On to Greener Pastures

Andrés Varhola



Andrés was born and raised in Quito, Ecuador, one of the most beautiful cities in the world where colonial architecture is surrounded by magnificent snow-capped mountains.  In 1997, he started his undergraduate career as a Forest Engineer at Universidad Austral de Chile (Valdivia, Chile). After obtaining his degree in 2001, he was hired as the Silviculture Head for Aglomerados Cotopaxi —one of the most important forestry companies in Ecuador— where he held a wide range of responsibilities that included forest management, certification, fire protection, and research & development.  After working there for five years, he decided to complete his education as a Forestry PhD Student at UBC. His research project focused on the application of remote sensing technologies to better characterize forest structure with the ultimate objective of improving hydrologic modelling. Andres continues to research and work at UBC as a sessional instructor in Geography and Forestry.



Andrew Plowright



Andrew came down from the hills of Western Quebec and moved to Vancouver to pursue his graduate studies at the IRSS. Years of working in the field as a land surveyor, a tree planter and an ecotourism company manager have convinced him of the merits of working in a mosquito-free office. He earned a degree in geomatics at the University of Ottawa and has worked as a GIS analyst for a variety of government sectors, private consultancies and non-profit organizations.
Andrew’s M.Sc. research is on the use of airborne remote sensing in the field of urban forestry. His interests include LiDAR, aerial photogrammetry and cartography. In his free time, Andrew works as a freelance illustrator and graphic designer and enjoys spending time in BC’s great outdoors.


Anna Yuill

Anna was born in AB but was raised in picturesque Kelowna, BC. Growing up she developed a spirit for the mountains and has pursued activities including rock climbing and mountaineering. With a passion for the outdoors, she became interested in learning about the environment. In 2014 she graduated with a BSc in Natural Resource Conservation at UBC. During her undergraduate degree, she participated in a co-op program, working in a variety of positions, including time as a Wildlife Biologist for Parks Canada and a Forest Engineer with Western Forest Products. She is fascinated by remote sensing, LiDAR in particular and hopes to pursue a MSc in analyzing LiDAR-derived data in forested ecosystem.




Chris Bater


chrisChris was born on the windswept grasslands of the Canadian Prairies sometime in the late seventies. After a youth wasted bussing tables by day and playing bass in shoddy bands by night, he studied physical geography at the University of Winnipeg. Indifferent to the fact that the Red River flood plain is the second flattest place on the planet, Chris specialized in geomorphology, eventually completing a thesis on the history of a small stream that no one has ever heard of. It was one of the happiest periods of his life.

Following the completion of his BAH in 2002, Chris spent eight months doing what the majority of people with geography degrees do: working in retail. He was then employed as a Quaternary geologist for the Manitoba Geological Survey, digging holes and trying to dream up interesting things to say about them.

Chris attended the Centre of Geographic Sciences for two years, where he completed advanced diplomas in GIS and geomatics. He then spent the summer of 2005 completing an internship at ESRI in Redlands, California.

Chris completed an M.Sc. in 2008 which involved researching the capacity of lidar remote sensing to assess indicators of forest sustainability. His study area was near Tofino, Vancouver Island. (Neither hippie nor surfer, he doesn’t understand why the powers-that-be decided he should be the one to spend his summers there, but he is grateful nonetheless.) Chris is currently involved on projects related to the mountain pine beetle outbreak, grizzly bear habitat mapping, and phonological monitoring. He is playing more bass than ever.


Colin Ferster


Colin FersterColin Ferster studied the use of mobile personal communication devices, such as smartphones, to collect and map ecological data. Mobile personal communication devices are becoming increasingly ubiquitous, creating a global network of sensors equipped with instruments capable of collecting ecological data, such as a camera, compass, and GPS. In many cases, mobile personal communication devices may compliment airborne or spaceborne remote sensing instruments, for example, by making measurements under dense forest canopies, with high temporal frequency, recording rare events, and engaging citizen scientists to help answer critical research questions about earth systems. Colin has completed his PhD.

Previously, Colin completed an MSc (honours) in the IRSS in forest carbon science, integrating GIS, LiDAR, optical remote sensing, and forest inventory methods. Colin competed a BSc (with distinction) at the University of Victoria. In addition, Colin has completed co-op workterms for the BC Ministry of Energy and Mines Resource Information Section and Canadian Forest Service, Pacific Forestry Centre.


