MSc thesis subject: The use of satellite data for forest monitoring

Capacities for forest monitoring are increasing, however monitoring tropical forests in order to fulfil the monitoring requirements of international policies such as REDD+ remains difficult.

A number of advances have been made recently - in particular for satellite-based monitoring – with new satellites being launched recently, and new possibilities for big data processing (on cloud computing services for example).

This topic focusses on assessing the state-of-the art in satellite-based forest monitoring. A number of projects are aiming to improve the use of satellite data, provide new algorithms, and to use multiple data streams (big-data) and cloud computing infrastructures and services. This project aims to produce an up-to-date database of R&D efforts for forest monitoring.


Data can be gathered in two ways (either using a combination of the two, or by selecting one).

Firstly a systematic review of recent scientific literature (for example using google scholar, and/or similar publication databases) using key search terms can be used to build a database showing for example the use of satellite data (in particular the recent satellites, such as the Sentinels), and/or cloud computing infrastructures (C-DIAS, FAO-SEPAL, ESA Forestry-TEP, EODC among others), in publications which support REDD+ and other similar activities in developing countries.

Secondly, further information on new R&D will be gathered by a stakeholder survey, focusing on academic institutions, aiming to gather detailed information about their research activities. Depending on the start time of the thesis the candidate may be involved in the development of the survey itself. Otherwise, the candidate will analyse and present the results (in case the survey has already been completed). This is part of a time-sensitive projects so the survey has to be delivered to a specific schedule.

Results will be mapped showing the geographical locations of the research – including which countries, forest types, and ecological zones are covered by the research, and which satellite data streams or methodological approaches are used where. The research will also reveal the location of the research authors.

The candidate will, in summary, present the current situation on the ground for forest monitoring (what is being monitored, how, and where), and also make recommendations for data providers (space agencies, data providers) on data needs, as well as identifying research gaps.



  • GIS software knowledge (no specific courses are required)

Theme(s): Sensing & measuring, Integrated Land Monitoring