BEGIN seminar – Dr Jan Kropáček

Date: 2 July 2019
Time: 15:00-16:00
Venue: Forbes room, Irvine Building

Title: Remote sensing of environmental change in mountain areas


The changes in temperature and precipitation patterns and human intervention of different types are changing the face of mountains at an unprecedented speed. Remote sensing provides us with periodic, unbiased information on a global scale with steadily improving quality.

On the Tibetan Plateau changes in glacier balance, oscillation of lake levels, floods and landslides are a consequence of such development. Relying on remote sensing, down-wasting of Tibetan glaciers could be estimated by satellite altimetry on a regional scale. An analysis of snow cover dynamics by optical medium resolution data from MODIS resulted in new knowledge about lake effect and biennial behaviour of snow cover in the drainage basin of sacred Nam Co lake one of the largest lakes in Tibet. Furthermore, a recurrent glacier lake outburst flood in Limi Valley was analyzed and better understood.

In the Ethiopian Highlands, slopes formed by rift development, volcanic activity, and fast river incision are heavily shaped by landsliding. Valuable information about their dynamics can be derived from aerial photographs from multiple aerial surveys which were initiated already in 1936 during the Italian occupation of the country. Investigation of two remarkable sites of landsliding in Ethiopia by various remote sensing techniques will be presented. The first site Debre Sina landslide is located in the vicinity of the trunk road connecting Addis Ababa with Eritrea and it is the largest recent landslide in Ethiopia.  In Dessie, several large landslides are just next to its centre. Surprisingly, their timing and triggers remained unknown.


Jan Kropáček ( is a geographer specialized on remote sensing with special focus on the mountain environment. He received his Ph.D. degree from the Faculty of Sciences of Charles University in Prague. After the accession of his country to the EU, he started to work at the Joint Research Centre of the European Commission in Ispra, Italy. His research was focused on mapping of biomass in tropical Africa and wetland detection in boreal forests of Eurasia. During his postdoc stays at the universities of Tubingen and Dresden in Germany, he took part in three projects studying cryosphere and hydrological cycle on the Tibetan Plateau. His further research interests are monitoring of slope instabilities in the Ethiopian Highlands and assessment of gully erosion in semi-arid regions. Since 2016 he continues his research and teaching at the Faculty of Environmental Sciences of the Czech University of Life Sciences Prague. During his free time, he travels and climbs on sandstone towers in Bohemian Paradise and elsewhere.

BEGIN seminar – Dr Thiago Silva

Date: 14 May 2019
Time: 15:00-16:00
Venue: Forbes room, Irvine Building

Title: Embracing variability: using remote sensing and spatial data to understand ecosystem function in seasonal ecosystems

Abstract: Highly seasonal environments are often characterized by a strong coupling between environmental variation and ecosystem responses, including organism adaptations, plant phenology and productivity, and biogeochemical cycling. This tight coupling can help us quantify and forecast changes in ecosystem function caused by changes in climatic and environmental factors, as long as we can understand and quantify the responses and uncertainties associated with seasonal variability. In his talk, Dr. Thiago Silva will show some examples of his previous and current work using direct and indirect remote sensing methods and spatial variables to capture, quantify and forecast the effects of environmental variation on vegetation dynamics, ecosystem function and biogeochemical cycling, from local to regional scales, focusing on Brazilian ecosystems.


Dr. Thiago Silva has recently joined University of Stiling after being an assistant professor for 5 years at São Paulo State University (UNESP, Brazil). He started his career as an ecosystem ecologist with a strong focus on remote sensing of Amazon floodplain wetlands. Since then, his research has expanded to encompass several aspects of global change biology, including plant community ecology, plant functional ecology and biogeography/macroecology. He is particularly interested in environmental regulation of community assembly and ecosystem function, and on developing quantitative approaches that explicitly incorporate the spatial and temporal dynamics of the biosphere at multiple scales. His research often combines in-situ ecological methods with modern remote sensing, GIS and data science, leading to collaborations with landscape, community and ecosystem ecologists, phylogeographers, and applied ecologists, as well as climatologists, hydrologists, geologists and computer scientists.