Curtis Chance


Born and raised in the Vancouver area, Curtis has always dreamt of becoming a Vancouver Canuck. Unfortunately, that dream was squashed when he didn’t make the rep hockey team in Grade 7. Since then, Curtis has been interested in owning a boat, as well as science of all sorts, and in 2014 he found himself graduating with a B.Sc. from UBC’s Faculty of Forestry. Immediately after, he started a job with a First Nation’s government in BC, producing land cover maps using remote sensing. In continuing his pursuit of knowledge (and a boat), Curtis’ master’s research explores the utility of hyperspectral imagery and LiDAR data to detect and map invasive species in urban forests.




Don Iwanicka

don_editDon was born in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada and spent his childhood exploring the vast areas around the family farm south west of Edmonton. This was the beginning of his fascination of everything spatial. Don graduated from the University of Lethbridge in 2007 with a B.Sc. in Geography. It is in Lethbridge where his interest in and affinity for Remote Sensing and GIS took off. Some of his hobbies include reading and hockey. Don was a research assistant with the IRSS lab from May 2007 until March 2008.


Emily Shinzato


EmilypicEmily Shinzato was born and raised in Sao Paolo, Brazil. She obtained her forest engineering degree from the Federal University of Sao Carlos (UFSCar) in Brazil, and is currently an MSc student in Remote Sensing at Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research (INPE). Emily is participating of the Emerging Leader in the Americas Program (ELAP) program as a visiting researcher at UBC, where her task involved estimation of forest parameters with lidar and orthoimagery. She is especially interested in challenges emerging from plantation-style forest management.


Fabio Fontana


F_fontanaFabio studied geography and biology at the Universities of Bern (Switzerland) and Stockholm (Sweden) and completed his MSc degree in geography at the University of Bern in 2005. After a couple of months as a research assistant in the Remote Sensing Research Group, University of Bern, Fabio started his PhD studies in the same group, specializing on the analysis of AVHRR and MODIS data to study land surface parameters in mountain regions. During that time he also spent three months at the Canada Center for Remote Sensing in Ottawa, Canada.

Suffering from a “Post-PhD-exhaustion-Syndrome”, Fabio fled from real life after his PhD degree in October 2009 and travelled through South America for three months. After his return to Switzerland, he worked as a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Bern on the validation of a new cloud mask for the MSG SEVIRI sensor. Fabio then joined the IRSS lab as a postdoctoral fellow in July 2010. His work includes the analysis of AVHRR data over the Canadian land mass to derive long-term variations in habitat conditions to indirectly analyze changes in biodiversity… But most of all, he enjoys being outdoors in beautiful B.C… hiking… biking… camping…skiing…



Jean-Simon Michaud


michaude_js_croppedpicJean-Simon Michaud was born in December 1984 and raised in a suburb just north of Montréal, Québec. City life was appealing, so he enrolled in a geomatics program at the Collège Ahuntsic in Montréal. After getting his degree, J-S worked for one year as a distribution service manager for Hydro Québec. Although he enjoyed his time with Hydro Québec, he quickly realized that he missed doing cartography and managing natural resources as part of his daily job. Thus, he moved on to pursue a Bachelor`s degree in Applied Environmental Geomatics at the Université de Sherbrooke, QC. During this time, he worked with Nature Conservancy Canada to develop an evaluation system to assess the value of aquatic ecosystems which would serve to guide conservation efforts in southern Québec.

Jean-Simon’s growing interest in conservation and wildlife management using remote sensing and GIS have lead him to pursue a M.Sc. at the University of British Columbia. He is now researching the relationship between the biomass or the foliage vigor (driven by remote sensing) and wildlife behavior.

Although he may not hold the title of youngest PhD student in the faculty of forestry, Jean-Simon is the youngest of his group and greatly appreciates the advise of his colleagues. During his spare time, Jean-Simon likes to go hiking, sailing, biking, kayaking, snowboarding and wind surfing.


John Arnett


arnett_j_picBorn in Vancouver, BC John is a rare 5th generation Vancouverite.  Growing up on rural Salt Spring Island he developed an intense interest and desire to learn about natural systems. In 2008, John joined the UBC Faculty of Forestry and graduated in 2012 with a B.Sc. in Natural Resources Conservation.

He has worked for a variety of institutions, including Parks Canada and The Salt Spring Island Conservancy. Prior to starting his MSc in the IRSS lab, John worked as a summer student creating a set of Landsat-derived cover change maps for the Nisga’a Lisims Government. John’s master’s research involves developing automated disturbance detection techniques using high resolution RapidEye Constellation data. When John is not in the lab, he is likely to be found riding his bike.


