School of GeoSciences

Past Speakers

This page provides an archive of talks given at previous events in this seminar series

2018-19 Programme

The New GeoEnlightenment (2020): Edinburgh and More...

A range of leading speakers, several Edinburgh-based, working locally, nationally and globally.

Old Library, Geography, Drummond Street, Edinburgh, EH8 9XP

Unless otherwise indicated, all talks are held at 4.30pm in the Old Library, Institute of Geography , University of Edinburgh, Drummond Street, Edinburgh, EH8 9XP.

These are then followed by AGI Geo-Drinks in Teviot Library Bar, EH8 9AJ at 5.45 allowing plenty room for informal professional networking.

Friday 10th May 2019, 4.30pm

Extra Bonus Seminar!

Peter B Boucher

School for the Environment, University of Massachusetts Boston

Title: Can Forest Structure Predict Forest Condition? - Recording an Invasive Insect Infestation in the Northeast US with Lidar


In the past, ecological researchers have measured canopy openness, captured light availability, and triangulated tree height in order to identify the impacts of forest disturbances, including insect infestations. Now, lidar remote sensing can expand upon these standard ecological methods by recording changes in forest canopies with new detail and precision. Lidar data also has a lot to offer to managers of disturbed forests, since forest condition and tree mortality can be inferred from lidar measurements of light penetration, leaf loss, and understory height.

The northward spread of an invasive insect, the Hemlock Woolly Adelgid (HWA; Adelges tsugae), into the warming climate of the Northeast United States provides an opportunity to relate lidar-measured forest structure to forest condition. This presentation delves into the challenges of relating lidar data to ecological condition, bringing together field data and a time-series of airborne and terrestrial lidar data from the Harvard Forest experimental site in central Massachusetts, USA. Please join us on Friday evening for a brief discussion of lidar remote sensing and how it can help monitor and manage our future forest ecosystems.

Friday 3rd May 2019, 4.30pm - (Rescheduled from Sept 2018)

Prof. Ewan Klein

School of Informatics, University of Edinburgh; Edinburgh Living Lab

Title: Putting Things in Places: IoT and Community in Edinburgh

Eventbrite Signup

Download Slides   Download Audio

Prof. Ewan Klein is Professor Emeritus of Language Technology in the University of Edinburgh’s School of Informatics. From September 2017 he has also been a Turing Fellow at the Alan Turing Institute.

Prof. Klein's research career spans a range of topics, including theoretical linguistics; computational phonology, syntax and semantics; spoken dialogue with mobile robots; text mining in domains such as medical biology and digital history; the use, interpretation and social embedding of different forms of data in the context of Living Labs and the Internet of Things.

Friday 5th Apr 2019, 4.30pm - Cancelled

Joann Russell

Head of Estates, Historic Environment Scotland

Title: GIS and BIM for Heritage Estate Management

Eventbrite Signup

Download Slides   Download Audio

Friday 22nd Mar 2019, 4.30pm

Prof. Michael P. Peterson

University of Nebraska at Omaha

Title: Real-Time Air Population and Air Freight Volume for the Contiguous US

Eventbrite Signup

Download Slides   Download Audio


“Air population” refers to the total number of people flying above the earth at any point in time. Air freight volume is a measure of the total volume of freight in all aircraft flying above an area. Air population and freight volume can be estimated using the real-time location of aircraft. The total number of passengers is calculated by multiplying the number of seats for each aircraft by the current seat occupancy rate. Air freight volume is estimated by summing the freight volume for all aircraft, both the belly cargo in passenger aircraft and the total volume of aircraft used exclusively for freight. Air population and air freight is determined for the United States contiguous airspace. Values are divided by state, county and region. In the interactive, real-time mapping system, maps are provided to show total state air population, the density of air population by state (air population / area of state), the ratio of air population to ground population and total air freight in semi-trailer equivalents.

Friday 1st Mar 2019, 4.30pm

Joint EEO-AGI(S)/Hutton Club Seminar

Prof. Alison Heppenstall

Geography, University of Leeds

Title: Bringing the Social City to the Smart City

Eventbrite Signup

Download Slides   Download Audio


Technological developments, such as the rise in GPS enabled devices and Web 2.0 technologies have created social transformations in how we connect and share information through the mass uptake of smart phones and social media platforms. This new generation of mobile technologies work as individual sensors capturing data on a wide range of human behaviours that have been previously unavailable. These include data on individual movement, preferences and opinions. Understanding these behaviours is crucial if we are to create a holistic approach to simulating how cities breathe and grow. However, considerable work is required in adapting and developing new technologies from machine learning to extract behaviours which can be embedded into cutting-edge modelling techniques. Creating this bridge between ‘big’ data representing the ‘real’ world, and simulations producing alternative versions of reality is of value to both academics and policymakers looking to develop new solutions to many of the challenges that today’s cities face. To do this we need to understand how factors within the “Social City” (the impact of individual movements and decisions) play out every day in the “Smart City” (data collected from fixed sensors on for example, traffic counts or air pollution).

This presentation will give an overview of work that is being undertaken through an ESRC-Alan Turing Fellowship to address the challenges of bringing the social city to the smart city.

Friday 1st Feb 2019, 4.30pm

Joint EEO-AGI(S)/Hutton Club Seminar

Elliot Hartley

Managing Director, Garsdale Design

Title: Geodesign and Smarter Planning

Eventbrite Signup

Download Slides   Download Audio


Wake up! The built environment professional worlds are colliding, and we cannot sit in our narrow professional cells anymore. Concepts such as 3D Geodesign, BIM, and software tools like Esri CityEngine show us a collaborative future of fast scenario modelling with integrated testing, analysis and visualisation, all while collaborating online with teams of experts around the world.

With rapid advancements in software and hardware, we are able to do more in less time.  Our clients will be happier, we will be happier and hopefully the planet will be better for it too.

In this seminar I will explain my professional journey and how it is indicative of wider changes and challenges in the built environment industries.   I will discuss the emerging geodesign discipline as well as BIM and the dizzying array of standards to keep all this data moving smoothly.  In my view the entertainment industry’s work (gaming and movies), should also be seen as part of our all our professional futures.


Garsdale Design Limited


Friday 18th Jan 2019, 4.30pm

Layla Gordon

AR/VR Lead, OS Labs, Ordnance Survey

Title: AR/VR and OS Labs

Eventbrite Signup

Download Slides   Download Audio

Friday 7th Dec 2018, 4.30pm

Joint EEO-AGI(S)/Hutton Club Seminar

Dr. Graeme Buchanan

RSPB Scotland

Title: Remote Sensing for Conservation for conservation action

Download Audio


Earth observation data collected by satellites can be used to inform biodiversity conservation by inexpensively gathering repeated monitoring information for extensive areas of the Earth. The potential of these data is now being realised, and rather than describing user needs or what can be done using satellite remote sensing, these data are now being used in a routine way. Case studies describing the routine, on-going application of satellite remote sensing to conservation were compiled in a recent book "Satellite remote sensing for conservation action (by Allison Leidner and Graeme Buchanan). In this talk I will outline some of these case studies that give detailed examples of the application of satellite remote sensing, covering both aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems, to conservation around the globe. The studies describe how collaboration between the remote sensing and conservation communities makes satellite data functional for operational conservation, and provide examples of the lessons learned in addition to the scientific details. I will finish by drawing out some commonalities from the case studies, and identify some next steps in the use of earth observation data for conservation.

Friday 16th Nov 2018, 4.30pm - Postponed - Rescheduled 5th Apr 2019 TBC

Joann Russell

Head of Estates, Historic Environment Scotland

Title: GIS and BIM for Heritage Estate Management

Download Slides   Download Audio

Friday 12th Oct 2018, 4.30pm

Joint EEO-AGI(S)/Hutton Club Seminar

Dr. Lesley Gibson and Dr. David Rush

School of Engineering, University of Edinburgh

Title: Remote sensing detection of fires in informal settlements

Download Audio


Informal settlements are highly vulnerable to fire due to high dwelling density, inadequate building methods and flammable building materials used in construction. IRIS-Fire is an international and interdisciplinary research project, between engineers and social scientists looking to Improve the Resilience of Informal Settlements to Fire. The project is developing fundamental understanding of the social, political, and technical issues regarding fire safety and fire spread within informal settlements situated in the Western Cape of South Africa and beyond. This seminar will present some of the geospatial research being undertaken by the IRIS-Fire project team including: 1) the use of Sentinel 2 data in Google Earth Engine to identify historic fires, 2) the development of spatial metrics as indicators of fire risk, and 3) identification of settlements most at risk.

Friday 28th Sep 2018, 4.30pm - Postponed - Rescheduled 3rd May 2019

Prof. Ewan Klein

School of Informatics, University of Edinburgh; Edinburgh Living Lab

Title: Putting Things in Places: IoT and Community in Edinburgh

Download Slides   Download Audio

Prof. Ewan Klein is Professor Emeritus of Language Technology in the University of Edinburgh’s School of Informatics. From September 2017 he has also been a Turing Fellow at the Alan Turing Institute.

Prof. Klein's research career spans a range of topics, including theoretical linguistics; computational phonology, syntax and semantics; spoken dialogue with mobile robots; text mining in domains such as medical biology and digital history; the use, interpretation and social embedding of different forms of data in the context of Living Labs and the Internet of Things.

2017-18 Programme

Space is the Place: Past, Future, Blue, Green, Near, Deep

Old Library, Geography, Drummond Street, Edinburgh, EH8 9XP

Unless otherwise indicated, all talks are to be held in the Old Library at the Institute of Geography , University of Edinburgh, Drummond Street, Edinburgh.

Note: In order to better-accommodate professionals attending talks, seminars are now held at 4.30pm in the Old Library, Geography, University of Edinburgh, Drummond Street, Edinburgh, EH8 9XP, except where otherwise stated.

These are then followed by AGI Geo-Drinks in Teviot Library Bar, EH8 9AJ at 5.45 allowing plenty room for informal professional networking.

Friday 25th May 2018, 4.30pm

Prof. Leif Isaksen FSA

Professor in Digital Humanities, Project Director: Pelagios Commons; Cluny Hill Dig

Digital Humanities Lab/Classics & Ancient History, University of Exeter

Title: Pelagios: Linking Past and Future Spaces

Eventbrite Sign-Up

Pelagios Commons:

Cluny Hill Dig:

Friday 27th Apr 2018, 4.30pm

Prof. Jamie Pearce

CRESH Research Group, University of Edinburgh

Title: Complexity and uncertainty in geography of health research: incorporating a 'life course of place' perspective

Eventbrite Sign-Up

Many studies show that individual circumstances throughout life influence subsequent health and well-being outcomes. The life-course perspective emphasises that health is affected by the accumulation of social and economic (dis)advantages over an individual’s life but, importantly, also that there can also be critical periods where the effects of exposure can be greater. Yet few researchers have applied a life-course perspective to the study of health and place, which has resulted in a partial understanding of the dynamics of person-health-place relations. This presentation will introduce a new longitudinal approach for incorporating aspects of place into a life course framework. Using historical and contemporary environmental information integrated in GIS alongside cohort data from a cohort of individuals born in 1936 (the Lothian Birth Cohort 1936), I will consider the influence of environmental factors over the life course on mental health outcomes and cognitive ageing later in life.

About Prof. Jamie Pearce and the CRESH Research Group

Friday 16th Feb 2018, 4.30pm

Julie Procter

Chief Executive

Greenspace Scotland

Title: Using OS Greenspace to transform urban places into people places

Download Slides   Download Audio

When Scotland launched its Greenspace Map back in 2011, it was the first of its kind anywhere in the world. Now an innovative partnership with Ordnance Survey (OS) has extended greenspace mapping to England and Wales and introduced a new generation of greenspace data to Scotland. At the click of a mouse or swipe of a screen, it’s now easy to find a park or greenspace nearby.  The launch of OS Greenspace largely focused on the general public’s use for recreation and leisure but the map is also a powerful resource for GI professionals, planners, researchers and developers. This talk will cover the development of the new OS Greenspace products - OS MasterMap Greenspace, OS Open Greenspace [open data] and OS Greenspace [app] – and showcase how they are being used at local, regional and national levels to support policy, practice, research and innovation to turn urban places in people places.

Julie Procter is Chief Executive of greenspace scotland. With over 20 years’ experience working in the environmental sector, Julie is passionate about the importance of greenspace close to where people live and the many benefits it delivers for people, places and nature. greenspace scotland is Scotland’s parks and greenspace charity working towards the goal that everyone living and working in urban Scotland should have easy access to quality greenspace which meets local needs and improves their quality of life. Current greenspace scotland programmes include: Young Placechangers, Climate Change Parks, Tesco Bags of Help community grants, ParkPower, food growing strategies, MyParkScotland – Scotland’s only crowdfunding platform specifically for parks and greenspaces, and Scotland’s Greenspace Map.

In 2011, greenspace scotland and partners published the world’s first national greenspace map Following work with Ordnance Survey, the next generation of Greenspace Map was published in July 2017.The new OS Greenspace products include a detailed Greenspace MasterMap Layer for public sectors users (and academics) and an open data version that is freely available to the general public and app developers. The Map provides accurate and up-to-date information to support greenspace and green network development and management, policy-making, investment and research in relation to air quality, biodiversity, regeneration, flood resilience, health and wellbeing.

More info | @greenspacescot

Friday 26th Jan 2018, 4.30pm

David Henderson

Managing Director

Ordnance Survey Great Britain

Title: Changing the face of the master map of Great Britain

Download Slides   Download Audio As a new generation of demands and expectations are placed upon our planet, national mapping agencies are looking far beyond their traditional borders. For Ordnance Survey this has been a catalyst to shape new collaborations across the globe and opened a range of opportunities for geospatial data to connect and enable otherwise disparate applications that will be part of our near term future. This presentation will explore some of those themes and provide a number of case studies through which Ordnance Survey is looking to the future.

Friday 1st Dec 2017, 4.30pm

Ed Parsons

Geospatial Technologist, Google

Title: Googling the Future of Spatial

Download Slides   Download Audio

Friday 17th Nov 2017, *4 for 4.30pm*

Joint EEO-AGI(S)/Hutton Club Seminar

Dr. Lauren Biermann

Centre for Environment, Fisheries, and Aquaculture Science (CEFAS)

Title: Building Bridges to Satellites: how the UK Government is encouraging uptake of remotely sensed data

Download Slides   Download Audio

Satellite Remote Sensing (RS) is not in its infancy, however, the UK Government has been cautious in integrating these data into policy and monitoring strategies. To address this, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) formally launched an Earth Observation Centre of Excellence (EOCoE) in October 2015, bringing RS scientists together to drive uptake of satellite data and deliver satellite-enabled solutions. In two years, the centre has delivered a number of key projects that have started to sustainably transform the way Defra operates. My talk will largely focus on three key marine examples, including development of near-shore water quality products using Sentinel-3 data, operational vessel detection and identification using Sentinel-1 radar imagery, and tracking of pelagic fish species in UK waters using a range of remotely-sensed earth observation data. My talk will also cover how improved communication through the EOCoE has allowed for rapid sharing of cross-cutting data, and introduce UK-GEOS, a new cross-departmental government EO service.

Friday 29th Sep 2017, 4.30pm

Dr. Vanessa Lawrence, CB

Location International

Title: Location: Its role in solving issues facing you, our nation and our World

Download Slides   Download Audio

Dr. Vanessa Lawrence CB, HonFREng, FRGS, FRICS, FCInstCES, FRSGS, CCMI, CGeog is working internationally as a senior advisor to governments, inter-governmental organisations including the World Bank and large private sector organisations.

