Student information

MSc thesis subject: Monitoring global urban sustainability using remote sensing and social data

Urbanization has achieved a planetary reach[1]. This urbanization process poses a wide range of environmental and social problems, and further challenges to the realization of United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Urban population growth has caused tremendous pressures on natural resources like residential water use, wood used for industrial purposes and energy use[2]. Built-up expansion can result in drastic land use/cover conversion and significantly influence ecosystem services[3]. One of the most significant effects is the loss and degradation of green spaces, which provide ecosystem services such as air purification, noise reduction, cooling and recreation for humans. Rapid growth of the build-up area can also increase energy consumption, air pollution and intensify urban heat island effects. Thus, investigating land degradation, energy consumption and air quality in urban area is needed towards achieving urban sustainable development.

Urban sustainability assessment in general lacks global studies due to data limitation. Since traditional data sources are not sufficient for measuring global SDGs, satellite products provide more opportunities for global studies of urban sustainability, such as Nighttime Lights data. In this research, we will combine traditional data with satellite products to assess global sustainability trends.


  • To monitor SDG-related urban social, economic and environmental sustainability trends at grid level from 1975 to 2015 across the world, utilizing remote sensing and social data.
  • To analyse relation and trade-offs among different SDG indicators.


  • [1] Herold, M., Goldstein, N.C. and Clarke, K.C., 2003. The spatiotemporal form of urban growth: measurement, analysis and modeling. Remote sensing of Environment, 86(3), pp.286-302.
  • [2] Gamba, P. and Herold, M., 2009. Global mapping of human settlement: experiences, datasets, and prospects. CRC Press.
  • [3] Wang, J., Zhou, W., Pickett, S. T., Yu, W., and Li, W, 2019. A multiscale analysis of urbanization effects on ecosystem services supply in an urban


  • Interest in big data analysis, geo-computation using GEE and R

Theme(s): Sensing & measuring, Human – space interaction