Satellite Mapping Project Wins Recognition
EPPS Doctoral Student Explores New Ways to Use Image Data in Urban Spaces
Mar. 8, 2011
A UT Dallas graduate student studying high-tech ways to map trees and other types of vegetation in cities was recently invited to present research and participate in an expert panel during an international geospatial conference in India.
Harini Sridharan, who is working toward a PhD in geospatial information sciences from the School of Economic, Political and Policy Sciences, had her research project recognized in an international competition sponsored by DigitalGlobe. She was then the only student researcher invited to present findings at the remote-sensing company’s world forum in Hyderabad, India.
The project used data from the WorldView-2 satellite to map urban forests of the Dallas region.
Sridharan’s project, “Multi-Level Urban Forest Classification Using the WorldView-2 8-Band Hyperspatial Imagery,” tested the capabilities of the newly launched WorldView-2 satellite by using its data to map urban forests of the Dallas-Fort Worth region. Urban forests are defined as all the trees and other vegetation found in a city. Forests provide residents with a variety of important environmental and health benefits.
Forming a detailed inventory of information, including the location and species of trees, is important to developers, civic leaders and other individuals concerned with living conditions for residents. Remote sensing via satellite gives researchers the flexibility of mapping vegetation without expensive field surveys. DigitalGlobe owns the WorldView-2 satellite.
“The recently launched WorldView-2 imagery has some unique features and advantages over other commercial satellite images that can be rightly adopted for mapping the urban forests,” Sridharan said. “I have developed methodologies that fully exploit the features of the WorldView-2 imagery and automatically map tree species. Such maps will be extremely useful for land-use planners and environmental researchers.”
Sridharan spoke on this topic during the meeting and presented a poster at a technical session. She also received an award for her research.
Participants in the panel discussion had a variety of research backgrounds. They discussed technical details of the new satellite and how it would be useful to their particular area of focus. Sridharan talked about the various vantage points and some technical difficulties involved with using the new data for urban forestry applications.
“I was amazed by the excellent response I received and the interest level in this specific area based on the questions I was asked during the discussion,” she said.
The forum included participants from more than 80 countries. More than 500 proposals from 79 countries were submitted for the research contest, and Sridharan’s project was one of 15 to receive awards. The contest was open to universities, research organizations and private companies.
The response to Sridharan’s research reflects the growing stature of UT Dallas in this field of study, she said. “We have a unique GIS program that is very cutting-edge and updated,” she said. “It is very well-balanced and offers a wide variety of specialization to choose from. We have some unique combinations of subjects that aren’t offered at most of the other universities. It is one of the prime reasons why I decided to study at UT Dallas.”
Dr. Denis Dean, head of the GIS program at UT Dallas, said he’s proud of Sridharan and glad to see her work get noticed.
“Dealing with the torrent of data being produced by the current crop of private and government satellite systems has become an overwhelming task, and developing new algorithms to process the raw satellite data and turn it into meaningful information is the key to taking full advantage of these satellite systems,” Dean said. “Harini’s work, along with that of other students and faculty in our program, is developing exactly the kind of techniques needed to move this field forward.”
Before coming to UT Dallas, Sridharan earned her bachelor’s degree in geo-informatics engineering at Anna University in India. She earned her master’s degree in GIS at UT Dallas and expects to complete her studies next year.
“My interest in remote sensing and GIS started during my school days, after learning about it in geography class,” Sridharan said. “I was fascinated by the concept of spatial information, and I decided to pursue this as my career.”
After finishing her degree, she wants to continue as a researcher and teacher. Sridharan is especially interested in developing new algorithms for information extraction from evolving remote-sensing technologies.