In addition, she is a Director of Location International Ltd which provides strategic advice and full operational capacity globally, to the public and private sector, as to how to gain from improving their own use of location information to enhance their decision-making and to meet the ever changing needs of their customers and stakeholders.   Vanessa is a Non-Executive Director of the Satellite Applications Catapult whose focus is fostering innovation in the use of satellite data, the Honorary Colonel of 135 Geographic Squadron Royal Engineers, on the Advisory Group of the Urban Big Data Centre, a Trustee of the Winchester Science Centre and the Royal Geographical Society, Honorary Vice-President of the Geographical Association, an Adjunct Professor at the University of Southampton and Visiting Professor at Kingston University and a Patron of the Cure Parkinson’s Trust and MapAction.

2016/17 Programme

GIS Futures: Desktop GIS, Heritage, OpenData, Parallel GIS, Future Cities, Future Transport and Infrastructure

Old Library, Geography, Drummond Street, Edinburgh, EH8 9XP

Friday 19th May 2017, 4.30pm

Future Living

Dr. Alasdair Rae

University of Sheffield

Director,  Sheffield Q-Step Centre

Title: The United States of America, or just a bunch of 'megaregions'? An alternative view of the economic geography of the United States?

Download Slides   Download Audio

Abstract: In this presentation I discuss a recent piece of research I conducted on the geography of so-called 'megaregions' in the United States. In collaboration with my colleague Garrett Nelson at Dartmouth College (US), I used a large dataset and cloud computing to algorithmically define commuter megaregions in the United States. The paper was published in PLOS ONE in November 30 2016 and since then has racked up more than 220,000 views. The associated data has also accumulated more than 44,000 views and 6,400 downloads on Figshare. The reason for this is partly because it was an open access paper but also because it struck a chord with people, as we saw through the large number of post-publication engagements, including a Reddit AMA on the topic. In short, we offered a new view of the economic geography of the United States that cuts across existing state and county boundaries in order to define 50 new 'megaregions'. My presentation includes lots of maps and emphasises the benefits of speaking beyond the 'echo chambers' of our own academic disciplines.
Bio: Alasdair Rae is Reader in Urban Studies and Planning at the University of Sheffield in the UK. His work focuses on the manipulation, analysis and visualisation of large geographic datasets in relation to cities, neighbourhoods, transport and economic development. More widely, he is a proponent of open access, open data and open source software and seeks to make use of the wide range of new datasets that have become available in recent years; always with the aim of answering important underlying questions. His data analysis and mapping work has appeared in a variety of media outlets, including The Economist, the BBC, the Daily Mail, CityLab, the Washington Post, WIRED, The Guardian, and National Geographic. He tweets at @undertheraedar and blogs at and is currently Editor in Chief at open access journal Regional Studies, Regional Science.

Friday 28th Apr 2017, 4.30pm

Future Learning

Prof. Jonathan Silvertown

Chair in Technology Enhanced Science Education

University of Edinburgh

Title: Making Edinburgh a Global City of Learning

Download Slides (Prezi exe)   Download Audio

Edinburgh is the home of the Scottish Enlightenment and to this historic milestone of intellectual achievement it adds a panoply of accolades: the architecture and townscape of a World Heritage Site, the first UNESCO City of Literature, the largest arts festival in the world, the greenest city in Britain, the capital of Scotland and the seat of the Scottish Parliament. Edinburgh University ranks in the UK top 4 and in the global top 20. Through the middle of this assortment is thrust the City’s own volcano, like a skewer through a kebab of delights. In this lecture I will propose adding one more delicacy to the dish: Edinburgh – Global City of Learning.

The idea is to turn the entire city and its environs into a pervasive, interactive learning environment, visible to the world. Through a smartphone or other device, anyone in Edinburgh will be able to learn about the rocks beneath their feet, the buildings and trees around them, the history of every location and the art in every vista, carry out their own investigations and make their own contributions to knowledge. Realising this vision requires a technical infrastructure that we have begun to build and that we have named Edinburgh Cityscope. Physical borders define the uniqueness of Edinburgh. Edinburgh Cityscope will present this in a borderless showcase.



Friday 31st Mar 2017, 4.30pm

Future Transport

Stephen Cragg

Transport Scotland

Title: I know where you were last night!

Download Slides   Download Audio

Part of planning for transport systems of the future involves a need to understand how people use transport systems today. How many people are commuting to work by bicycle, how many parcels are being delivered by small vans, how many people are taking the train to go for a night out in Edinburgh?  Traditionally, these questions were answered by going out and stopping people and freight vehicles and asking them about the journey they were making. However, new opportunities are now available through advances in camera technology (Automatic Number Plate Recognition), short-range wireless communication (Bluetooth) and the near ubiquitous carrying of mobile phones.  This presentation will discuss some of the practical challenges of turning these data sources into something useful and you can discover if I really do know where you were last night!

Stephen Cragg is a Transport Planner. In spite of wanting to grow up first to be a giraffe, then a chemist, he accidentally became a transport planner. Through his work he has developed a passion for data, maps and understanding why people make the travel choices they do. It is to his eternal embarrassment that despite knowing his left from his right, he still doesn't know his east from his west.

Friday 3rd Mar 2017, *4pm*

Joint Hutton Club/EEO-AGI(S) Seminar - Future Techniques 3

Dr. Andrew Cunliffe

University of Edinburgh

Title: Terrestrial carbon in degrading drylands: A study of soils, sediments and plants from drones

Download Slides   Download Audio

Friday 24th Feb 2017, *4pm*

Festival of Creative Learning Special - Future Techniques 2

Joint Hutton Club/EEO-AGI(S) Seminar

Dr. Rebecca Hodge

University of Durham

Title: CT scanning and 3D printing: New tools for quantifying fluvial sediment dynamics

Friday 24th Feb 2017, *12pm*

Festival of Creative Learning Special - Future Techniques 1

Dr. Paul Chapman

Acting Head of School

School of Simulation and Visualization

Glasgow School of Art

Title: Virtual Reality. Temporary distraction or real opportunity?

Download Audio

VR has been around for decades but recent technical advances have caused a huge surge in popularity within the last 24 months. Haven't we been here before? Is this yet another failed push by the tech companies with gimmicky technology crying out for real-world applications? Or, have we reached a tipping point similar to the birth of the web in the early 90's where it's now time to get on board or be left behind? In this talk I will be demonstrating the incredible advances in computer graphics in the last 30 years and will look at some real applications of state of the art computer graphics and virtual reality in the world today.

Dr. Paul Chapman is Acting Head of the School of Simulation and Visualisation at the Glasgow School of Art where he has worked since 2009. Previously Paul was Director of the Hull Immersive Visualisation Centre and spent several years working as an offshore engineer in the oil, gas and diamond mining industries. Paul holds BSc, MSc and PhD degrees in Computer Science, he is a Chartered Engineer, Chartered IT Professional, Fellow of the British Computer Society and member of the Royal Society of Edinburgh's Young Academy. Passionate about technology, Paul applies his experience to real-world problems in numerous disciplines including experimental psychology, archaeology, marine visualisation, speech rehabilitation, flying simulation and medical visualisation. He has several years of managerial and project management experience and has won a number of awards including the 2009 UK Industry Awards: IT Innovative Project of the Year.

Twitter: @pixelbeans

Friday 3rd Feb 2017, 4.30pm

Future Spatial Data Infrastructure

Iain McKay

Improvement Service

Title: The Spatial Hub

Download Slides   Download Audio

The Spatial Hub is a resource which provides a single point of access to quality assured Scottish local authority data in a consistent format. It is developed, operated and managed by the Spatial Information Service within the Improvement Service.  Individual local authorities provide datasets to the Spatial Hub where they are conflated into a standardised format and published as a national dataset.

Friday 20th Jan 2017, 4.30pm

Future Land and Property

Dr. Janet Egdell

Operations Director

Registers of Scotland

Title: Digital Transformation at the Registers of Scotland

Download Slides   Download Audio

Digital Transformation Digital is changing everything, from how we work to how we consume services. Technology is advancing every day, and the way we live our lives is overwhelmingly influenced by the internet. Digital is also significantly better for the environment, saving tonnes of paper every year.  Registers of Scotland is undergoing a digital transformation, moving from a paper-based organisation to one that always does everything digitally as the first option.  Recent legislation has already allowed an increase in the proportion of digital applications received, rising overnight from five per cent to over 20 per cent.  Boosting this figure will be a large focus of our work over the coming years as we do everything we can to protect our environment and make registering property faster, easier, and more secure than ever before.

General Register of Sasines - 400th anniversary year. 

2017 The General Register of Sasines - also known as the sasine register - is the world's first public register of property ownership rights, dating back to 1617. It is a chronological list of land transaction deeds, which contain written descriptions of what the ownership covers.  Wednesday 28 June 2017 will mark 400 years since the sasine register was created by the Registration Act 1617. 

Friday 9th Dec 2016, 4.30pm

Christmas Special: Map Projections for Modern Transport

Dr.  Jonathan Illife

University College London

Title:  Finding your way through the coordinate maze – GIS, GPS and map projections for planes, trains and ships

Download Slides   Download Audio

Whether navigating a ship, building a railway, or controlling aircraft movements, the choice of a coordinate system that is fit for the purpose required is essential. Equally, transforming and converting data between one system and another is an everyday requirement when combining GPS data with mapping systems, or merging land and marine data sets in the coastal zone. This talk will cover some of the fundamental principles involved in selecting, designing and transforming coordinate systems, and will illustrate these through sample projects such as VORF (Vertical Offshore Reference System) and SnakeGrid.

Jonathan Iliffe is senior lecturer in geodesy at University College London. He is the co-author of Datums and Map Projections for GIS, Remote Sensing and Surveying, is the co-PI for the VORF project, and is the inventor of the SnakeGrid concept.

Friday 25th Nov 2016, 4.30pm

Future Cities

Iain Langlands

GIS Manager, Glasgow City Council

Title: Engagement - Enlightenment - Excitement

Download Slides   Download Audio

“Future Cities Glasgow”, Glasgow’s Smart Cities project, benefited from £24 million of Innovate UK investment and innovation funding to prove that a mature city could develop sustainable Smart Cities projects and, importantly, that they could be scaled up to a city region scenario. So, what is the legacy of that exciting project? Glasgow has come a long way with Future Cities, learning valuable lessons alongside both predicted and surprising discoveries. The biggest surprise of all is not so much the consequential organisational and cultural change which has permeated across all Services but the speed of change and the realisation of the value of location-based information (GI colleagues excepted!). Learn how the established City Council business-models are changing and why “data” is now at the heart of every strategic decision. It’s not just Smart Cities anymore – it’s Smart “everything”!

Friday 11th Nov 2016, 4.30pm

Joint Hutton Club/EEO-AGI(S) Seminar

Stuart Grieve

Land Surface Dynamics Group, GeoSciences, University of Edinburgh

Title: Uncovering signatures of geomorphic process through high resolution topography

Access Slides   Download Audio

Friday 4th Nov 2016, 4.30pm

Future GIS 2

Arthur J. Lembo, PhD

Associate Professor and Technical Director, ESRGC Salisbury University,  Maryland, USA

Title: Exploring the potential of using your teenager's gaming computer as a high performance computing (HPC) GIS workstation

Download Slides   Download Audio

As a result of the computer-gaming industry's relentless demand for increased speed, low-cost graphics cards and multi-processor architectures have allowed the average desktop to become supercomputers in themselves through the addition of massively parallel processing architectures.  Although these architectures were originally designed for “gamers,” the massively parallel processing streams are also available for non-gaming use, such as GIS.  Parallel techniques in desktop GIS is relatively new and almost nonexistent in the field of GIScience. This presentation will provide an overview of the techniques available to GIS users and will discuss the benefits and limitations of each approach.  The approaches include both parallel solutions using multi-core processors and graphical processing units (GPUs).  

Friday 14th Oct 2016, 4.30pm

Future Archaeology

Prof. Andrew Bevan

University College London

Title: Archaeology, Historical Geography and the Data Deluge

Download Slides   Download Audio

Archaeology, history and geography have all wandered into exciting but daunting territory, with huge quantities of new evidence, both systematic and serendipitous, as well as further floods from neighbouring subjects. Moreover, this information deluge is digitally-rich, increasingly spatial, frequently open-licensed and often remotely-sensed. With regard to the study of the human past (and the related story of a human environmental impacts), these changes are sufficiently profound to suggest that the very operating conditions for archaeological and deep-historical research are being transformed, with important consequences for how we interpret, contextualise, quantify and compare archaeological evidence, as well as for how we learn, teach, collaborate and publish. Drawing together comparative examples from the Mediterranean islands, international shipping containers, the Chinese terracotta army, European prehistory and the Domesday book, this lecture charts the increasingly Diluvian information landscape across which we explore human history.

Friday 30th Sep 2016, 4.30pm

Future GIS 1

Charles Kennelly

Chief Technology Officer, ESRI UK

Title: The Future of GIS

Download Audio

Charles has worked in the GIS industry for 2 decades, starting life as a digitiser and working through many aspects of the industry. Initially in local government and latterly with Esri UK, Charles has been involved in the design, development, deployment and management of a number of successful GI systems. Now working as the CTO for Esri UK, Charles specialises in finding ways of making GIS accessible to ordinary users in wide-ranging environments, from consumer mapping to enterprise and business critical systems.


2015/16 Programme

GIS Hot Topics: Census 2011, Forest/Urban Observations, 3D, BIM, Transport, Energy

Old Library, Geography, Drummond Street, Edinburgh, EH8 9XP

Friday 3rd Jun 2016, 1.30pm

Dr. Paul Norman

University of Leeds

Title: "I was the Cheshire cat but ... I'm now the Unitary Authority of Warrington Cat" - Dealing with boundary change: the process and utility of converting socio-demographic data.

Download Slides   Download Audio

This presentation will discuss how to deal with harmonising socio-demographic data in the face of incompatible geographies and boundary changes. First the range of (vector) geographies for which data may be available or required will be outlined along with how they are related by way of hierarchies (or not!). Then the process of using postcode locations to link geographies and convert data will be stepped through followed by an appraisal of the utility of the process. Finally, some choices about linking individual data to geographic zones will be noted along with various frameworks for time-series / longitudinal analyses.

Friday 18th Mar 2016, 4.30pm

Prof. James Frew

Associate Professor, University California, Santa Barbara (UCSB)

Title: Curating Digital Geospatial Information

Download Slides   Download Audio

James Frew is an Associate Professor of Environmental Informatics in the Bren School of Environmental Science & Management at the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB), and a principal investigator in UCSB's Earth Research Institute (ERI). A geographer by training, he has worked in remote sensing, image processing, software architecture, massive distributed data systems, and digital libraries. His current research is focused on science data citation and curation, geospatial information provenance, and applications of array databases. This is his second year-long sabbatical in Edinburgh. (He hopes to retire before becoming eligible for a third one.)

*Preserving* digital information of any kind is challenge - many of us have personally experienced physical media becoming obsolete or unreadable, or data formats becoming unsupported or unintelligible. Digital *curation* is much harder. Curated information is not just preserved - it is also made accessible to current uses, where "current" extends into an indefinite future. Curation is therefore not just an event, or a policy, but an *activity*. In this talk I will try to give a sense of the particular challenges of curating geospatial information, and how they affect you as geospatial information producers and consumers.