BEGIN seminar – Dr Paul Holloway

Date: 11 June 2019
Time: 15:00-16:00
Venue: Forbes room, Irvine Building

From static to dynamic: Aggregating the conceptualisation of movement data better captures real world and simulated animal-environment relationships.

Habitat selection analysis is a widely applied statistical framework used in spatial ecology. Many of the methods used to generate movement and couple it with the environment are strongly integrated within GIScience. The choice of movement conceptualisation and environmental space can potentially have long-lasting implications on the spatial statistics used to infer movement-environment relationships. This study explores how systematically altering the conceptualisation of movement, environmental space, and temporal resolution affects the results of habitat selection analyses using real-world case studies and a virtual ecologist approach. Model performance and coefficient estimates were explored between conceptualisations of movement, with substantial differences found for the more aggregated representations (e.g., segment and area). Key findings from the virtual ecologist approach identified that altering the temporal resolution identified inversions in the movement-environment relationship for vectors and moves, while systematically increasing resistance to linear features (e.g., roads) was not identified for individual aggregations. These results suggest that spatial statistics employed to investigate movement-environment relationships should advance beyond conceptualising movement as the (relatively) static conceptualisation of vectors and moves and replace these with (more) dynamic aggregations of longer-lasting movement processes such as segments and areal representations.

Bio: Paul Holloway is a lecturer in Geographic Information Science and Systems in the Department of Geography and a Principal Investigator in the Environmental Research Institute at University College Cork. His research and teaching interests include using GIScience and spatial analysis to address a suite of ecological, environmental, and geographic issues. His research addresses the long-standing issue of how to incorporate movement at different spatial and temporal extents into species distribution models, how the use of volunteered geographic information and machine learning can improve spatial predictions, and how movement data and geographic context are used to understand movement processes.


GIS day 12/1/18

GIS Day @ St Andrews
When: Mon. Nov 12, 2018
13:00 – 15:00
Where: Forbes Room, Irvine


Donald Payne, Land & Air Quality Officer, Fife Council
Mapping land contamination in Fife

Anne Robertson, Head of Services, EDINA
Digimap to encompass global coverage and socio-economic data

Sebastijan Sekulic, PhD Candidate, DGSD
GIS & machine learning to detect forest from satellite imagery

Corallie Hunt, PhD Candidate, DGSD
Improving the spatial analysis of Scotland’s marine sedimentary
carbon resource

For more information contact Jed Long (
See also:

GIS Day Poster 2018

Making maps for complete beginners: An introduction to Geographic Information Systems

BEGIN is collaborating with CAPOD to provide training in GIS for researchers and postgraduate students at the University of St Andrews. The next instalment of this course will be in October:


Date: Tue 16 Oct 2018
Time: 1000-1700
Key details: Explore the spatial dimensions of your data and transform your boring spreadsheets into engaging and informative maps. No previous GIS knowledge required. You must bring a laptop with the latest version of free QGIS software installed.

Course information

This course will introduce students to the use of Geographic Information Systems (GIS). The basic structures of GI data, vector and raster, will be explained alongside key applications and uses. Students will be introduced to basic mapping and spatial analysis in QGIS, which is a free and open source software, available for most platforms. The course will support studies from any discipline where GIS mapping is of interest, including geography, history, environmental sciences, biology, international relations and archaeology. No previous knowledge of GIS is required.

The workshop will consist of two lectures (30 min each) and two labs (remaining time). The lecture will provide theoretical support for the labs, in which the participants will have hands-on activities in QGIS to familiarise themselves with the software and develop their skills.

You must bring a laptop with the latest version of QGIS installed.  Lunch is provided.

Course pre-work

Must have the latest version of QGIS installed on your laptop. We will email you a link for downloading the latest version 1 week before the workshop.

What previous participants have said about this course:

  • “Excellent, well worth attending if you are a complete beginner.”
  • “Excellent basic introduction to the programme. Lots of time to work through examples and questions.”
  • “Very useful and powerful tool to show your spatial data.”
  • “Feel better able to use data like this in my own research.”


Aims and objectives

By the end of this workshop you should be able to:

  • Understand the basic structures of spatial data
  • Understand spatial distortions on maps
  • Display spatial data into a map
  • Perform basic spatial analysis.

See the details and book the course through the CAPOD course booking system.

