between different remote sensing systems and evaluate their relative merits effectively
  • 3. Handle remote sensing data from a range of systems using computers and appropriate software
  • 4. Arrive at appropriate decisions about the best remote sensing platforms and sensors for particular environmental management applications
  • 5. Apply key algorithms for the extraction of spatial information from remote sensing data
  • 6. Evaluate uncertainties in different remote sensing data sets

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 7. Describe in some detail essential facts and theory across a sub-discipline of the environmental sciences
  • 8. Identify critical questions from the literature and synthesise research-informed examples from the literature into written work
  • 9. Identify and implement, with guidance, appropriate methodologies and theories for addressing specific research problems in environmental sciences
  • 10. With some guidance, deploy established techniques of analysis, practical investigation, and enquiry within environmental sciences
  • 11. Describe and evaluate approaches to our understanding of the environmental sciences with reference to primary literature, reviews and research articles

ILO: Personal and key skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 12. Develop, with some guidance, a logical and reasoned argument with valid conclusions
  • 13. Communicate ideas, principles and theories fluently using a variety of formats in a manner appropriate to the intended audience
  • 14. Collect and interpret appropriate data and complete research-like tasks, drawing on a range of sources, with limited guidance
  • 15. Evaluate own strengths and weaknesses in relation to professional and practical skills, and apply own evaluation criteria
  • 16. Reflect effectively on learning experiences and summarise personal achievements
  • 17. Work in a small team and deal proficiently with the issues that teamwork requires (ie communication, motivation, decision-making, awareness, responsibility, and management skills, including setting and working to deadlines)

Syllabus plan

Syllabus plan

The programme will consist of a 1.5 hour lecture per week and in some weeks (where it links to the lecture material) there will be a hands-on practical exercise for you to undertake, or a demonstration, or a seminar.

Topics covered include:

  • Fundamentals of remote sensing: electromagnetic radiation
  • Fundamentals of remote sensing: geo-location and angular dependence
  • Field spectroscopy
  • UAVs and applications
  • Airborne RS and applications
  • LiDAR and applications
  • Spaceborne RS – scaling up to global extents
  • Landsat and time-series monitoring from space
  • Global products from MODIS and other sensors
  • New missions for environmental data (student-led seminars)

Practicals will cover the following broad themes:

  • Field spectroscopy
  • UAV demonstration
  • UAV data processing practical
  • LiDAR analysis
  • Land cover classification
  • Time series analysis

Learning and teaching

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled Learning and Teaching16.5Lectures
Scheduled Learning and Teaching12Practicals and demonstrations for hands-on learning
Scheduled Learning and Teaching2Help sessions for practical work
Scheduled Learning and Teaching1Seminar
Scheduled Learning and Teaching1Revision and exam preparation
Scheduled Learning and Teaching1.5Student-led lecture on new RS missions for environmental data
Guided Independent Study116Additional reading, research and preparation for module assessments


Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Student-led lecture ┬ľ groups will present 10 slides describing the state-of-the-art in spaceborne environmental science-focused missions10 minutes per groupAllOral

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Individually-produced factsheet to accompany student-led lecture10500 words, one page1-2, 4, 6-11, 12-14Written
LiDAR analysis write-up301000 words 1-14Written
Examination602 hours1-14Written


Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Individually-produced factsheet to accompany student-led lectureIndividually-produced factsheet1-2, 4, 6-11, 12-14August assessment period
LiDAR analysis write-upNot applicableNot applicableNot applicable
ExaminationExamination1-14August assessment period

Re-assessment notes

Deferral – if you miss an assessment for certificated reasons judged acceptable by the Mitigation Committee, you will normally be either deferred in the assessment or an extension may be granted. The LiDAR analysis is non-deferrable because of its practical nature. The mark given for a re-assessment taken as a result of deferral will not be capped and will be treated as it would be if it were your first attempt at the assessment.

Referral – if you have failed the module overall (i.e. a final overall module mark of less than 40%) you will be required to sit a further examination. The mark given for a re-assessment taken as a result of referral will count for 100% of the final mark and will be capped at 40%.


Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

  • Campbell, J.B. (2007), Introduction to Remote Sensing.
  • Lillesand, T., Kieffer, R.W., and Chipman, J. (2008)┬áRemote Sensing and Image Interpretation

Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

Module has an active ELE page

Key words search

Spatial data, natural environment, remote sensing, satellites, spectroradiometers, UAVs, environmental management, information technology

Credit value15
Module ECTS


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