Friday 12th Feb 2016, 4.30pm

Phil James

Senior Lecturer in GIS, University of Newcastle

Title: Urban Observatory Mapping Our Future Cities

Download Slides   Download Audio

Friday 15th Jan 2016, 5.00pm

Dr. Claire Ellul

SpaceTimeLab, Department of Civil, Environmental and Geomatic Engineering, University College London

Title: The Current and Future Status of 3D GIS in the UK

Download Slides   Download Audio

Dr Claire Ellul worked as a GIS consultant for 10 years in the UK, Europe and the Middle East before returning to academia. Having completed her PhD at University College London in 2007, she spent two years working as a post-doctoral researcher before being appointed to a Lectureship in the Department of Civil, Environmental and Geomatic Engineering at UCL. She is now a Reader in Geographical Information Science, with research interests that include 3D GIS and BIM/GIS Integration, along with the usability of GIS software and data by non-GIS experts including the 'crowd'. (Dr.Claire Ellul's UCL profile)

The talk will review current 3D-related activity in the UK - including research, applications, data and software. It will also go over what needs to be done to move 3D GIS forward from a relatively niche application to mainstream. What are the Use Cases for 3D GIS? What do we need from data providers? What software do we need? Where should we concentrate our research? Can we take advantage of other activities such as the drive for Building Information Modelling or the increasing use of dedicated Graphics Cards in computers?

Friday 4th Dec 2015, 4.30pm

Prof. Chris Speed

Chair of Design Informatics, School of Design, Edinburgh College of Art, University of Edinburgh

Title: Designing with the City as Database

Download Slides   Download Audio

This seminar will explore the conditions of the city and landscape as a database and the possibilities that this holds for reconfiguring both the representation of the landscape and the practices that can occur within it. A paradigm in which data points become the primary material that describes the places that we work and live, means that any thing can become a landmark. Whilst we are used to buildings, monuments and trees having a datum, the streaming condition of cars, people, animals and all many of objects within the internet of things means that the landscape is no longer described through architectures with fixed points of longitude and latitude. Instead the landscape is a fluid, non static database in which all and any correlations can be made. In support of this theoretical premise I will present a series of research projects that introduce design tactics for designing with the city as database.

Friday 20th Nov 2015, 4.30pm

Prof. Jim Crow

Professor of Classical Archaeology and Head of Archaeology, University of Edinburgh

Title: GIS and Archaeology: Thoughts of a Fellow Traveller

Download Slides   Download Audio

Professor Jim Crow is Professor of Classical Archaeology and Head of Archaeology at University of Edinburgh. Professor Crow studied at Birmingham University, with Anthony Bryer and went on to research Byzantine archaeology at Newcastle University with Martin Harrison, writing a thesis on the late Roman fortifications on the lower Danube. He was later a research fellow at the British Institute of Archaeology at Ankara, and was subsequently director of excavations for the National Trust on Hadrian’s Wall from 1982-1989. Professor Crow was appointed to a lectureship in Archaeology at Newcastle University in 1990 where he taught until 2007. Professor Crow moved to Edinburgh to take up his current post in the summer of 2007.

He was Hon. Secretary of the Society for the Promotion of Byzantine Studies from 1996-2006; he has a long association with the British Institute at Ankara and is currently a member of the research committee. His research has been concerned with the archaeology of Roman frontiers and especially Hadrian’s Wall. He has directed research projects in Turkey at Amasra, and east of Trabzon, near Sürmene. Since 1994 he began fieldwork on the Anastasian Wall in Thrace and completed a survey mapping and recording the Byzantine water supply of Constantinople. In 2007-09 he collaborated with Prof. Dr. Derya Maktav of ITU in a project funded by TUBITAK on the application of remote sensing for the study of the water supply system, and they co-curated an exhibition at the RCAC ‘Waters for a Capital’ in 2012-13. He is currently co-directing a project on the historic landscapes of Naxos, supported by Dumbarton Oaks, and a three year trans-disciplinary study combining contemporary engineering practice and archaeology ‘Engineering the Water Supply of Constantinople’, funded by the Leverhulme Research Trust.

Friday 16th Oct 2015, 4.30pm

Dr. Joanne Nightingale

Head of Earth Observation, National Physical Laboratory

Title: Earth Observation, Climate and Opticcal Measurements @ NPL

Download Slides   Download Audio

Dr Nightingale joined the National Physical Laboratory in 2013 from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center and brings over 6 years of experience in coordinating Earth Observation System global land product and essential climate variable (ECV) validation activities. Joanne chaired the CEOS Working Group on Calibration and Validation, sub-group for Land Product Validation from 2010 - 2013. Joanne obtained her Ph.D. in Geography and Remote Sensing from the University of Queensland, Australia and completed two post-doctoral research positions at universities within the United States. Her research interests include assessing the quality of information about forests derived from in situ measurement devices and Earth Observation Satellites, improving global satellite-derived biophysical product validation strategies and contributing to good practice guidance for the evaluation of ECV data records.

Friday 2nd Oct 2015, 4.30pm

Cecilia MacIntyre

Head of Census Quality and Data Exploitation, National Records of Scotland

Title: Census 2011 - How National Records of Scotland are making the most of the data

Download Slides   Download Audio

Cecilia Macintyre joined the National Records of Scotland in 2011 to work on the quality assurance and analysis of the Scotland's Census data . Previous to this she had worked as a researcher in the University of Edinburgh and in a number of roles in Government statistics including a period in the UK Statistics Authority assessing official statistics. Cecilia has been involved with the Royal Statistical Society throughout her career and is currently a member of the RSS Council, with a particular interest in statistical literacy and the use of statistics in education. She was a member of the ESRC Research Resources board and advised on the development of the European Social Survey and the 'Understanding Population Trends and Process initiative' which aimed to promote encourage use of existing resources and build capacity in secondary data analysis . Cecilia obtained a B.Sc. in Mathematics and and M.Sc. in statistics from Edinburgh University. She is currently working on a topic consultation for the 2021 Census and is promoting use of Census statistics in a number of settings including schools, transport specialists and researching user requirement for information on data quality.

This talk will describe the process of creating the Census outputs, will summarise what NRS have done to encourage use of Census data, and plans for consultation on the next Census in 2021.


2014/15 Programme

Thursday 21st May 2015, 12.30pm

Dr. Gary Priestnall

University of Nottingham

Title: The Grandest Views: Re-discovering the Power of Physical Relief Models

Physical relief models have been used for hundreds of years to provide privileged views of landscapes in the context of military strategy, planning and in helping to orientate visitors in unfamiliar environments. They allow the study of details from many angles and promote an appreciation of broader spatial relationships, including subtle differences in elevation. Digital landscape visualization often has the same overall aims but despite many additional capabilities can struggle to present such engaging and effective overviews of landscape. This seminar will explore the virtues of physical landscape models drawing on a number of public installations some of which utilised the projection of maps and imagery to augment the physical models. It will reflect upon the research agenda and prospects for future development in this field given the increasing availability of 3D printing and digital landscape data.

Friday 13th Mar 2015, 4.30pm

Dr. Ioannis Gitas

University of Thessaloniki, Greece

Title: Remote Sensing of forest fires (focus on Mediterranean ecosystems)

Download Slides   Download Audio

Since the initiation of the Landsat program (1972) several projects have been conducted to test the potential efficacy and reliability of satellite data in collecting information related to forest fire management. However, during the last decade, the range of applications has increased significantly as a result of the following:

  • an increase in the number of sensors with different characteristics suitable for studying aspects of fire;
  • improvement of our understanding of the role of fire in ecosystems functioning;
  • progress in computer technology;
  • development of new advanced digital image analysis techniques; and
  • improved access to and availability of satellite data and derived products.

This talk will focus on Mediterranean ecosystems and will discuss recent remote sensing applications related to both ‘pre-fire planning’ and ‘post-fire impact assessment’.

Friday 27th Feb 2015, 4.30pm

Prof. Chris Dibben

Chair in Geography, University of Edinburgh

Title: Death certificates, historic IQ measures, birth certificates - mapping our pasts and reconstructing our lifecourses

Download Slides   Download Audio

Friday 16th Jan 2015, 4.30pm

Prof. Muki Haklay

University College London

Title: VGI and Citizen Science: what we know and what next?

Access Slides   Download Audio

Friday 5th Dec 2014, 4.30pm

Prof. Mike Worboys

Honorary Professor, School of GeoSciences, University of Edinburgh and Professor of Spatial Informatics, School of Mathematical and Computing Sciences, University of Greenwich

Title: A fresh look at the object-field dichotomy

Download Slides   Download Audio

The distinction between object and field models of geographic information is well known and carries through to vector and raster data structures in systems. The two models were initially conceived in the context of timeless information. This talk explores their development for models of the dynamic world, and relates them to Eulerian and Lagrangian viewpoints. The talk concludes by looking at models of pedestrian movement, used as an exemplar of the above analysis.

Friday 14th Nov 2014, 4.30pm

Prof. Clive Sabel

Chair in Quantitative Geography, University of Bristol

Title: The behavome: the next frontier in environmental exposure modelling?

Download Slides   Download Audio

Keywords: Genetic GIS, Quantitative Geography, Spatio-Temporal Geostatistics, Environmental Epidemiology, Geohealth Analysis, Medical Geography

Also see -

Prof. Sabel works with individual-level data. This can mean working with point-pattern data (often residential location) to reveal epidemiological relationships to environmental exposures; building whole life-course exposures to social and environmental sources to, for example, understand wellbeing in urban areas; or data mining ‘Big Data’ such as twitter feeds for spatial-temporal trends.

Following a BSc (Hons) in Geography from Lancaster in 1990 and an MSc in GIS from Edinburgh in 1991, Clive spent some time travelling before returning to Lancaster in 1996 completing his PhD in 1999 under Profs Tony Gatrell and Robin Flowerdew, using an Exploratory Spatial Data Analysis approach to investigate Spatial and Temporal relationships between environmental exposure and health.

Clive then worked as a postdoc at St Andrews with Prof Paul Boyle and then at Karolinska University in Sweden, before accepting a lectureship at the University of Canterbury, New Zealand in 2004. He returned to the UK in 2007 joining Imperial's Department of Epidemiology and Public Health and returned to Geography in 2009 to become Associate Profesor (then Professor) at Exeter. In Sept 2013, he joined the University of Bristol as Professor in Quantitative Geography.

Friday 31st Oct 2014, 4.30pm - EXTRA SEMINAR

Prof. Phil Townsend

Forest & Wildlife Ecology, University of Wisconsin, USA

Title: Spectroscopic remote sensing of vegetation reveals much about plant chemistry, physiology, and ecosystems... and even more about what we don't know!

Slides available locally upon request   Download Audio

Global change is affecting both natural and agricultural ecosystems, requiring that we develop better ways to monitor and predict vegetation processes. A grand challenge in biology and geosciences is to develop the methods that will allow us to better understand ecosystem change at local to global scales. Contact and imaging spectroscopy show great promise for measurement of the physiology of ecosystems related both to environmental drivers and genetics. Over the last decade, researchers have demonstrated the use of reflectance spectroscopy to rapidly and accurately characterize features of ecosystems that previously entailed considerable monetary expense and effort. We have discovered that plant spectra provide a record of plant traits and can be exploited to better understand their function in time and space. Though we do not understand all drivers of variation -- at both leaf and canopy levels -- here I will provide evidence that we can infer properties ranging from gene expression to photosynthetic capacity to nutrient availability. For example, we have used spectroscopy to characterize forest response to insect herbivores and to track foliar chemistry as it is related to forest productivity and nutrient availability following logging. In agricultural settings, spectroscopy offers the capacity to measure the physiological effects of pests such as aphids and disease on plant physiology and ultimately yield. The potential future applications of these methods are extensive, and adaptation of spectrometers to deploy on platforms such as drones will enable us to bridge the gaps in spatial and temporal measurement capacity from the leaf/canopy to airborne to spaceborne levels. Ultimately, an integrated approach will enable geneticists to understand genome function better, agronomists to better target existing genotypes and breeding for different environmental circumstances, and ecologists to better predict the effects of climate change on agricultural and natural ecosystems.

Friday 10th Oct 2014, 4.30pm

Dr. Anne C Kemp

Director, BIM Strategy and Development, Atkins Global

Chair, Association for Geographic Information (AGI) UK

Title: Intelligent decisions, intelligent infrastructure ...... The contribution of Geospatial and BIM.

Download Slides   Download Audio

With the AGI's Geo:Big 5 moving through Open, BIM, Big Data, Policy and Future Cities, and in starting to frame the 2015 Foresight Report, Anne will share some fascinating insights into how Geospatial contributes to the overall challenges of delivering better intelligence in the decision-making process in an increasingly digital world - and why BIM has become a part of that proposition. (Note Big Data event on 30th September, Policy on 9th October, and Geocom on 12th-13th November, see

Friday 26th Sep 2014, 4.30pm

Prof. Iain Woodhouse

Professor of Applied Earth Observation, University of Edinburgh

Title: Mapping the World's forests, long ways and short ways

Download Slides   Download Audio


2013/14 Programme

GIS Landscapes: Political and Physical

This year's focus is on landscape - but both the use of GIS and Earth Observation for landscape and land-use analysis (be it urban or rural), and also the ever-changing political landscape where GI continues to gain more prominence and 'press' coverage. We look at the increasing relevance and benefit of GI to government and citizen, Public Participation in GIS (PPGIS), Opendata, and the continued use of GIS/EO for tackling environmental and land issues to the benefit of all.

Friday 16th May 2014, 12 noon

Extra Special EEO-AGI(S) Seminar

Prof. Mahta Moghaddam

University of Southern California

Title: AirMOSS and Its Role in Responding to Grand Challenges of Climate Research: Sensing Surface-to-Root-Zone Soil Moisture Profiles

Download Audio

North American ecosystems are critical components of the global carbon cycle, exchanging large amounts of carbon dioxide and other gases with the atmosphere. Net ecosystem exchange (NEE) quantifies these carbon fluxes, but current continental-scale estimates contain high levels of uncertainty. Root-zone soil moisture (RZSM) and its spatial and temporal heterogeneity influence NEE and contribute as much as 60–80% to the uncertainty; mapping its spatial and temporal variations is therefore a grand challenge of environmental research. The goal of the Airborne Microwave Observatory of Subcanopy and Subsurface (AirMOSS) project is to provide a new NEE estimate for North America with a reduced uncertainty by (1) providing high-resolution observations of RZSM over regions representative of the major North American biomes, (2) quantifying the impact of RZSM on the estimation of regional carbon fluxes, and (3) upscaling the reduced-uncertainty estimates of regional carbon fluxes to the continental scale of North America. Active microwave – or radar - remote sensing has long been recognized as a key component of an effective environmental observing strategy, due to the strong relationships of radar measurements with geometric and compositional properties of the Earth’s landscape. AirMOSS flies a Gulfstream-III (G-III) aircraft equipped with a P-band, (420–440 MHz) synthetic aperture radar (SAR) over nine major biomes of North America. Data collected by AirMOSS are used to derive RZSM integrated over a depth of 1.2 m from the surface and through substantial vegetation canopies. Surveys are conducted over 100 km × 25 km regions centered at the locations representative of the biomes and where operational FLUXNET tower sites currently exist. The surveys will provide measurements at 100 m spatial resolution and at multiple temporal scales (subweekly, seasonal, and annual). This talk will describe the AirMOSS mission, its instrument and flight platform, timeline, data products, and the latest science results. The retrieval algorithms for RZSM will be discussed, and the accuracy of derived products will be presented.