SACHI Seminar – Alyssa Goodman: Visualization and the Universe

BEGIN members are invited to join the SACHI seminar by Prof Alyssa Goodman.


Event details

  • When: 12th October 2018 12:00 – 13:00
  • Where: Cole 1.33b

Visualization and the Universe: How and why astronomers, doctors, and you need to work together to understand the world around us
Astronomy has long been a field reliant on visualization. First, it was literal visualization—looking at the Sky. Today, though, astronomers are faced with the daunting task of understanding gigantic digital images from across the electromagnetic spectrum and contextualizing them with hugely complex physics simulations, in order to make more sense of our Universe.   In this talk, I will explain how new approaches to simultaneously exploring and explaining vast data sets allow astronomers—and other scientists—to make sense of what the data have to say, and to communicate what they learn to each other, and to the public.  In particular, I will talk about the evolution of the multi-dimensional linked-view data visualization environment known as glue and the Universe Information System called WorldWide Telescope.  I will explain how glue is being used in medical and geographic information sciences, and I will discuss its future potential to expand into all fields where diverse, but related, multi-dimensional data sets can be profitably analyzed together.  Toward the aim of bringing the insights to be discussed to a broader audience, I will also introduce the new “10 Questions to Ask When Creating a Visualization” website,
Speaker biography: Professor Alyssa Goodman, Harvard University
Alyssa Goodman is the Robert Wheeler Willson Professor of Applied Astronomy at Harvard University, and a Research Associate of the Smithsonian Institution. Goodman’s research and teaching interests span astronomy, data visualization, and online systems for research and education. Goodman received her undergraduate degree in Physics from MIT in 1984 and a Ph.D. in Physics from Harvard in 1989. Goodman was awarded the Newton Lacy Pierce Prize from the American Astronomical Society in 1997, became full professor at Harvard in 1999, was named a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 2009, and chosen as Scientist of the Year by the Harvard Foundation in 2015. Goodman has served as Chair of the Astronomy Section of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and on the National Academy’s Board on Research Data and Information, and she currently serves on the both the IAU and AAS Working Groups on Astroinformatics and Astrostatistics. Goodman’s personal research presently focuses primarily on new ways to visualize and analyze the tremendous data volumes created by large and/or diverse astronomical surveys, and on improving our understanding of the structure of the Milky Way Galaxy. She is working closely with colleagues at the American Astronomical Society, helping to expand the use of the WorldWide Telescope program, in both research and in education.

Principal Prof Mapstone opens the Bell Edwards Geographic Data Institute

On Mon 3 Sept Prof Sally Mapstone, the Principal of the University, opened the Bell Edwards Geographic Data Institute (BEGIN) in an event that showcased the research of BEGIN members. The institute is named after the father of Tony Edwards, a long-term friend and supporter of the SGSD, who was also present. The event started with a guest keynote by Prof Mike Batty, the Bartlett Professor of Planning at University College London and Chair of the Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis (CASA).
BEGIN is a network of data researchers in SGSD and the event consisted of presentations of research on varied topics, from geographic information science to glaciology and palaeoecology. The event concluded with a showcase of posters, prepared by BEGIN PhD students and postdoctoral researchers.

Prof Mapstone with Prof Mike Batty (left) and Tony Edwards (right).

Steering committee of BEGIN, director Prof Doug Benn (right) and associate directors Dr Urska Demsar and Dr Jed Long.

Kick-off workshop – 3 September 2018

We are hosting a kick-off workshop on Monday 3 Sep 2018 to officially open our new research network, the Bell Edwards Geographic Data Institute (BEGIN).

The aim of the institute is to bring together all staff, postdoctoral researchers and PhD students in the School of Geography & Sustainable Development who work with geographic data and to provide a platform to promote collaboration, teaching and outreach. The Institute will encompass such varied disciplines as Geographic Information Science, Remote Sensing, Glaciology, Sedimentology and Palaeoecology and the kick-off workshop will showcase the work that we do in these areas.

We are delighted that the institute will be opened by the Principal of the University of St Andrews, Prof Sally Mapstone. We are further delighted to confirm a keynote address by Prof Mike Batty from the Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis (CASA) at University College London, as our first iPOWER speaker of the 2018/19 academic year and the first BEGIN speaker ever.

Final programme