Martin van Leeuwen


Born in Holland, Martin was raised with the beauty of tulips, daffodils, and the sheer amount of colours that these flowers bring with them. Although he did like these little colourful gifts of nature, it may have been the rarity of seeing forests in his country that made him decide to pursue his career among trees. He started his undergraduate preparation at Wageningen University (The Netherlands) in Forest and Nature conservation. He soon realized the eminent value of remote sensing to forest science. Therefore, in 2005, Martin started his M.Sc. at Wageningen University in Geoinformation Science, where he developed a decent background in multi- and hyperspectral remote sensing. This study definitely boosted his enthusiasm. In fact, he liked it so much that he decided to have a look into LiDAR remote sensing as well at University College Dublin (Ireland). Gaining a second M.Sc., his ultimate goal was to combine all his knowledge in his Ph.D. research at the University of British Columbia to find improved means to determine light use efficiencies in Canada’s extensive forested ecosystems to support forest growth modelling.


Nicholas Goodwin


goodwin_editPrior to joining the IRSS lab as a post-doctoral fellow, Nick obtained a BSc and PhD from the University of NSW in Australia.

His research areas relate primarily to remote sensing of forested environments using airborne LiDAR and passive optical imagery. However, he is also an EPiCC (Environmental Prediction in Canadian Cities) project participant which involves the derivation of urban land cover attributes using LiDAR data.


Nick Soverel



From Maine (the US), Nick developed a love for nature and the outdoors in this wooded state. His favourite thing to do was catching frogs and hiking. Not much has changed since then. He attended the University of Vermont and studied Natural Resources with a focus in Ecology. After college he worked on an ice cream truck and as a park biological technician. He worked at Big Thicket National Preserve in Southeast Texas, as a seasonal firefighter at Bryce Canyon National Park in Bryce, UT, as a resource assistant for the US Fish and Wildfire Service at the National Interagency Fire Center, and as a seasonal firefighter at Olympic National Park near Port Angeles, Washington state, United States. He has a strong interest in fire management and remote sensing. After working at the US national office in Boise, Idaho he became increasingly aware of the complexity involved in fire planning and fire ecology on a landscape scale. His masters involved using Landsat imagery to inventory burn severity in Canadian parks. This work involves using a fire effects monitoring system used in the United States called FIREMON. Canadian parks to date have not inventoried their fire burns to this extent and this data will help to explain the effects of fire on ecosystems in places like Wood Buffalo National Park in North-eastern Alberta.


Olivier Tsui



Olivier was born in Paris and immigrated to the beautiful and culturally diverse city of Montréal, Québec in the early 80’s. Raised in a family of culinary chefs and restauranteurs, Olivier at a young age developed a fondness for gastronomy and the culinary arts and is often seen eating. When not eating, Olivier managed to graduate from McGill University with a biology degree. Unsure what to do with his recent degree, he decided to take a plunge into the field of GIS and remote sensing and moved to Vancouver, B.C. to complete the Advanced GIS Diploma Program at the British Columbia Institute of Technology.

After graduating from BCIT, Olivier worked at MDA Geospatial Services, CH2M HILL, and Hatfield Consultants. Developing an increased interest in remote sensing, especially RADAR technology, Olivier decide to put aside his aspiration of opening is own culinary restaurant to further his knoweldge. Aside from always searching for the best noodle shop and hidden culinary gems, Olivier is currently pursuing a M.Sc. at the University of British Columbia. His current research project focuses on the application of polarimetric SAR and LiDAR integration to improve large area forest biomass estimates.


Rachel Gaulton


Rachel_photoRachel completed her BSc in Ecology at the University of East Anglia (UK) in 2003, having developed a strong interest in forest ecology during an exchange year spent studying in the US (UMaine). After an obligatory year of temporary admin jobs, waitressing and a bit of travel (in Canada and Alaska), she returned to academia and began a PhD at the University of Edinburgh in 2004. Her research examined the use of high resolution airborne remote sensing for identifying canopy gaps in Sitka spruce plantations and describing and quantifying spatial heterogeneity of forest structure. During her PhD, Rachel took some time out to work on a fellowship at the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology in London, further developing an ongoing interest in science communication and policy.