Friday 9th May 2014, 4.30pm

Dr. Ruth Swetnam

Staffordshire University

Title: Quantifying cultural ecosystem services provided by the landscapes of Wales

Download Slides   Download Audio

Landscapes provide the framework for our natural capital and the individual components which create this wealth –habitats, species, culture, geology, and the human economic activity which takes place within them all, contribute to their development. Wales is typified by some of the finest mountain and coastal scenery in Europe, as well as small-grained farmed landscapes and industrial and heritage landscapes of national and international significance. In addition, the rich and distinctive nature of Wales’ historic environment is revealed through its historic landscape character (fields, moors, lanes, settlements etc.) and is further manifested in its unique endowment of archaeological sites, field monuments and other material remains. All of these components contribute to the cultural ecosystem services provided by the Welsh landscape. However, quantifying these benefits remains challenging, as they are by their very nature subjective, ephemeral and variable. Some ground-breaking work was undertaken in Wales through the development of the LandMap system but these data have proven difficult to use in a systematic way. As part of the monitoring programme for the new Welsh agri-environment scheme Glastir, quantitative GIS approaches are being developed for use at a fine-grained landscape scale and this talk will discuss this emerging methodology.

Dr. Swetnam is a GIS specialist interested in the application of spatial modelling to environmental processes at a range of spatial and temporal scales (local, national and regional). Her research interests lie in the fields of landscape ecology, historical geography, land use change and environmental information and she is a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society and a Chartered Geographer in GIS. She is also a graduate of our own MSc in GIS (1993) - a qualification which she says has proved the springboard to her entire research career.

Friday 11th April 2014, 4.30pm

Dr. Humphrey Southall

University of Portsmouth

Title: PastPlace: Rethinking gazetteers for the semantic web

Download Slides   Download Audio

A Vision Of Britain Through Time

Great Britain Historical GIS (GBHGIS)

Friday 28th March 2014, 4.30pm

Dr. Richard Kingston

Planning and Environmental Management, School of Environment and Development, University of Manchester

Title: Participatory online GIS for adapting our towns and cities to climate change

Download Slides   Download Audio

The use of GIS as a decision support tool is well documented but it is often used behind the scenes by ‘technical experts’. This seminar will report on a number of applied research projects (GRaBS and EcoCities) which have made extensive use of interactive web-based mapping tool to assist different tiers of government to support the development of climate change Adaptation Action Plans across Europe. The tools developed allow a range of different stakeholders to work together to assess vulnerability to climate change using a range of spatial data provided by different agencies. Our approach uses open source software and can be replicated in other places.

The seminar will also provide an update on the latest developments in collaboration with the Joseph Rowntree Foundation and the UK Government’s Technology Strategy Board. Both timely projects considering recent weather events in the southern regions of England.

For more details see:

Friday 14th March 2014, 4.30pm

Dr. Stuart Barr

Newcastle University

Title: Urban temperature risk assessment and adaption using Earth observation and spatial modelling

Download Slides   Download Audio

Cities are not only a major contributor to the emissions that are driving climate change, but also a spatial focus of the resulting climate impacts. One of the greatest climate related impacts faced by cities are intra-urban temperatures, which are predicted to increase significantly during the 21st century. In order to quantify the heat risk faced by cities and to develop appropriate adaption planning options it is critical that one can analyse spatially and temporally , at the intra-urban level, climate induced temperature hazards, population vulnerability and associated exposure. In this presentation, a spatial-temporal risk assessment methodology is presented that has been applied to several studies within the UK Adaption and Resilience to Climate Change research programme to assess the current and future temperature risk of London, Greater Manchester and Newcastle.

Friday 14th Feb 2014, 4.30pm

Prof. Ian Gregory

Lancaster University

Title: Geographical Text Analysis: Analysing digital texts using GIS

Download Slides   Download Audio*

* NB Audio slightly incomplete despite checking recorder battery life!

Over the past two decades Geographical Information Science (GISc) has made large strides in its use of spatially referenced data, however to date this has concentrated on quantitative and cartographic sources. Simultaneously, a major trend in computing has been the growth of content available as unstructured texts from sources such as the world wide web, email, social media, and digital libraries and archives. At present these sources are largely beyond the scope of GISc. Computational linguists have been developing techniques to explore and analyse these sources but their approaches have been non-geographical. This paper reports on the work of the ERC Spatial Humanities: Texts, GIS, Places project ( to analyse texts with a GIS environment. The paper reports on how place-names can be extracted from texts, allocated to grid references, mapped and subsequently analysed. It does so looking at two contrasting sources: Lake District literature and nineteenth century public health.

Friday 31st Jan 2014, 4.30pm

Dr. Alex Singleton

University of Liverpool

Title: Advances in Geographic Data Science: Open Data and Systems

Download Slides   Download Audio

Friday 17th Jan 2014, 4.30pm

Prof. Jason Dykes

giCentre, City University, London

Title: Cartographic Information Visualization

List of Resources Discussed

Work at the giCentre at City University London creatively explores interactions between Cartography - the development and study of symbolised depictions of geographical settings, and Information Visualization - the use of physical space in graphics to represent non-spatial relationships.

This seminar will focus on recent work in which we develop novel maps and graphics by adding structure to geographic representations to help with comparison and geography to non-spatial representations to reveal geographic relationships.

These partial geographies are used amongst other things to track bikes, people and geese, present the UK census on a single page, provide an exploratory public-facing interface to data on local government service provision and reveal bias in London's local elections as giCentre ideas and applications for making sense of masses of data are showcased.

Friday 6th Dec 2013, 4.30pm

Prof. Peter Fisher

University of Leicester

Title: Digital Elevation Models as Fuzzy numbers

Download Slides   Download Audio

Friday 22nd Nov 2013, 4pm

Joint Hutton Club / EEO-AGI(S) Seminar - Note Earlier Start Time of 4pm

Prof. Sanjeev Gupta

Mars Science Laboratory, Imperial College, London

Title: The adventures of Curiosity in Gale Crater, Mars  

Friday 1st Nov 2013, 4.30pm

Joint EEO-AGI(S) / Hutton Club Seminar

Dr. Mathias Disney

Geography, UCL and NERC National Centre for Earth Observation

Title: From Hollywood to the Carbon Cycle: 3D Vegetation modelling for remote sensing applications

Download Slides   Download Audio

Mat's research interests lie in using remote sensing to derive information about the state of terrestrial vegetation (How much? What sort? What condition?) and its dynamics and links to climate through albedo and the Carbon cycle. Understanding the effects of canopy structure is key to exploiting remote sensing data for vegetation applications. He will show how canopy structure and biochemistry are inextricably linked and why this has significant implications for remote sensing of vegetation. He will introduce new 3D canopy models that are allowing us to probe the impact of structure, ranging from simple models designed for global applications, through to highly-detailed 3D models based on film industry animation techniques. These detailed models give us a 'virtual laboratory' for testing simpler models and methods, and are being used for a variety of applications. He will also show how new observations are able to provide unprecedented 3D structural detail to complement and inform the modelling work, thus improving our understanding of vegetation form and function.

Friday 18th Oct 2013, 4.30pm

Dr. Steve Carver

Director, Wildland Research Institute, University of Leeds

Title: Mapping Scotland's wild spaces: from an idea to policy in seven years

Download Slides   Download Audio

Friday 27th Sept 2013, 4.30pm

Dr. Gesche Schmid

Local Government Association

Title: The value of geographic information in local services

Download Slides   Download Audio

Useful links:

Slideshare Version

Scottish Government SDI - Discover Spatial Data


2012/13 Programme

Past and Future GIS: Underground, Overground, and Aboveground

This year saw the launch of a new MSc GIS & Archaeology at the University of Edinburgh therefore a number of seminars were designed to complement this new course as well as being of interest to our diverse audience from across academic and industry sectors. We also looked at Visualising Cities and their Transport Networks both past and future including London, this being the year of the 2012 London Olympics, and finally we included a number of 'local heroes' working with a range of Earth Observation data and GIS techniques here in Edinburgh.

Friday 24th May 2013

Bob Barr OBE

Manchester Geomatics and University of Liverpool

Title: Address War 3 - a view from the battlefield - reflections on government geo-data policy in an Open Data age

Download Slides   Download Audio

Friday 26th April 2013

NB - Change of Talk Title

Will Cornforth

University of Edinburgh

Title: Remote sensing for practical forestry: Arboriculture to UAVs

Download Slides   Download Audio

In remote sensing, forests are often put into context by reference to REDD (Reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation) and loose associations with 'ecosystem services'. However, more than just a tracking and monitoring tool for carbon-credit forests, remote sensing offers opportunities for practical forest management. Responsive forest management in the UK takes particular relevance at the present time due to recent arrivals of foreign pests and pathogens as well as rising incidence of climatic anomaly-related tree stress responses. I will discuss the use of and research into remote sensing tools to tackle issues unique to forests, from the platforms, to the instruments, to the analysis.

Friday 22nd March 2013

Dr. Karin Viergever

Head of Land Use and Spatial Analysis, Ecometrica, Edinburgh

Title: Our Ecosystem: the development of a web-platform that brings spatial data to non-GIS experts

Download Slides   Download Audio

Ecometrica is an Edinburgh-based provider of consultancy and web-based services in greenhouse gas accounting, land use and ecosystem assessment. Our programming team and analysts have developed Our Ecosystem (OE), a web-based data viewing and sharing platform that is designed to make spatial data accessible to people that do not have GIS or remote sensing expertise. Our aim was to produce a platform that would make it easy for non-GIS specialists to access, organise, share, query and analyse spatial data on land cover and ecosystem services.

The presentation will discuss the reasons behind the development of the platform and the technical challenges faced in both the backend (e.g. the OE ‘machine’) and frontend (e.g. communicating complex data to non-expert users and getting the user interface right).

Current examples of OE applications include mapping and quantification of resources and impacts on resources; showing or checking compliance to environmental legislation; monitoring changes to vegetation and other resources; and publication of scientific research. Researchers and other organisations that have produced data layers that they would like to share with others are encouraged to use the Our Ecosystem platform as a means to publish their data. During the presentation several examples of OE applications in the application fields of forest and environmental management will be shown.

Friday 1st March 2013

Prof. Mike Batty

Founder, Chair, and Professor of Planning, Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis (CASA), University College London

Title: Smart Cities: Big Data, Real Time Transport, Social Media and Urban Simulation

Download Slides   Download Audio

I will explain how computers are being fast embedded into many different aspects of the built environment of cities and thus delivering many news kinds of data that pertain to change and movement, particularly in terms of transport flows and social networking. These data are large in the sense that every time an event occurs, the event is recorded and there may be as many as 10000 events per second, yielding data streams measured in millions of events. Making sense of all this is a major challenge and visualization as well as quite elaborate data mining is the key, but the smart city that is an obvious consequence of this digital revolution depends on how we use these new data streams, how we understand urban problems better and fashion more effective urban plans. We will illustrate these ideas from our work in London with the Oyster card system on London’s public transport, various social explorations into social media, digital participation and the development of longer term more traditional land use transport models that can be run now in almost real time. In short, the temporal events associated with spatial events in cities is changing the basis of how we think about their planning. The focus is shifting from long to short term planning as indeed is our own attention span in an era when life seems ever faster. We illustrate these ideas with notions about how we can account for disruptions in cities, unexpected events and how big data is providing us with possibilities for understanding and indeed control of cities that we have never been realized before.

References: Batty, M. (2012) Smart Cities, Big Data, Environment and Planning B, 39, 191 – 193; Batty, M., Axhausen, K., Fosca, G., Pozdnoukhov, A. Bazzani, A., Wachowicz, M., Ouzounis, O., and Portugali, Y.) Smart Cities of the Future, European Physical Journal Special Topics, 214, 481–518.

Friday 8th February 2013

Chris Fleet Senior Map Curator, National Library of Scotland

Title: New GI Technologies for Historical Maps

Download Slides   Download Audio

This talk will look at the range of new open-source technologies for interacting with online historical maps, using case studies from the National Library of Scotland. It will look at the NLS Historical Mapping API (  ), the GeoReferencer crowdsourcing application (  ), using OpenLayers for viewing georeferenced series maps (  ), using GeoServer for searching for maps (  ), and various historical mapping smartphone apps that use dynamic WMS and WMTS. It will aim to highlight some of the new opportunities for collaborative work and new applications using historical maps.

Friday 18th January 2013, 4pm

NB - Change of Speaker

Neil Nutt

Halcrow CH2M Hill, Edinburgh

Title: Natural Flood Management within the Flood Risk Management (Scotland) Act

Download Slides   Download Audio

The hydrological impact of diffuse land use changes often associated with NFM push the capabilities of even the most sophisticated hydrological techniques. With an inevitable high degree of uncertainty in mind, a series of GIS based screening tools will be presented that will assist the practitioner to screen for areas where NFM techniques may be effective, prior to more detailed and focused assessment. These screening methods have been designed to be rapid, informative and can be implemented with existing national datasets.

An overview of a novel method to quantify the hydrological impacts of fluvial NFM measures using a GIS based spatially distributed, semi-physical hydrological model will also be presented. Although at present still largely speculative, this method may provide a means of testing NFM measures against more traditional flood risk management strategies by retaining a link to current UK hydrological practice. While this method will provide hard figures it will be important to remember the high degree of uncertainty necessarily associated with such quantitative approaches.

Friday 23rd November 2012, 4pm

Prof. Gary Lock

Emeritus Professor of Archaeology, University of Oxford

Title: Humanising Archaeological GIS

Download Slides   Download Audio

GIS applications have become increasingly popular within archaeology although not without an element of controversy. This talk will outline the early applications and critiques and then focus on attempts to overcome the perceived positivist stance of GIS technology and its possible integration within post-modernist theoretical approaches to the past. The emphasis is on movement and visibility and how the two can be modelled and combined. A series of case-studies will be presented which attempt to model an embodied engagement with the material world.

Friday 2nd November 2012, 4pm

Gary Gale

Director, Web & Community, Nokia Location & Commerce

Title: Of Digital Stuff And Making Your Location History On The Interwebs

Download Slides   Download Audio

Friday 12th October 2012, 4pm

Dr. Max Roberts

Essex University

Title: Transport schematics: usability, aesthetics, and evaluation

Download Slides   Download Audio

As urban rail networks around the world grow and develop, so the challenge to create attractive usable maps increases. Generally, designers begin with rules first used for the Berlin S-Bahn in 1931, and by Henry Beck for the London Underground in 1933, also known as octolinearity (horizontal and vertical lines and 45 degree diagonals). From the perspective of cognitive psychology, what are the requirements for a well-designed map versus a poorly designed one? Why might octolinearity assist usability? Is this really the optimum means of achieving the best possible design? Can objectives be better achieved if this constraint is relaxed? It is concluded that different networks have different underlying properties, and that these suit different rules.

Also see: London Transport Museum - Maps, Exhibitions, Talks, Walks

Friday 28th September 2012, 4pm - Opening Seminar

John McCarthy

Wessex Archaeology

Title: Applications of GIS in the Archaeological Profession

Download Slides   Download Audio

John has worked on a variety of projects including Bronze Age, Iron Age and Medieval sites as well as work on heritage, development, and environmental impact analysis. John has also contributed to and led various projects in specialist marine and coastal work and his work regularly utilises technologies such as high-grade survey, Laser Scanning, GIS analysis and visualisation.

Friday 14th September 2012, 5.30pm

Special AGI Geo-Drinks Teviot Library Bar, Bristo Sq, EH8 9AJ

This Friday 14th September we are also holding a special one-off Geo-Drinks at Teviot to coincide with the end of the EU CEN/TC 287 Edinburgh 31st plenary allowing socialising with attendees and speakers.


