Course description

This course introduces students to remote sensing data, methods and tools used for the study of global environmental change. The growing concern about human impact on the environment has led to the development of new observation and analysis tools to tackle and monitor types, magnitudes, and rates of environmental changes. Timely observations by Earth observation (EO) satellite systems and improved mapping and analysis tools are enabling a better understanding of the environmental interactions that underlie our Earth systems, which is critical for developing sustainable solutions. This course enables students to search and use satellite imagery (especially processed and higher level products) in the context of a number of disciplines including environmental studies, ecology, geology, hydrology, disaster assessment and management, and public health. Students learn the fundamentals of the EO systems and the tools (geo-portals, web-based tools, and open-source software) to observe, monitor, and assess the changes occurring on or near the Earth's surface. Hands-on activities explore human and physical dimensions of environmental change, environmental conservation and management, and disaster detection and mitigation. Students search and analyze global spatial data portals made available by various agencies and organizations (such as the United States Geological Survey, NASA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the World Bank, the Food and Agriculture Organization, and the UN Environment Program). Potential topics covered in case studies and exercises include land use and cover change (urban sprawl, deforestation, and irrigated agriculture); extreme weather events (floods, droughts, wildfires, typhoons, and hurricanes); human and ecological health (aerosol and air pollution, wetland and forest health); food security and environmental sustainability (agriculture and water resources); and disaster assessment and management.


  • Research Associate Professor, Center for Remote Sensing, Boston University
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