Even though she will greatly miss the impenetrable Scottish spruce plantations, Rachel jumped at the chance to spend time in Vancouver and joined the IRSS as a postdoctoral fellow in March 2009, leaving for more research in March 2010. Her research interests include spatial modelling of forest productivity using the 3PG forest growth model and more generally, ecological applications of remotely sensed data (especially lidar and hyperspectral imagery). When she escapes from work, Rachel enjoys being outdoors, whether hiking, attempting to windsurf or sitting in the sun with a beer.


Rory Tooke


Rory TookeRory was raised in rural Ontario on a small hobby farm with numerous barnyard beasts including horses, chickens, goats, rabbits, dogs, cats, and a donkey. Camping and canoeing were introduced to him at a young age, and many summers were spent in Ontario’s provincial parks. Rory’s enthusiasm for outdoor activities was a deciding factor in his relocation to Vancouver, BC, where he spent his summers on his bicycle and winters on his snowboard.

As an undergraduate student Rory had a taste of various courses from economics to philosophy until discovering his passion for Geography while attending the University of Otago in New Zealand. Between years of formal education, Rory took time to live and explore different societies and cultures in Canada and around the world. This mosaic of experience and education has inspired Rory to further investigate connections between place and people through his Masters degree where he studied relationships between physical land cover patterns and socio-economic variables in urban environments.


Ryan Frazier


RyanFrazierHailing from Boston, Massachusetts, Ryan attended Clark University and received a BA in Geography and an MA in Geographic Information Science. During this time he worked in a large area mapping and monitoring program that mapped forest cover over Massachusetts using multiple years of Landsat data. It was there that Ryan developed an affinity for Landsat. After leaving Clark, Ryan was employed as a GIS Analyst at an environmental consulting company. That position offered him the chance to map a little bit of everything all around the United States. Now at IRSS, Ryan is interested in using Landsat time series stacks to understand boreal forests in Canada.

Ryan Powers



Ryan Powers was born in Sechelt, BC, the small picturesque town tucked between the waters of Georgia Strait and the Sechelt Inlet. He was raised for most of his childhood on Vancouver Island, but returned to his birth place for his high school years. As a youth, he spent much of his time exploring the hundreds of kilometres of beautiful coastlines and the many mountains and old growth forests in the region. Ryan continues to enjoy the outdoors and has recently and enthusiastically taken up sailing.

Ryan received his BSc in Geography from the University of Victoria in 2006. During his BSc, Ryan specialized in Remote Sensing, Spatial Statistics, GIS, and wetland classification. Building upon his B.Sc work, Ryan completed his MSc from the University of Calgary in 2009, where his research involved employing a Geographic Object-Based Image Analysis (GEOBIA) approach to estimate the differences in detected wetlands when high-resolution imagery (<5m) and medium-resolution (>10m) imagery are used. As a PhD student at UBC, Ryan’s research focus is on the application of Remote Sensing imagery to biodiversity assessment and reserve selection across Canada’s Boreal Forests.


Sam Coggins


sam_editSam is an MI-6 agent with Double-0 status who performs black-ops missions for the UK government. Sam has sworn an oath of secrecy to protect the nation, so don’t ask who killed JFK or whether the moon landing was faked. Of course he could tell you, but then he’d have to kill you, cover up the crime and relocate to another country.

Unfortunately Sam’s cover has yet again become compromised, forcing another relocation, this time to small town British Columbia, where the authorities have even less chance of catching up with him. Here Sam will continue to practice forestry, GIS, and remote sensing, while accepting missions that enable plenty of back country travel, skiing, and snowboarding.


Steve Gillanders


steve_editSteve belongs to that rare breed of people who were actually born in Vancouver, BC and still reside there. He grew up skiing and windsurfing until he discovered climbing, at which time his life took a drastic turn into the dark world of big wall obsession. Steve worked in the forests of BC as a treeplanter, salvage logger, and woodlot manager and travelled as far as Asia where he spent two years. Upon returning from India Steve studied environmental science at Camosun College and Royal Roads University in Victoria, BC and eventually started a small environmental consulting firm. After several years in the world of small business, Steve decided to return to academia so he came to UBC to do a Masters degree exploring spatio-temporal patterns of mountain pine beetle infestation in the BC interior.


Todd Schroeder


todd_editIn 1989 Todd began his academic career studying the behavior of inebriated lab rats in the Department of Psychology at Hanover College. This unique academic experience left him working several uninspiring jobs including stints as a carpet-roller, condominium trader, yellow-page salesman and tennis teaching professional. Todd decided that going back to school might afford a more lucrative career path. While preparing for entrance into a master’s program in geology, Todd fell under the spell of the siren known as remote sensing. Love struck, Todd immediately changed career paths, and in 2002 he completed a master’s degree in Biogeography and Remote Sensing from Indiana State University.