2011/12 Programme

Friday 11th May 2012

3pm, Room 2.13, Geography - *NB Change of Time and Room*

Prof. Martin Herold

Professor of Remote Sensing, Laboratory of Geo-Information Science and Remote Sensing, Wageningen University, The Netherlands

Title: Remote sensing capacities for REDD+: status and prospects

Download Slides   Audio available on demand for UoE staff/students at speaker's request

Friday 23rd March 2012, 4pm

Martin Charlton

National Centre for Geocomputation, NUI Maynooth, Ireland

Title: Geographically Weighted Regression: Modelling Spatial Heterogeneity

Download Slides

Geographically Weighted Regression is a technique for exploratory spatial data analysis. In "normal" regression with data for spatial objects we assume that the relationship we are modelling is uniform across the study area - that is, the estimated regression parameters are "whole-map" statistics. In many situations this is not necessarily the case, as mapping the residuals (the differences between the observed and predicted data) may reveal. Many different solutions have been proposed for dealing with spatial variation in these relationships. GWR provides means of modelling such relationships.

This seminar outlines the characteristics of spatial data and the challenges its use poses for analysis, the ideas underpinning geographically weighted regression and details the process of estimating and interpreting the outputs from GWR models. We finish with a brief survey of current issues in GWR and potential future developments.

Friday 2nd March 2012, 4pm

Dr. Geoff Smith

Director, Specto Natura

Title: The Role of EO Consultants and SMEs within GMES

Download Slides   Download Audio

Environmental information is of crucial importance to understand how our planet and its climate are changing, the role played by human activities in these changes and how these will influence our daily lives.

The European Global Monitoring for Environment and Security (GMES) program aims to provide, or support the provision of, this information through a range of operational Earth Observation-based products and services. The products and services will address a number of key themes; marine, land, atmosphere, emergency, security and climate change. GMES also covers the space component, with the provision of data from the soon to be launched Sentinel series of satellites, and the in-situ component, by the coordination of Member State activities. Policymakers and public authorities at the EU level, the major users of GMES core products and services, will use the information to prepare, implement and monitor environmental legislation and policies across Europe. However, the GMES core products will also be the foundations for downstream services which will operate at the sub-EU level addressing Member State, Regions and local authorities.

The core services offer sustainable pan European input data which will promote the development of downstream services which offer a major opportunity for small to medium sized enterprises (SMEs) in the EO sector to expand their activities within a realistic local context. The current FP7 project GMES for Regions: Awareness and Access Link (GRAAL) will build a platform to help users better specify their demands for EO-based services and for SMEs to better market and promote the services they are offering. The next few years will therefore be a very important and exciting time in the European EO industry and this presentation will describe how the GMES Land theme has developed and some of the opportunities that lie ahead for SMEs.


Dr. Geoff Smith, Specto Natura Ltd., is an Earth Observation(EO) consultant with over 20 years experience in academia, government and industry. He has a PhD in imaging spectroscopy of vegetation from the University of Wales, Swansea and postgraduate qualifications in geophysics and EO. He has worked extensively with UK government delivering products and advice as well as representing UK interests at the European Level. He worked within a UK government agency undertaking a range of activities from blue-skies research to operational applications and has been responsible for successful bids to the UK government, the European Commission and the European Environment Agency. He has been involved in GMES from its early days working on the FP5 BIOPRESS, FP6 Geoland, FP6 BOSS4GMES projects and is now involved in other land related FP7 projects (Geoland 2, HELM, MS-MONINA & GRAAL). His focus is on land cover mapping activities with a user perspective and has provided technical input and management to UK national land cover map and CLC production projects. Previously, he was the head of the Section for EO at the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, UK.

Friday 17th February 2012, 4pm

Dr. Iain Cameron

Remote Sensing and GIS Consultant, Environment Systems

Title: UAV's and You: How Unmanned Aerial Vehicles can change how we capture geospatial information

Download Slides

In the last few years civilian unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV's) have become increasingly affordable and accessible, providing the capability to capture aerial imagery in a timely, accurate and cost effective manner. In this talk I will introduce the opportunities arising from UAV remote sensing and discuss how UAV's can support established survey techniques, particularly in the field of environmental monitoring.

Friday 3rd February 2012, 4pm

Andy Wightman

Independent Writer and Researcher

Title: The Poor Had No Lawyers - who owns Scotland (and how they got it)

Download Slides   Download Audio

The talk will cover:

  • The broad theme of the book
  • The historic quest for information (incl. The Inland Revenue Survey)
  • The author's experiences with Ordnance Survey
  • The Crown Estate Commission
  • Future challenges for land information and land reform

Friday 20th January 2012, 4pm

Dr. David Fairbairn

Newcastle University

Title: Assessing the Accuracy of Crowdsourced Data

Download Slides   Download Audio

The use of informal, crowd-sourced geospatial data collected by non-professional volunteers (volunteered geographic information, VGI), is often regarded as a panacea for projects which are confronted by inadequate or unattainable official information. This seminar will examine how 'good' such informal data is, by assessing its quality using a number of different measures. Any integration of VGI and formal datasets, which is already happening in several applications, must take account of relative accuracies, completeness, currency and meaning. The results of tests on some of these metrics will be described.

Friday 2nd December 2011, 4pm

Dr. Helene Burningham

University College London

Title: GIS Explorations in the Coastal Zone

Download Slides   Download Audio

Spatial data covering the coastal environment is increasingly available at a range of scales and resolutions. Whilst there is great potential for these spatial data to explore characteristics of the coastal zone, particularly in terms of contemporary features, there are also a number of limitations that can frequently constrain our research process. This is particularly true when reconstructing past environments and histories. Drawing on a range of projects investigating coastal behaviour and environmental histories, this talk will review coastal spatial data and reflect on the opportunities for GIS and remote sensing in coastal studies.

Friday 18th November 2011, 4pm

Dr. Phil Bartie

University of Edinburgh

Title: The 2010/11 Christchurch (NZ) Earthquakes: How GIS is being used

Download Slides   Download Audio

As some may remember just over 1 year ago a 7.1 magnitude earthquake struck in Christchurch, New Zealand.This talk is a personal account of that event and the on going aftershocks, with plenty of photos, video clips, and a look at how GIS/Maps/Mashups/technology have been used to help keep locals informed and to assist in the rebuild.

Friday 4th November 2011, 4pm

Joint Hutton Club / EEO-AGI(S) Seminar

Dr. Fausto Ferraccioli

Head of Aerogeophysical Survey, British Antarctic Survey

Title: The Antarctic Continent as revealed from Aerogeophysical Exploration

Download Audio

Friday 21st October 2011, 4pm

Room 2.13, Geography

Prof. Michael Worboys

Director, School of Computing and Information Science, University of Maine, USA

Title: Modelling Indoor Space

Download Slides   Download Audio

This talk will begin by reviewing the motivation for an informatics of indoor space. It will then discuss application domains and consider why current geospatial technology, with its focus on outdoor spaces, needs to be extended. We will review existing formal models of indoor spaces, along with their applications, and introduce a new model that is the subject of the author's current research. The talk will conclude with some observations about the development of a unified model of both indoor and outdoor spaces.

Friday 14th October 2011, 4pm

Bob Kerr

OpenStreetMap Edinburgh

Title: Introduction to OpenStreetMap and Humanitarian Mapping

List of Resources Discussed

This talk will include a quick overview of and some of the derived maps ranging from cycling to food foraging maps. It will include examples and statistics on the quality of the mapping and working with Ordnance Survey, Microsoft Bing and other companies in the UK. Finally it will look at how Open map data is starting to be used in developing countries. This will include mapping slums in Kenya and Tanzania and the information available to us in Somalia and the Daadab Refuge camp.

Friday 30th September 2011, 4pm

Prof. Bob Barr OBE

Manchester Geomatics and University of Liverpool

Title: Ask not what the PDC can do for GI – ask what GI can do for the PDC

Download Slides   Download Audio

The UK Government has announced plans for a new Public Data Corporation. This is intended to bring government bodies and data together in one organisation in order to provide much greater levels of publicly accessible information and improved efficiency in public service delivery.

Prof. Barr's interests include Social Information Systems, analysis and visualisation of social and spatial information, policy, and strategic re-use of service information. He was awarded an OBE for services to geography in 2008 and is also actively involved in urban regeneration and provision of affordable housing in Cheshire.


2010/11 Programme

Friday 1st April 2011, 4pm

Glen Hart

Principal Research Scientist and Research Manager, Ordnance Survey

Title: Geographic Information and the Linked Data Web

Download Slides   Download Audio

Linked Data, a part of the Semantic Web, has begun to take off over the last year; the broader Semantic Web has still to be realised, and it's development has been slower, but progress is being made none the less. This talk will provide an overview of Linked Data and the Semantic Web and discuss how these technologies are affecting Geographic Information, helping it's development, and challenging the way we think about it.

Friday 11th March 2011, 4pm

Joint EEO-AGI(S)/Human Geography Seminar

Professor Graham Clarke

School of Geography, University of Leeds

Title: Applications of Microsimulation in Human Geography

Download Slides   Download Audio

Microsimulation is a methodology for estimating household or individual data sets not normally available to academic researchers. The most popular approach is to re-weight survey data to match the characteristics of small-area census tracts. This produces rich new data sets which can then be used for policy 'what-if?' type scenarios. Having briefly discussed methodological issues in the estimation procedures the talk will provide examples of research in socio-economic impact assessment, retail geography, health geography and rural geography, discussing the data created and the future policy scenarios examined.

Friday 25th February 2011, 4pm

Iain McKay

OneScotland Gazetteer Business Manager, Improvement Service

Title: One Scotland Gazetteer: Where are we now?

Download Slides   Download Audio

This presentation will look at the history of the One Scotland Gazetteer and explain how the One Scotland Mapping Agreement provided a solution to licensing access to the gazetteer for the Scottish public sector. It will discuss how the gazetteer fits into the overall INSPIRE / Scottish SDI framework and provide some thoughts for where addressing is likely to go in the future.

Friday 11th February 2011, 4pm

Professor Chris Brunsdon

Professor of Geographic Information, Department of Geography, University of Leicester

Title: Geographically Weighted Regression: Ideas, Applications and Extensions

Download Slides   Download Audio

Prof. Brunsdon's interests include analysis of patterns of crime, house prices, and health-data. He is also one of the originators of the technique of Geographically Weighted Regression, which models geographic variations in modelled variables as opposed to traditional, simpler, regression modelling which assumes these to remain the same everywhere.

Friday 21st January 2011, 4pm

Professor Richard Healey

School of Geography, University of Portsmouth

Title: New Developments in Historical GIS

The formative period of work in historical GIS from the late 1990's onwards was characterised by the digitisation of published historical census datasets and attention to the problems of administrative boundary changes, using a variety of standard GIS and database tools. More recently, the growing availability of very large individual level files for 19th century censuses in the USA, the UK and parts of Northern Europe, has created both major data processing challenges and immense opportunities to broaden and deepen the scope of research in demographically-related historical GIS. However, such fine-grained datasets still have a very coarse temporal resolution by decade, and are therefore limited for the analysis of shorter duration socio-economic processes. Taking as a theme the mobility of 19th US industrial workers, this presentation will examine new technical developments and substantive issues that affect the deployment of historical GIS in these data-rich environments, including the use of business intelligence methodologies (data warehousing and OLAP), web-based visualisation techniques and the perennial problems of data quality.

Friday 26th November 2010, 4pm

Dr. Hugh Buchanan

MRICS Secretary, Scottish Boundary Commissions' Secretariat

Title: English irregular verbs: I modernise parliament, YOU gerrymander, HE reviews constituency boundaries

Download Slides   Download Audio

The UK government has introduced legislation to reduce the size of the House of Commons and make the number of electors more consistent across the country, with the legislation being greeted by accusations of gerrymandering. The resulting task in Scotland will fall to the Boundary Commission for Scotland, which will draw on its recent experience of reviewing Scottish Parliament constituencies, in time for the May 2011 elections. The talk will look at some of the issues that arise in boundary reviews, and contrast the Scottish Parliament and Westminster processes.

Friday 12th November 2010, 4pm

David S Mitchell

Director, Historic Scotland Conservation Group

Title: Digital documentation of the historic environment and the Scottish Ten Project

Visit Official Website (Includes Talk Visual Content)   Download Audio

Historic Scotland and Glasgow School of Art have been collaboratively working for the past four years on developing laser scanning and visualisation techniques for the historic environment, with development projects at Rosslyn Chapel, Stirling Castle and documenting objects like the Stirling Heads and the Orkney Venus. The Scottish Ten is an exciting project instigated by the Scottish Government to digitally document the five Scottish World Heritage Sites and five overseas heritage sites, to showcase Scotland on an international stage. The first international project at Mount Rushmore has just been completed.

Friday 5th November 2010, 4pm

Joint EEO-AGI(S) / Hutton Club Seminar

Dr. Tim J Malthus

Research Group Leader, Environmental EO Group, Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation

Title: Earth Observation perspectives over a large, dry, flat continent.

Download Slides   Download Audio

Dr Malthus heads the Environmental Earth Observation group in Australia's Commonwealth Scientific Research Organisation (CSIRO). Prior to joining CSIRO, Dr Malthus was Director of the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) Field Spectroscopy Facility, based at the University of Edinburgh and in 2009 was head of the Edinburgh Earth Observatory.

Friday 22 October 2010, 4pm

Special Joint EEO-AGI(S) / Hutton Club Seminar

Dr. Steven Palmer

University of Leeds

Title: Form and flow of some Arctic glaciers from satellite observations

Download Slides

Steve studied for a BSc in Earth & Space Science at University College London before going on to attain a MSc in Astronautics and Space Engineering from Cranfield University. After working as a Mission Systems Engineer in the Earth Observation group at EADS Astrium UK, he started a PhD at Scott Polar Research Institute, Cambridge, on "Temporal fluctuations in the motion of Arctic ice masses from satellite radar interferometry", during which he transferred to The University if Edinburgh, where he successfully defended his thesis. Steve's research continues to focus on the use of satellite remote sensing for quantifying changes in the flow of ice in high latitude regions.

Friday 8th October 2010, 4pm - ** Opening Seminar **

Joint EEO-AGI(S) / Human Geography Seminar

Professor Sir Alan Wilson, FBA, FRS

Professor of Urban and Regional Systems, Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis, University College London

Chair, Arts and Humanities Research Council

Title: Urban and Regional Models: Achievements and Challenges

Download Slides   Download Audio

Modelling the functioning and evolution of urban and regional systems has been, and is, one of the grand challenges of Twentieth and Twenty-First Century science. There is half a century or more of achievement which is reviewed briefly. The challenges for the future range from taking advantage of the wealth of new data and the demands this makes for effective warehousing through the optimum deployment of the models that work well – such as interaction models – to the challenge of modelling system dynamics and evolution. The concepts of abrupt change and of path dependence are developed and the idea of ‘urban DNA’ introduced. These models are illustrated with a range of applications from retail structures (and agent-based variants of conventional models) to some historical examples, including the evolution of the USA urban system in the Nineteenth Century.

Sir Alan was Vice-Chancellor of the University of Leeds from 1991 to 2004, and Director-General for Higher Education in DfES from 2004-2006. He was elected as a Member of Academia Europaea in 1991, a Fellow of the British Academy in 1994, an Academician of the Academy of Social Sciences in 2000, and a Fellow of the Royal Society in 2006. He was knighted for services to higher education in 2001.

Friday 24th September 2010, 4pm - ** Special Pre-Series Seminar **

Dr. Juan M Lopez-Sanchez

University of Alicante

Title: Agriculture monitoring using time series of satellite radar polarimetric images

Download Slides   Download Audio

Since 2007 several Earth Observation satellites have operated polarimetric radars in a continuous mode. The availability of archives of images acquired with short revisit times, different polarisation combinations and high spatial resolution enables the development of new techniques for agricultural crop monitoring and precision farming. A recent study over rice fields in Spain by using TerraSAR-X and Radarsat-2 data for tracking rice phenology and detecting cultivation problems is used for illustrating this application.

