Geography 309

Introduction to Remote Sensing in Geography

click here for a printable course outline

Fall 2010

(subject to change)

Date Topics Readings Presentations
September 6 Overview of Remote Sensing Chapter 1  
10 Lab 1:  Introduction to Remote Sensing
2010 Field Photographs (for Google Earth or Google Maps)

History of Remote Sensing
Principles of Remote Sensing

Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Earth Observatory
GeoSpatial Revolution
15 The 4 R's of Image Resolution:  Spectral Resolution Chapter 10 Spectral Reflectance Simulation
17 Lab 1 continued
20 The 4 R's of Image Resolution:  Spectral Resolution - Pixel Reflectance Chapter 10  
22 Lab 1 Due

Lab 2:  Spatial, Spectral, and Temporal Resolution

24 PCAG Conference - class cancelled    
27 The 4 R's of Image Resolution:  Spatial Resolution Chapter 10

La Nina in Progress

29 The 4 R's of Image Resolution:  Temporal Resolution

The 4 R's of Image Resolution:  Radiometric Resolution

Chapter 10  
October 1

Lab 2 continued

4 Principles of Visual Image Interpretation

Digital Image Analysis:  Introduction

Digital Image Analysis:  Contrast Enhancement

Chapter 4

Chapter 5


6 Digital Image Analysis:  Geometric Correction Chapter 11  
8 Lab 2 Due

Lab 3:  Image Acquisition and Geometric Correction

Geomatica Visual Guide

11 Thanksgiving.  No classes.  Give thanks!
13 Digital Image Analysis:  Geometric Correction Chapter 11  

Lab 3 continued

18 Digital Image Analysis:  Image Classification Chapter 12  

Digital Image Analysis:  Supervised Classification

Chapter 12  
22 Lab 3 Due

Lab 4:  Unsupervised Classification


Digital Image Analysis:  Unsupervised Classification

Chapter 12  
27 Digital Image Analysis:  Accuracy Assessment Chapter 14  
29 Lab 4 continued
November 1 Midterm Exam

Vegetation Indices

Chapter 17 CryoSat

Literature Review

5 Lab 4 Due

Lab 5:  Supervised Classification


Active Sensors:  Radar Principles

Chapter 7  

Active Sensors:  Radar Principles

Chapter 7  
November 12 Image Exam
15 Active Sensors:  Radar Imagery

Active Sensors:  Lidar

Chapter 8  

Mt. Merapi eruption

17 Remote Sensing of Emitted Radiation Chapter 9  
19 Lab 5 Due

Remote Sensing Project

22 Strategies for Change Analysis Chapter 20 USGS Landsat scene request ready for download
24 Strategies for Change Analysis Chapter 20  
26 Remote Sensing Project time
29 Strategies for Change Analysis Chapter 20  
December 1 Change Analysis on the Northern Great Plains    
3 Remote Sensing Project time
6 Literature Review Due

Remote Sensing in Perspective

NASA @ age 50 - a perspective look at Earth Observation

Chapter 21 & Conclusion  
17 Remote Sensing Project Due
in my office @ 12:00 p.m.



It seems as if the more we study our planet, the more we realize how little we know about it.  This is especially relevant in a time of exponential population growth and dramatically changing climates.  Remote sensing - the electronic acquisition and digital analysis of Earth imagery - has a key role to play in enhancing our understanding of Earth.  It is the only source of data from which we can view the entire planet and monitor changes in the nature of the surface of the Earth through time in a consistent, integrated, synoptic, and numerical manner.


The aim of the course is to introduce you to the ways in which remote sensing systems are used to acquire data, how these data may be analyzed and how the information is used in studies of the natural and human environments. At the end of the course, you should have a good knowledge of the different types of remote sensing imagery that are available and the analysis procedures used for studying specific environmental problems. You should also be capable of undertaking basic computer-assisted image analysis.

Calendar Description

Basic concepts of remote sensing, a review of sensors and their images, emphasis on image interpretation and analysis, and introduction to application areas in geographic studies.

Prerequisite: GEOG 207 or permission of department head.


Campbell, James B., 2007.  Introduction to Remote Sensing, 4th Edition.  New York:  Guilford.


Assignments and Grading


(5 x 10%)

Literature Review


Midterm Exam


Remote Sensing Project*


*The Remote Sensing Project is a core course requirement.  You must obtain a passing grade on the Project in order to obtain a passing grade in the course.


There are 5 Lab Assignments that are designed to give you experience in key aspects of remote sensing. You will be using the Geomatica image analysis system to examine and interpret a variety of remotely sensed imagery. In addition to digital image analysis, most Labs also have a component that is be done "by hand" to give you a deeper understanding of what the computer is doing for you.  Labs are due 2 weeks after distribution, at the start of the due lab session.

Literature Review

Review and critique 2 articles (by different authors) in the remote sensing journal literature which deal with the same topic (e.g., analyzing the same or similar phenomena, or using the same analysis procedure). Your review should not be longer than 5 pages (single spaced).  The Literature Review is due on this date.

Mid-Term Exam

A mid-term exam will be held during class on this date.  The exam will consist of short answer-type questions.  The lab component of the Mid-Term exam will be held on this date. There is no final exam in this course.

Remote Sensing Project

You are to assume that you are a remote sensing consultant hired to produce a land-use land-cover change map for a specific area. Your basic task includes obtaining a pair of remote sensing images, applying geometric and contrast corrections, and completing an appropriate change analysis.  The Remote Sensing Project is due in my office on this date.

Image Presentation

You are required to find an interesting remote sensing image on the web and make a brief presentation about it to the class. Image Presentations will be a regular part of each lecture - check the on-line Course Schedule to find out when you are required to present. Details on how to structure your Image Presentation are included in the first Lab assignment.  No marks will be assigned if you miss your scheduled presentation day or if you fail to hand in a presentation description.


All assignments (i.e., labs, the literature review, and the remote sensing project) will have a due date clearly printed on the top.  Late assignments will lose 10% per day late.


I encourage you to work together to solve course-related problems.  All submitted work, however, must be original (i.e., using your own words), unless otherwise specified.


You are encouraged (but not required) to submit your completed assignments to me in an environmentally-friendly way, e.g. by e-mail or on disk.  Click here for preferred submission instructions.


The disk space allocated to you on the University network does not have the capacity to store all of the remote sensing data that you will be using in this course.  You should acquire a USB memory stick (256 Mb or larger) to save your own files on.



Joe Piwowar
phone: 585-5273

Office Hours:

1:00 - 2:00 MWF
CL 339

Meeting Times:

11:30 - 12:20 MW            CL 107
11:30 - 12:20 F                CL 109

Course Web Site:

Course Feedback Form

Geomatica Visual Guide

Satellites & Sensors

Geomatica Freeview

PowerArchiver 6.1 (freeware version)

On-line remote sensing tutorials


Careers in Geoscience and Remote Sensing


Creative Commons License
Copyright J.M. Piwowar.  Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.5 Canada License.

Last Update: 2011-09-02