Understanding Our Environment through Computational Landscape Ecology

Jeffrey Cardille - McGill School of Environment

Nov. 15, 2013, 1 p.m. - Nov. 15, 2013, 2 p.m.


In recent years, the opportunities and challenges to understanding our environment have changed radically, as millions of people use technologies like Google Earth, Google Maps, and GPS-equipped smart phones to both use and make maps. These new technologies, mostly nonexistent or confined to research labs only a few years ago, are the product of years of satellite launches and image processing, algorithm development, and user-interface research. This explosion of interest in mapping technology has carried over into the field of geography itself, where advances in the availability of spatial data and the capacity to store and process them have greatly expanded our ability to understand both human-built and natural environments. As an example, Google recently released Google Earth Engine, a project to catalog and serve all of the world’s freely available satellite data for scientific use. Earth Engine uses Google's servers for its calculations, which opens up possibilities that are many orders of magnitude beyond what had been possible very recently. With the dramatic increase in availability and accessibility of spatial data through advances in remote sensing and GIS, virtual globes, and computing power, how will we gather and analyze environmental data in 5, 10, or 20 years? In this presentation I will present and explain some of the ways that algorithms and approaches (and students!) ported from computer science and electrical engineering can make considerable contributions in my field in the near future. Jeffrey Cardille is an Associate Professor in McGill School of Environment and Natural Resource Sciences. He received a PhD and MSc in Environmental Monitoring from the University of Wisconsin, an MS in Industrial and Systems Engineering from Georgia Tech, and a BS in Applied Mathematics and Computer Science from Carnegie Mellon. Prior to his arrival at McGill in 2012, he was an Associate Professor in Géographie at the Université de Montréal. His research interests include Landscape ecology, land use and climate change, ecosystem and regional-scale hydrologic modeling, analysis of regional spatial land use patterns, geographic information science, and satellite remote sensing.