Dr. Juan M Lopez-Sanchez is a senior lecturer in the Department of Physics, System Engineering and Signal Theory at the University of Alicante, Spain. His research is focused on radar remote sensing techniques, including polarimetry and interferometry, for retrieval of biophysical parameters and monitoring of geological processes.


2009/10 Programme

Thursday 17th June 2010, 4pm

Dr Simon Kingham

University of Canterbury, New Zealand

Title: Commuter pollution exposure: can modal choice affect your health?

Most research suggests, that contrary to lay expectations, pollution exposure is higher among car occupants than and other road users. However recently a couple of studies has suggested otherwise. Most of these types of studies have occurred in areas of high traffic density. This presentation will give the results of a recently conducted study in Christchurch and Auckland, New Zealand, that assessed the relative exposure people travelling by car, bike, bus and train. It simultaneously monitored for particles of varying size fraction and carbon monoxide. It also used GPS and GIS technologies to track individuals to relate mobility to exposure.

Simon Kingham is an Associate Professor of geography and co-Director of the GeoHealth laboratory at the Dept of Geography, University of Canterbury, Christchurch, New Zealand.

Friday 19th March 2010, 4pm

Prof. David Martin

University of Southampton

Title: Modelling Populations in GIS: Rethinking Representation and Analysis

This seminar will review the enduring challenges of representing human population data in GIS. With particular regard to contemporary and future census datasets, it will explore issues of spatial referencing, population dynamics and analysis methods.

David Martin is Professor of Geography at the University of Southampton and Director of the ESRC Census Programme. He has 20 years' experience of developing GIS applications involving population, housing and health.

Friday 19th February 2010, 4pm

Prof. Richard Lucas

Aberystwyth University

Title: Advances in active remote sensing of regional ecosystems in Queensland, Australia

Richard Lucas is professor in the Institute of Geography and Earth Sciences, Aberystwyth University. His current research focuses on the use of remote sensing data (e.g., SAR, hyperspectral and lidar) for mapping and quantifying changes in the species/community composition, biomass and structure of tropical and subtropical forests and woodlands (including mangroves) in relation to anthropogenic land use and climate change.

Friday 22nd January 2010, 4pm

Prof. Peter Atkinson

School of Geography, University of Southampton

Title: Look-up Based Approaches to Downscaling Remotely Sensed Imagery

Downscaling means predicting at a finer spatial resolution than the input imagery. This may be to classify at a finer spatial resolution than the input imagery or to predict reflectance at a finer spatial resolution. Researchers have attempted downscaling remotely sensed imagery using a variety of different methods including spatial simulated annealing, neural networks and genetic algorithms. Prof. Atkinson will review previous approaches and discuss a new method for downscaling imagery and spatial statistical functions derived from the imagery based on training imagery and a look-up based approach. Professor Atkinson has over 20 years experience as a researcher. He has current interests in remote sensing and spatial modelling approaches applied to a range of application areas including spatial epidemiology.

Special Seminar Wednesday 13th January 2010, 12 pm

Professor Michael Schaepman

University of Zurich

Room 302, Crew Building, Kings Buildings

Title: Spatial, temporal and spectral scales in photon-vegetation interactions

Professor Schaepman is a well known scientist heading the Remote Sensing Laboratories at Zurich. The two labs he runs include a RADAR remote sensing lab (SAR Lab) and a spectroscopy lab (SPECTRO Lab) with interests in a number of fields including data processing, vegetation parameter extractions, water quality assessment and atmospheric parameter retrieval.

Friday 27th November 2009, 4pm

Robin McLaren

Know Edge

CHANGE OF VENUE Room 2.13, Institute of Geography, Drummond Street

Title: The Role of Urban Sensing in Managing Megacities

Many megacities are growing at an annual rate of over 6% and some will double their populations in the next decade. This incredibly rapid growth of megacities causes severe social, economical and ecological problems. New tools, techniques and policies are required to baseline and integrate the social, economic and environmental factors associated with megacities, to monitor growth and change across the megacity and to forecast areas of risk – all within shorter timeframes than previously accepted.

This presentation explores the role of ‘urban sensing’ that uses cellular phones, sensor technologies, GIS related technologies, Web 2.0 and crowdsourcing (mass collaboration using Web 2.0) to support the creation of a public infrastructure, a ‘data commons,’ that will allow the citizen to increasingly participate in politics, civics (including land administration and management), aesthetics and science. These emerging techniques have the potential to strengthen the Spatial Data Infrastructures and urban change information available to megacities.

Friday 6th November 2009, 4pm

Ken Adam

Akadamia Ltd

Title: Mapping in the air

The use of mapping and terrain data in military cockpit for Navigation and Situation Awareness. Traditionally used for “Where am I?” these displays are now for “Where is everything else?”. This seminar will consider how we make optimum use of map data in the cockpit environment, the type and sources of data used and how the use of these displays is changing with the improvements in navigation data sources. Includes demonstrations of typical military mapping display formats. Ken Adam was previously Chief Architect for Airborne Digital Maps with BAE Systems and now runs a small consultancy specialising in Mapping Systems for the Defence industry.

Friday 16th October 2009, 4pm

Jo Walsh


Title: The Long Road to Open Geodata

Both the state of Open Geodata projects, and the debate around public access to geographic information, are maturing. This talk presents an overview of the rapid pace of development and innovation in open data projects over the last few years. It will be part "how did we get here?" and part "how do we get there?" as we look to the future and consider options for open licensing of geographic information that help support the maintenance of high-quality data in a sustainable way.

Friday 9th October 2009, 4pm

Iain Woodhouse

School of GeoSciences, University of Edinburgh

Title: Time to get REDDy : the experiences of the REDD Horizon Project

Dr Woodhouse is a senior lecturer in the School of Geosciences, specialising in radar remote sensing, particularly in heterogenous woodland environments. This talk will detail experiences of REDD Horizon, a group of academics, service companies and government agencies that have come together in Malawi to demonstrate how the combination of new technologies and community-level involvement can support national sustainable forest use.


2008/09 Programme

Friday 8 May 2009, 4pm

James Reid


Title: Using Open Standards for Delivery of Geo Related Data - Lessons and Thoughts

James Reid is one of the leading exponents of the use OpenGIS standards for the delivery of large-scale GI services in the UK. He leads a team which has built a spatial data infrastructure for the UK academic community. This presentation will report the findings from the Data Integration and Dissemination (DIaD) project, which is investigating the potential of using international open standards based techniques (Open Geospatial Consortia) to perform data linkage between two of the most heavily used UK academic census programme outputs - the aggregate statistical data and the output geographies. The primary objective of this work is to develop a data dissemination model which demonstrates a more generic capability - that of 'geo-linking'. Additionally, using the same standards based approach, the project will aim to demonstrate how further value added processing can be invoked by transforming the geo-linked outputs through a series of ancillary web processing services.

The presentation will review project progress, discuss issues arising from the work to date and suggest how open standards and open source software approaches to building spatial data infrastructure may (or may not) be prudent.

Friday 27 March 2009, 4pm

Joint EEO-AGI(S)/Hutton Club Seminar

Dr. Tom Bradwell

British Geological Survey

Title: Dynamic oscillations of the Last British Ice Sheet

New evidence from onshore and offshore Recent work has presented an overview of the glacial landscape preserved on the northern UK continental shelf based on an extensive echosounder dataset [Bradwell et al., 2008a]. In this talk I will describe how this data was collected and how it has led to several new discoveries relating to the glaciation of the British Isles. The talk will highlight key lines of evidence within the offshore geomorphic record, augmented by new multibeam data, alongside cosmogenic nuclide analyses which spatially and temporally constrain the decay of the northern sector of the last British Ice Sheet. By focusing on the NW sector, I will highlight the detailed pattern of moraines preserved on the seabed and onshore - the morphology and distribution of which testify to the highly dynamic behaviour of a grounded palaeo-ice-sheet margin. Finally, I will consider several of these ice sheet oscillations, including the Wester Ross Readvance, within a wider context; and aim to convince you that ice caps in Scotland probably existed throughout the Lateglacial Interstadial.

Reference: Bradwell T, Stoker MS, Golledge NR, Wilson C, Merritt JW, Long D, Everest JD, Hestvik OB, Stevenson AG, Hubbard AL, Finlayson AG, Mathers HE. 2008. The northern sector of the last British Ice Sheet: maximum extent and demise. Earth-Science Reviews 88: 207-226.

Friday 20 March 2009, 4pm

Joint EEO-AGI(S)/Hutton Club Seminar

Institute of Earth Sciences, University of Iceland

Title: Glaciers in Iceland: topography, mass balance and more

Friday 6 March 2009, 4pm

School of Geography & Geosciences, University of St Andrews

Title: Understanding the Modifiable Areal Unit Problem

Most social science and some environmental data are available for areal units such as counties, districts, wards, postcode sectors, grid squares or pixels. A country or a study area can be divided up in many different ways and often the system of zones used for collection, modelling and display of data may be arbitrary or ‘modifiable’. However if the data are analysed, the results of the analysis may vary, sometimes very dramatically. This is the modifiable areal unit problem (MAUP). It was first discovered in the 1930s, and studied in detail by Openshaw (1984). It has two aspects: the scale problem, which concerns differences in statistical results for zonal systems at different scales (generally – but not always - larger units are linked to stronger correlations); and the zonation (or aggregation) problem, which concerns differences in results between zonal systems at the same scale but with different configurations of zones. This paper is concerned with investigating how often and in what circumstances the MAUP is a problem, using zone design software to aggregate the smallest areal units in different ways, paying attention to consideration of equality in size, compactness of shape and social homogeneity. Results from the real zoning system can be compared with results from simulated systems, and the relationship of the MAUP to spatial autocorrelation and the impact of geographical processes.

Friday 20 February 2009, 4pm

Joint EEO-AGI(S)/Hutton Club Seminar

Noel Gourmelen

School of GeoSciences, University of Edinburgh

Title: Measuring Low Strain Rate with Synthetic Aperture Radar Interferometry: Application to the Pacific - North America Plate Boundary

Friday 6 February 2009, 4pm


Title: MapAction in Action Ever wondered how geographical information systems (GIS) are being harnessed for humanitarian purposes? MapAction is an established UK-registered charity, largely manned by unpaid volunteers, whose purpose is to deploy a trained team of specialist personnel to apply the power of GIS to map humanitarian relief operations. MapAction has experts in remote sensing imagery, communications, logistics, security, computing and medical skills in addition, of course, to GIS and GPS navigation skills. We're a team that works efficiently and effectively under field conditions in fraught situations. In such crisis', relief agencies need rapid answers to questions about 'where'. Where are the greatest needs? Where are the gaps that need to be filled? Aid that ends up in the wrong place is of no use in relieving human suffering. MapAction's work in disaster zones multiplies the efficiency of emergency response. We do this by setting up a field-mapping centre at the site of a disaster highlighting the places where relief help is most urgently needed as the crisis unfolds. We don't create maps per se, what we do is to depict the situation on a map as a crisis unfolds. An important part of our service is that we update our maps at regular intervals, daily or more frequently, in accordance with changes in the dynamic situation pertaining at the time. Our baptism of fire came in response to the Asian Tsunami Disaster when a team was scrambled at short notice to help map disaster relief efforts in Sri Lanka. Since then (December 2004) MapAction have completed over 60 missions in both disaster relief and capacity building. Our capability is predicated on responding to a sudden onset disaster, though MapAction can and do get involved with other types of humanitarian relief activities. We have operated during famine in Lesotho, conducted development work in Tajikistan and we are currently working in Malawi. This seminar will introduce MapAction and talk through sudden onset and capacity building projects undertaken by Vickie Shelley in Lesotho, Sri Lanka, Tajikistan, Mozambique and Iraq.

Friday 16 January 2009, 4pm

Joint EEO-AGI(S)/Hutton Club Seminar

School of GeoSciences, University of Edinburgh

Title: A Ground, Airborne and Satellite Study of Snow on the North Slope of Alaska

Ground-based meteorological observations are sparse at high latitudes and so only provide limited data for constraining numerical weather forecasts, evaluating climate models and monitoring climate change. Assimilation of data from microwave sounders on polar orbiting satellites has been found to greatly improve forecast skill in polar regions. Because microwave scattering by snow on the ground is not yet well-understood, however, measured radiances in channels that are sensitive to both atmospheric and ground conditions are not currently used over land. In February 2008, the NERC atmospheric research aircraft flew out to Fairbanks, Alaska, to join a NASA project combining airborne and satellite observations with ground measurements of snow properties on the North Slope. The ground survey crew, based at the Toolik field station, included one rather cold and food-poisoned researcher from Edinburgh. This seminar will present results from the experiment and discuss plans for using the data in improving snow microwave emission models for use in retrievals of both ground and atmospheric properties from remote sensing. Some cool pictures of snowy landscapes will also be shown.

Friday 5 December 2008, 4pm

Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology (CALTECH)

Title: Tropical Forests and Global Carbon Cycle: Watching Human Impacts and Climate Perturbations from Space

Tropical forests play a key role in the global carbon cycle by contributing to atmospheric carbon concentration through deforestation and land use change and by sequestering carbon at a higher rate than previously expected. The remaining forests in tropics are currently at risk because of increased anthropogenic activities and impacts of climate change to a potential near-term tipping point. Regional analyses from satellite observations are providing us with new insights in patterns and processes of human impacts, forest ecology, and interactions with climate perturbations. These observations include measurements of forest cover, structure, moisture, phenology, and regional climate variables. Recent results from these measurements over the Amazon and Congo Basins draw a new picture of the role of tropical forests in global carbon cycle and pose interesting questions for future research.

Friday 14 November 2008, 4pm

School of GeoSciences, University of Edinburgh

Title: Where's the Wind: Offshore Wind Power Planning and Remote Sensing


(WMA File - Right Click, Save Target As)

The UK has an abundant offshore wind resource with offshore wind farming set to grow rapidly over the coming years. Optimisation of energy production is of the utmost importance and accurate estimates of wind speed distributions are critical for the planning process. Synthetic aperture radar (SAR) data can provide synoptic, wide area wind field estimates at resolutions of a few kilometres and has great potential for wind resource assessment. The key challenges for the operational implementation of SAR in this context will be considered; namely the accuracy of SAR wind retrievals and the ability of SAR to characterise the mean wind speed and wind power density. We consider the main stages of SAR wind retrieval; the retrieval algorithm; sources of a priori information; the optimal configuration of the retrieval system; and the challenges for and accuracy wind resource estimation from SAR.

Thursday 13 November 2008, 4.15pm

University of Cambridge

President, TerraNova

Title: Red, White and Drunk All Over: A Wine Soaked Journey from the GIS Lab

In the real-world of wine making, GIS has a reputation for complex and expensive technology run by computer nerds walking around vineyards with what resembles E.T. strapped to their back. Unsurprisingly, vineyards have been slow to adopt this technology even though it has been proven to save thousands of pounds. Interestingly the slow rate of adoption of new technology in the vineyard contrasts with the high rate of adoption in the cellar, but it doesn't have to be this way. One of the hottest areas of GIS application is precision viticulture (PV) which can be thought of as a viticultural version of the Motorola’s Six Sigma approach, which attempts to measure, understand and eliminate process variation and hence reduce costs and raise quality. PV has been shown to deliver real commercial benefits when focused towards modifying cultural practices, particularly in reasonably homogeneous viticultural environments, such as are often encountered in Australia or parts of the US, where the aim is to optimise yield and to surpass a quality threshold rather than to maximise quality per se.

Thursday 30 October 2008, 3.30pm

Joint Human Geography/EEO-AGI(S) Seminar

Lund University

Title: The Application of Poverty Maps on Urban Planning: The Use of Census Microdata in Liberia, Costa Rica

Poverty analyses should be instrumental for a pro-poor urban planning practice, yet they are weak in addressing the causes of poverty at city level in developing countries, because they are seldom articulated in a strategic set of pro-poor local actions, and they do not reach small geographical scales at city level where actions should be implemented. In an attempt to bridge this methodological gap, a technique for undertaking poverty analyses at city level was tested in the analysis of the implementation of Costa Rica’s social housing policy in the medium-sized city of Liberia. It was found that the use of an urban residential segregation approach in small geographical scale poverty analyses allows defining concrete deprived urban areas and foreseeing scenarios to propose feasible pro-poor land-based actions; therefore, proving helpful on promoting a pro-poor urban planning practice.

Friday 24 October 2008, 4pm

Joint EEO-AGI(S)/Human Geography Seminar

Registrar General for Scotland, General Register Office for Scotland

Title: Scotland's People in Time and Space: Geography and the Work of the General Register Office for Scotland

The General Register Office for Scotland produces and publishes information about Scotland's people. Since it was set up in 1855, geography has been vital to its work. Today, geographic information is important both for its demographic statistics (especially the census) and it family history records. And the Registrar General chairs Scotland's Geography Steering Group, which prepared, and is now overseeing the implementation of, Scotland's first geographic information strategy

Friday 3 October 2008, 4pm

Manchester Geomatics

Geography, School of Environment and Development, The University of Manchester

Title: War and Peace? The Troubled History of the Geo-Data Wars

Once geographic information was considered either a public good, placed in the public domain as most other scientific information, or as a state secret hidden from view to gain military or state advantage. However in the digital age, which effectively started for geographic information in the late 70s and early 80s, geo-data has increasingly begun to be seen as a private commercial resource, even by government agencies which, while publicly owned, still need to recover some or all their costs through trading in such information. More recently the reduction in the cost of mass data capture, the arrival of commercial global players such Navteq, Tele-Atlas and Google as well as a growing open-source geo-data movement, suggest that the balance of power in geo-data may shift. In this talk Bob Barr will assess how we got to the present unfortunate state of affairs regarding geo-data in the UK, will suggest ways forward drawing on examples from overseas, and will question the possible impact of the European Inspire initiative on the situation.

Friday 26 September 2008, 4pm

Joint EEO-AGI(S)/Hutton Club Seminar

Department of Earth Sciences, University of Oxford

Title: Active Tectonic Studies in Western and Central Mongolia

Western Mongolia - and adjacent parts of China, Kazakhstan and Siberia - accommodate ~10 mm/yr of the shortening between India and Eurasia and are an important component in this evolving continental collision. I describe recent (and on-going) studies of the late Cenozoic tectonics of Mongolia that aim to understand both the present-day distribution of mountain-building in Mongolia, and the evolution of faulting that has led to that present-day distribution, with application in many deforming parts of the world. The studies range from investigations of the the total deformation recorded in the geology, through the slip-rates on active faults averaged over timescales of 10-100 ka, to the distribution of strain recorded by earthquakes. Although Mongolia has produced several large magnitudes events over the last 100 years (including the Bulnay earthquake of 1905: the largest known earthquake from the continents), these are not widespread over the country, and we have few constraints from seismicity on the deformation in large parts of the country. We are, however, fortunate that the extremely low rates of erosion in Mongolia allow the preservation of surface ruptures from palaeo-earthquakes occurring over at least the last 1000 years: providing a much longer record of earthquakes than available in most deforming parts of the world, and providing information on the sense of motion and slip-direction on the faults.

Wednesday 20 August 2008, 2pm

The Australian National University

Title: Thematic Mapping with Remote Sensing Satellite Networks

Currently most remote sensing data gathering is carried out using a small number of sensors of a small number (perhaps tens) of satellite platforms. With falling hardware and imaging costs it is likely that much remote sensing in the future will be undertaken by large swarms of very small satellites, each with limited imaging capacity but capable of operating cooperatively to provide a high level of intelligence in data acquisition. Such networks of satellite sensors present particular analytical challenges when seeking to map the landscape. In particular, we still need to understand how to do thematic mapping in such a context. After reviewing candidate multi-sensor and multi-source classification processes, methods that show promise for operating in the dynamic satellite sensor network environment will be identified. It is concluded that fusion procedures operating at the level of labelled pixels, rather than those that seek to fuse data, offer most promise. John Richards is from the ANU College of Engineering and Computer Science where he was Dean from 2004 to 2007. He is also Master of University House, and Graduate House at ANU. He was formerly Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Vice-President of the Australian National University from 1998 to 2003. John graduated from the University of New South Wales, Australia with the degrees of Bachelor of Engineering (Hons 1) and Doctor of Philosophy, both in Electrical Engineering, in 1968 and 1972 respectively. He is a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering, a Fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, N.Y. and a Fellow of the Institution of Engineers, Australia. His research interests are in remote sensing image analysis and imaging radar backscatter modelling. His publications include the book Remote Sensing Digital Image Analysis, the fourth edition of which has just been released with X. Jia as co-author.


2007/08 Programme

Friday 23rd May 2008

Prof. Danny Dorling

Department of Geography, University of Sheffield

Title: Human Cartography: Local and Global Mapping of Life and Death

Danny's current research interests include the visualization of spatial social structure through drawing atlases; the changing social, medical and political geographies of Britain as revealed by the 2001 Census; and from using a wide range of resources, trying to fathom the implications of rising housing market and wealth inequalities, the polarization of health and life chances and the prospects for new social policies based on evidence and advocacy from research. His research tries to show how far understanding the patterns to people's lives can be enhanced using statistics about the population. Part of this research involves developing new techniques to analyse and popularise quantitative information about Human Geography. In particular, introducing the use of novel cartographic techniques into geographical research. The substantive side of this concern is with how the fortunes of people living in Britain are distributed and are changing. This work has been supported through a number of sponsored projects.

Friday 6th May 2008

Tyler Mitchell

Open Source Geospatial Foundation (OSGeo)

Title: Introducing Open Source Tools for Geospatial Data Management

This seminar will be a general technical overview of the kinds of tools and capabilities that open source geospatial applications provide. This talk presents some of the options that are available for completing certain types of mapping, web development and analysis projects. The focus will be on projects that have joined the Open Source Geospatial Foundation (OSGeo) .

Friday 18th April 2008

Dr. Max Craglia

European Commission

Title: INSPIRE: The Infrastructure for Spatial Information in Europe - Research needs and challenges

Friday 4th April 2008

Prof. Tony Payne

School of Geographical Sciences, University of Bristol

Title: Understanding Contemporary Change in West Antarctica

Tony did his PhD at Edinburgh under the supervision of Prof David Sugden on 'Modelling former ice sheets'. Later, he was a research fellow in the Grant Institute of Geology and went on to hold academic positions in Bremen, British Columbia and Southampton. He joined Bristol university in 2001 where he is currently Professor of Glaciology in the School of Geographical Sciences. Tony is also co-director of the Centre for Polar Observation and Modelling (CPOM), which is a NERC-funded Earth Observation Centre of Excellence. CPOM research aims to understand processes in the Earth's polar latitudes that may affect the Earth's albedo, polar atmosphere and ocean circulation, and global sea level.

Friday 29th February 2008

Prof. Duncan Wingham

Head of the Department of Earth Sciences, University College London

Head of the Centre for Polar Observational Modelling

Title: The Instability of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet - A hypothesis for too long?

Duncan Wingham is Professor of Climate Physics at University College London, and was the first Director of the NERC Centre for Polar Observation & Modelling. Prof. Wingham is a member of the NERC Science and Technology Board and Earth Observation Experts Group. He is also Principal Scientist of the European Space Agency (ESA) CryoSat Satellite Mission, the first ESA Earth Sciences satellite selected through open, scientific competition. Prof. Wingham's particular expertise is in studying the flow and mass exchange of the Earth's ice sheets through the use of ultra-precise measurements from Earth orbiting satellites.

Friday 22nd February 2008

Ed Parsons


Title: Earth Observation and the Man on the Clapham Omnibus : The Impact of Google Earth on the Mass-Market

Friday 15th February 2008

Dr. Chris Browitt

School of Geosciences, University of Edinburgh

Title: Mapping and Monitoring Millimetric Ground Movements from Space-PSinSAR

In the early 2000s, following almost a decade of using differential interferograms to observe centimetric ground movements, particularly for earthquakes, the Polytecnico Milano, and its spin-out company TRE, pioneered a new processing approach which has yielded results at a millimetric scale (PSINSAR). With around 30 radar scenes utilized, rather than two, a longer term, high precision view is obtainable, with widespread applications. These range from monitoring deformation in earthquake and volcanic zones, ground vulnerability mapping and landslide risk assessment, to geotechnical issues in relation to groundwater abstraction and recharge, compressible soils, mines and engineered excavations. Differential subsidence observed in alluvial flood plains can lead to improved flood risk assessments as is evident from the application of this Persistent Scatterer INSAR technique in New Orleans. In order to build more awareness of this potential, the European Space Agency has sponsored a project, entitled GMES Terrafirma, to capitalize on its ERS1, ERS2 and ENVISAT data archives. Many city and landslide sites in Europe have already been processed to reveal their ground movement histories for up to 14 years, and by the end of 2008 it is intended that every European Union country will have at least one city, with satellite radar coverage processed to reveal small ground movements of around 1 millimetre per year. That information will be in the hands of national geoscience centres and engineers for expert interpretation utlilising their own data and expertise. They, in turn, will engage with the relevant authorities in their countries to ensure take up, and action on the hazards revealed which will be seen in great detail; in many cases, for the first time. It is intended that these national cities will lead to national initiatives for further studies across each country, and that the examples will be shared across borders to ensure that the community of Europe benefits from the experience of its collective experts and from our European Space Agency’s investments in leading edge technology for practical purposes.

Friday 1st February 2008

Prof. Richard Aspinall

Chief Executive, The Macaulay Institute

Title: Modelling Land Use and Land Cover Change with GIS and Remote Sensing - What do we miss?

This talk uses examples to consider land use and land cover change modelling with GIS and remote sensing, reviewing the types of changes that can be adequately investigated using the two technologies. The talk also considers what GIS and remote sensing based approaches currently miss in the way of land use and land cover changes, including animal systems, land management effects, rotations, and a variety of ecosystem service functions of landscapes. The talk points to some challenges for development of GIS and remote sensing to support process-based models of land use and land cover change.

Friday 23rd November 2007

Omair Chaudhry

School of GeoSciences, University of Edinburgh

Title: Spatial Data Modelling - The transformation of OS MasterMap to 1 : 250 000 scale database

Intuitive and meaningful interpretation of geographical phenomena requires their representation at multiple levels of detail. This is due to the scale dependent nature of their properties. Considerable interest remains in capturing once geographical information at the fine scale, and from this, automatically deriving information at various levels of detail and scale via the process of map generalisation. Prior to the cartographic portrayal of that information, model generalisation is required in order to derive higher order phenomena typically associated with the smaller scales. This research presents a model generalisation approach able to support the derivation of phenomena typically present at 1:250,000 scale mapping, directly from a large scale database (1:1250/1:2500/1:10,000). Automatic derivation of the required geographic phenomena requires that we model various relationships among the objects in the database. This research focuses on two types of relationships: taxonomic and partonomic. The research demonstrates the importance of both of these in the transformation of spatial objects in the source database into required objects for the target database. The utility of the results obtained, via the implementation of the proposed methodology, is demonstrated using spatial analysis techniques and the creation of 'links' between objects at different representations needed for multiple representation databases. The output database then acts as input to cartographic generalisation in order to create maps (digital or paper). The results are evaluated both quantitatively and qualitatively using with manually generalised datasets.

Friday 9th November 2007

Prof. Shaun Quegan

Department of Applied Mathematics, University of Sheffield

Director, Centre for Terrestrial Carbon Dynamics

Title: Testing and Improving Carbon Cycle Calculations with Remote Sensing Data

Friday 2nd November 2007

Spencer Chainey

Director of GIS, Jill Dando Institute of Crime Science, University College London

Title: GIS and Crime Mapping

Crime has an inherent geographical quality. For a crime to occur it involves an offender and a suitable target to come together at a place, at some point in space and time. Understanding the role that this 'place' has and the importance of other geographical factors that result in why a crime occurs can offer vital clues that contribute to improving how we respond to and tackle crime problems. Crime mapping is the direct application that comes from considering the inherent geography in crime. It also involves much more than just the production of pretty hotspot maps for management reports and the office wall. Crime mapping particularly contributes to the intelligence development process, helping to generate a real understanding of criminal activity and the direction in tackling it. This presentation will explore this inherent geographical quality to crime and illustrate how GIS, geographical analysis and spatial thinking is contributing to supporting improvements in policing and partnered crime reduction activities.

Friday 12th October 2007

Dr. Matt King

Newcastle University

Title: Changes in Elevation of the Amery Ice Shelf, East Antarctica, over 40 years ... plus some GRACE results

Antarctica's ice shelves are sensitive to changes in both ocean and atmospheric conditions and thus may represent "early warning systems" for climate change effects in Antarctica. Furthermore, their potential role in regulating the flow of onshore ice onto the sea (and thus influencing sea level) has been dramatically demonstrated in the case of the Larsen B Ice Shelf. Recent satellite altimetry results have shown that, between 1992 and 2001, Antarctica's ice shelves exhibited mean elevation trends (dh/dt) commonly in the region of +-0.2m/yr, with a few much larger exceptions. However, over periods as short as ~10 years, regional environmental variations may mask a longer-term (in)stability. The main part of the talk will discuss one of the longest spans of velocity and elevation change data for a large Antarctic ice shelf, the Amery Ice Shelf in East Antarctica. The Amery Ice Shelf data set, starting in 1968-69 provides a truly multi-decadal data span, placing these shorter data sets into context and highlights some curiosities in the altimetry record in that region. The final, shorter, part of the talk will report on an investigation into aliasing of ocean tides into GRACE (satellites measuring Earth's gravity field) time variable gravity fields around Antarctica, and hence GRACE-based ice mass balance estimates. It is shown that some tidal constituents are aliased into ~3 and ~7 year terms and that published GRACE results will be biased by tidal mismodelling. The most recent release GRACE products, using a more accurate (but not perfect) tide model, are much improved but further improvements are required.

Friday 21st September 2007

Dr. Cameron Easton

Scottish Executive

Title: The Spaces, Faces and Places of Scotland

One of the key elements in implementing "One Scotland: One Geography" (The Geographic Information Strategy for Scotland) is the creation of a spatial Data Infrastructure for Scotland. This is being summarised as "The Spaces, Faces and Places of Scotland . This presentation will describe the feasibility studies and proof of concept projects that will be carried out during 2007/08. These will provide the information necessary to justify the public sector expenditure that will create Scotland's SDI during the period 2008-2011.

Thursday 6th September 2007

Prof. Harvey Miller

Professor & Chair, Department of Geography, University of Utah

Title: Place-based versus people-based accessibility

Accessibility is core to many theories and methods addressing many social, economic and urban phenomena.  Traditional methods for measuring accessibility focus on the spatial separation between key locations in individuals' lives such as their home and workplaces. These are place-based accessibility measures since they are functions of locations rather than people.  While still viable and useful, place-based accessibility is increasingly incomplete.  A place-based approach to accessibility by itself is no longer viable in a world where transportation and communication technologies are drastically changing the relationships between people and place. The continuing development and deployment of geographic information systems (GIS) and other geospatial technologies are greatly enhancing the ability to collect and analyze data relevant to accessibility analysis. This lecture argues that traditional, place-based measures of accessibility should be enhanced and complemented with people-based measures that are more sensitive to individual activity patterns and accessibility in space and time. I will also present some of my work on developing people-based accessibility measures in network, multi-dimensional and virtual spaces.


2006/07 Programme

Friday 4th May 2007

Dr. Chris Merchant

Lecturer in Earth Observation, Edinburgh University

Title: A response to 'The Great Global Warming Swindle?'

Streamed video version available on Google video.

Thursday 22nd March 2007

Prof. Mike Jackson

Director, Centre for Geospatial Science, University of Nottingham

Title: An Agenda for Geospatial Intelligence Research

The Centre for Geospatial Science at the University of Nottingham was launched in November 2005 with the objective of undertaking research into geospatial intelligence, geospatial interoperability, mobile location-based services and aspects of telematics. Its remit is to undertake mid-term research in these areas directed at addressing major topics of governmental and industrial concern and with a particular applications focus in the area of disaster management, mitigation and recovery. The presentation covers the progress of the first 18 months including the identification of technology drivers and definition of the research agenda. The outcome has been the creation of a highly multi-disciplinary research group crossing both traditional areas of concern to the GI scientist as well as the incorporation of strong computer science and human factors elements. Whilst the research horizon is mid-term it has been necessary to consider longer terms trends in a number of fast moving technology areas to try to ensure that energies are spent on what will be tomorrow’s problems rather than today's passing inconveniences.

Friday 16th March 2007

Dr. Andrew Shepherd

Edinburgh Earth Observatory

School of GeoSciences, University of Edinburgh

Title: Recent sea level contribution of the Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets

After a century of polar exploration, the past decade of satellite measurements has painted an altogether new picture of how Earth’s ice sheets are changing. As global temperatures have risen, so have rates of snowfall, ice melting, and glacier flow. Although the balance between these opposing processes has varied considerably on a regional scale, data show that Antarctica and Greenland are each losing mass overall. Our best estimate of their combined imbalance is about 125 gigatons per year of ice, enough to raise sea level by 0.35 millimeters per year. This is only a modest contribution to the present rate of sea-level rise of 3.0 millimeters per year. However, much of the loss from Antarctica and Greenland is the result of the flow of ice to the ocean from ice streams and glaciers, which has accelerated over the past decade. In both continents, there are suspected triggers for the accelerated ice discharge—surface and ocean warming, respectively— and, over the course of the 21st century, these processes could rapidly counteract the snowfall gains predicted by present coupled climate models.

Talk slides here (Portable Document Format)

Friday 2nd March 2007

Dr. Genevieve Patenaude

Edinburgh Earth Observatory

School of GeoSciences, University of Edinburgh

Title: Operationalisation of remote sensing for forestry

The UK public and private forestry sectors are now considering the use of Remote Sensing (RS) as a complementary means of obtaining forest information to that provided by traditional field surveys. Whereas in the past, the UK has been slow to translate RS research successes into operational systems, these are now increasingly considered given the reduction in instrumentation and operational costs. Through international collaboration, pan-Government liaison and pilot system testing, the current knowledge transfer (KT) initiative aims at exploring, exploiting and disseminating RS knowledge. In this presentation, I will discuss the UK forestry priority needs and whether these can be met with RS tools, systems and data.

Friday 23rd February 2007

Prof. Chris Gold

School of Computing, University of Glamorgan

European Union Marie-Curie Chair in GIS

Title: GIS: Objects Are Not Enough

GIS theorists for the last 20 years or more have failed to respond to the challenge of Leibnitz that space is the expression of the relationships of objects embedded within it, or to Einstein's comment that empty space has no meaning.

They have failed to look at the dimensionality of the objects they implicitly embed; they have accepted that connectivity is a "hard" problem best left to commercial outfits and computer scientists; they have failed to look at spatial relationships other than superimposing objects; they have failed to treat fields seriously, relegating them to trivial rasters; and they have retreated to their last defences of discussing only things that may be chopped up and put in databases.

If we want to be scientists we must pick up the challenges of the hard problems again. If spatial data is information that has no meaning separated from its location in space, it is evident that its relation with other information at other locations is fundamental to any understanding of the world we live in. We must reach beyond our own narrow discipline (that we think is broad because so many things are geography) and seriously woo the many disciplines that involve spatially-realizable objects. We must go back to looking at the stars and asking: "What is Space?"

Friday 2nd February 2007

Stuart Gardner

Scottish Executive Geographic Information Service

Title: Sharing Spatial Information Within the SEERAD Family

Enterprise level GIS and spatial data management has become the norm in central government organisations today. This has been driven by the high cost of data licensing and the mainstreaming of GIS technology. The next logical step is to cross the corporate firewalls and begin sharing spatial information services between organisations.

In 2005, the Scottish Executive Environment and Rural Affairs Department started work on implementing a corporate GIS infrastructure that would allow the efficiency gains from enterprise level GIS to be extended to a multi-agency environment.

The opportunities and barriers exposed by the SEERAD GIS project re-enforces the need for a coordinated and standards based NSDI for Scotland.

Talk slides

(Portable Document Format)

Friday 26th January 2007

Prof. Keith Clarke

Geography Department, University of California, Santa Barbara Director, National Center for Geographic Information and Analysis, Santa Barbara

Title: Is there a theory of Geographic Information?

Much research in geographic information science has been technical, but pursuit of theory can increase the perceived and actual value of Geography and geographical information to other disciplines, and so a theory of geographic information is a desirable research goal. Models of information theory from computer science, primarily following Claude Shannon’s entropy concepts, have provided a background, but a new approach or paradigm now seems necessary. Fortunately, geographical representational models are well developed and formalized, even standardized. Yet in terms of abstract information, beyond Shannonian content, spatial data must also account for spatial relations, process and time within the geographical geometry; and also must communicate confirmation, level of detail, relations and pattern. I review the first fragmentary precursors to a new theory of GI, suggest that missing elements are links to energy and matter, and conclude that the lack of a theory will eventually hamper GIScience as we drown in the vastness of data now coming on-line, since not all geospatial data are of equal scientific value.

Talk slides

(Portable Document Format)

Friday 1st December 2006

Prof. A. Stewart Fotheringham

Director, National Centre for Geocomputation (NCG) Science Foundation Ireland Research Professor, National University of Ireland, Maynooth

Title: New ways of Looking at the World: A Sample of Research at the National Centre for Geocomputation

Advances in technology are allowing unprecedented access to large volumes of spatial data; a situation that challenges us to find innovative methods of converting such data into useful information. This seminar will cover three aspects of geocomputation as currently being practised at the NCG. One concerns spatial data capture through GPS-linked sensors with an example given of digital video; a second concerns the visualisation of spatial data through continuous cartograms with an example shown of Irish population dynamics; and a third demonstrates the measurement of spatial varying processes through Geographically Weighted Regression. Some introductory remarks will also be given about the NCG.

Stream Recording (Windows Media Video)

Friday 24th November 2006

Alan Moore

Forth Valley GIS, Stirling

Title: GIS and Public Sector Reform "The Local Government Perspective"

Over the last 5 years, the public sector has undergone significant change in the modernisation and reform of its services. Over the same time, there have been signifcant changes in GIS technology and the geographic information marketplace. This talk considers the changing backdrop to the delivery of public sector services in Scotland and how the role of GI/GIS is supporting the development, transformation and sharing of efficient public services as well as some of the key organisational and technical challenges ahead.

Talk slides

(Portable Document Format)

Friday 17th November 2006

Prof. Pip Forer

School of Geography and Environmental Science, University of Auckland

Title: Spreading Gain, Spreading Pain: Modelling the impact of the hyper mobile classes at multiple scales in Aotearoa New Zealand

On the surface the core of this presentation is the phenomenon of the growth and changing impact of international tourism in New Zealand, a country with a number of similarities to Scotland. Certainly the talk will offer a substantive look at the growth trajectory of tourism and its geographic manifestations, but behind this is a concern with a far wider agenda. That agenda is centred on the need to explore ways to describe, visualise, generalise and model individual flows, and beyond that to identify structural patterns in those flows, and the impacts of those flows on the geographies they traverse. At the very heart of this is the better understanding of spatial processes that stretch from financial flows to disease transmission, and embrace the enterprise of achieving a more dynamic view of human GI Science. This seminar will elaborate on the methodologies being developed for exploiting New Zealand's national data bases, and conclude with a comment on the opportunities for dynamic GIS.

Stream Recording (Windows Media Video)

Friday 27th October 2006

Prof. Paul Boyle

School of Geography & Geosciences, University of St.Andrews

Title: Geographical Health Variations in Scotland

This talk considers health inequalities in Scotland over the last two decades. The relationship between deprivation and mortality is considered in detail, and the evidence for the 'widening health gap' is discussed. We also explore how mortality variations relate to population mobility and compare the health of the Scots with English and Welsh people living in Scotland. Finally, we focus on the example of suicide and explore how the health gap has widened, but also whether there is any evidence of suicide clustering in Scotland.

Friday 6th October 2006

Dr. Daniel Donoghue

Department of Geography, Durham University

Title: Remote sensing of forest cover: new techniques and opportunities or potential that is always just out of reach?

Several factors appear to have come together to encourage the development of new ideas and techniques in remote sensing for forest cover assessment. Such factors include concerns over the role of land cover change in climate change, the demand for better information on biodiversity and also commercial concerns over the cost of managing forests at a time when timber prices are low worldwide. In many countries, including the UK, there is recognition that remote sensing can help to deliver quantitative data over large areas in a way that is reliable and cost effective.

The seminar will use examples from forest mapping studies in Bangladesh, New Zealand, Sweden and the UK to illustrate the potential of fine spatial resolution optical imagery and airborne LiDAR. There will be a discussion of the potential to model tree height, volume and even in some cases species using innovative techniques such as LiDAR; there will also be an acknowledgment that there is still much work to be done to link remote sensing to biophysical models for forest growth on the one hand and commercially useful mapping techniques for the forest industry on the other.

Talk slides

(Portable Document Format)

Friday 29th September 2006

Prof. Paul Longley

Department of Geography, UCL

Deputy Director, Centre for Applied Spatial Analysis, University of London

Title: Some issues in the development and application of geodemographic profiling

Geodemographics, the analysis of people by where they live, is undergoing a renaissance in public sector applications, particularly in education, health and policing. In that geodemographics provide measures of neighbourhood conditions that connect with individual and household circumstances, they also have important roles to play in promoting spatial literacy, in effecting knowledge transfer of the core organising concepts of the discipline of Geography, and thence in halting the continuing decline of the discipline in UK education and research.

This seminar will develop and illustrate these issues with respect to:

Stream Recording (Windows Media Video)


2005/06 Programme

Friday 9th June 2006

Prof. Jim Frew

Visiting Professor, School of Informatics, University of Edinburgh

Title: Computational lineage of satellite-derived data products – first steps

Jim Frew is Associate Professor in Environmental Information Management at the Donald Bren School of Environmental Science and Management, an interdisciplinary graduate school based at the University of California, Santa Barbara.  During this last year, he has been a visitor to the UK Digital Curation Centre and the Database Group at the School of Informatics at the University of Edinburgh.

His talk will feature a review of his recent work designing web-based information systems to deliver satellite-derived data products (for example, water content estimates for snow-covered mountain ranges) to their scientific users.  A prominent feature of his system architectures are in-built methods to record and allow queries on the provenance (lineage) of each custom data product. This provenance information is key to capturing the algorithms behind derived data, and is critical for curating (properly managing and archiving) scientific data collections for the long-term.

Talk slides

(Portable Document Format)

Friday 16th May 2006

Dr. Görres Grenzdörffer

Steinbeis Transferzentrum Geoinformatik, Rostock

Title: Low-cost remote sensing for natural resource management

Dr Görres Grenzdörffer, vice chair of the Steinbeis Transferzentrum Geoinformatik, Rostock will be coming along to the Institute to give a talk entitled: "Low-cost remote sensing for natural resource management" on Tuesday the 16th of May at 4PM in the old Library.

Dr. Grenzdörffer completed his PhD studying the use of remote sensing for precision farming and  is currently a researcher at the Institute for Management of Rural Areas at the Rostock University. As usual refreshments in the form of beer, wine and snacks will be provided and we would urge you to come and join us for what should prove an interesting insight into the practical application of remote sensing.

Friday 24th March 2006

Prof. David Miller

The Macaulay Institute, Craigiebuckler, Aberdeen

Title: Landscape simulation and monitoring, linking data to use

Pressures for change in the rural and peri-urban landscapes of Scotland lead to the use of complex and equivocal data and information in the advocacy, or rebuttal of changes in land use, management practice, or regulatory control. This in turn can lead to misinterpretation of the reasoning or objectives of such change, or the likely directions of change ( e.g. following the uptake of CAP reform and opportunities under the Rural Development Programme or pressures for a diversity of energy supply).The role of scientific research in the provision of an evidence-base for management decisions at a range of scales ( e.g. city park, farm, estate or region) requires data, or knowledge, in the form of inventory, interpretation and a means of exploring options.

Studies of landscape change, for which tests were conducted on the role and effectiveness of visualisation tools in presenting scenarios of change in urban and rural landscapes are used to discuss the value of such tools in aiding public participation in decision regarding land use and landscape change. The presentation will consider how visualisation techniques can be used for testing factors associated with preferences for landscapes, and virtual reality tools for use in aiding the advocacy of cases by professional and public stakeholders.

Friday 24th February 2006

Ms. Ilona Kemeling

PhD student, Department of Geography, Durham University.

Title: "Understanding and predicting mining subsidence in North Yorkshire, using radar interferometry".

In the coastal area of North Yorkshire, potash is extracted at depths of 0.8 to 1.3 kilometres. The undermined area is approximately 40 square kilometres and is subsiding gradually at a maximum rate of 60 mm per year. Ground surface deformation associated with deep mining activities tends to differ from that accompanying shallower extraction. Prediction of the gradual rates operating over large extents is a challenging problem due to the range of complex variables that combine to determine the deformation of the surface. Complex environmental processes such as mining-induced subsidence can be modelled empirically if large monitoring datasets of sufficient distribution, accuracy and reliability are available.

An empirical model was built based on an alternative data-driven approach using statistical techniques in combination with a relational database, using two datasets. This approach utilises past patterns of monitored subsidence to predict future movements at any point in space and time as a consequence of mining activities. In addition to the existing levelling dataset a new dataset was created using space-borne radar Persistent Scatterer Interferometry (PSI). In her presentation, Ilona evaluates the PSI technique and present an improved method of understanding complex deformation processes.

Friday 3rd February 2006

Prof. Austin Tate

Artificial Intelligence Applications Institute, School of Informatics, University of Edinburgh.

Title: "The Helpful Environment - geographically dispersed intelligent agents that collaborate"

"Imagine in the not too distant future that every citizen, vehicle, package in transit and other "active devices" can be treated as a potential sensor or responder. Individuals or vehicles that need help, as well as local, regional, national and international emergency agencies, could look up specialized capabilities, or find local availability of help and seek support to enable a much more responsive and effective environment. Systems could inter-operate to enable preventative measures to be taken so that those in imminent danger of natural and other hazards could be forewarned by their own systems, and by the people, vehicles and buildings around them. A truly "helpful environment" could be created that is accessible by all."

Talk slides here (Links to external website)