Following the completion of his master’s degree Todd worked as a Remote Sensing Specialist for the Canaan Valley Institute located in Thomas, West Virginia. Still unfulfilled, or simply a glutton for punishment Todd decided school once again sounded fun. So Todd loaded up the truck and headed out west and in 2006 he completed a PhD in Forest Ecology from Oregon State University.

Now fully qualified as a psyhcogeoforester Todd landed a position as a post-doctoral fellow in the IRSS lab at the University of British Columbia. His research interests include integration of field inventory and satellite remote sensing data, characterization of forest disturbance and recovery dynamics with multi-image trajectories, tree species habitat modeling, and mapping forest productivity and site index of Pacific Northwest forests.

In his free time Todd enjoys hiking and camping, landscape photography, listening to reggae music and rooting for the world champion Indianapolis Colts.


Trevor Jones



Trevor Gareth Jones originates from the town of Kirkland in central New York State (NYS).  After a youth spent primarily in NYS with two year-long stints in the UK, Trevor attended Clark University (CU) in Worcester, Massachusetts where from he received BAs in Geography and Studio Art (2005) and a MA in GIS (2006). Following CU, Trevor first came to Vancouver in 2006 as one of the original members of the IRSS. After completing his PhD in May, 2011, Trevor moved to Madagascar to work for the conservation NGO Blue Ventures. While in Madagascar, he helped establish the Blue Forests Project. In September, 2013, Trevor returned to the IRSS where from he remotely managed blue forests science and oversaw all things geospatial for Blue Ventures. In September, 2014, Trevor returned to the US, based at Portland State University as an Affiliate Faculty member in the Dynamic Ecosystems and Landscapes Lab in the Department of Environmental Science and Management.  At PSU he taught Old Growth Forest Ecology and Management and transitioned into an advisory role with Blue Ventures.  In April, 2016, Trevor once again returned to Vancouver, and is currently a lecturer in and coordinator of the Master of Geomatics for Environmental Management (MGEM) program. He continues advising Blue Ventures on blue forests and geospatial science.


Wiebe Nijland


Wiebe_200pxWiebe Nijland was born and raised in The Netherlands and studied physical geography at Utrecht University, specializing in remote sensing and land degradation. For his MSc. he spent a few months of 2006 in Prince George, BC working on an internship with the Forest Service on the relation between pine-beetle and landslide hazards. During this time he got hooked on the great Canadian landscape and forests leading him later to UBC. Wiebe received his PhD in Utrecht on Mediterranean evergreen vegetation dynamics, in which he combined remote sensing, geophysical soil measurements, tree-ring analysis, and productivity modelling, with lots of field data collection in sunny France. After the PhD research, he stayed in Utrecht for one year on a teaching position, participating in courses on remote sensing, natural hazards, GIS, and an undergraduate field course in the French Alps. Wiebe defended his PhD thesis in 2011, after which he moved to Vancouver to work as a postdoc at UBC.

Wiebe is an enthusiastic photographer in visible wavelengths and beyond, for which he himself converts cameras. He also likes to ride his bike and enjoys the outdoors both above water and under, taking advantage of any opportunity to scubadive and obtain fascinating subsurface photographs.


Vanessa Mascorro 


vanessa_newpicVanessa was born in the beautiful city of Guadalajara, one of the main cities in Mexico. At the age of seven, she moved to a small town where she discovered her passion for nature and outdoor activities. After high school, she returned to the city to complete her bachelor degree in Information Systems at the University of Guadalajara. In 2006, she joined the National Forestry Commission of Mexico, where for six years she led the National Forests Inventory Database. Her newfound interests in forests and forestry motivated her to join the IRSS to start an MSc. Her current research is part of a larger project titled “Integrated modeling and assessment of North American forest carbon dynamics and climate change mitigation options”, carried out by the forest services of Canada, Mexico and USA, and their partner organizations to support policy and decision making regarding climate change. Within this scope, she is focused on the integration of remote sensing data, forest inventories and ancillary datasets to develop comprehensive methods for multi-scale assessment of forest disturbances in Mexican ecosystems for carbon budget modeling.




Thomas Hilker


Thomas obtained a Bachelor of Science degree in forestry from the University of Applied Sciences Goettingen (2000), a Master in Photogrammetry and Geoinformatics from the University of Applied Sciences Stuttgart (2002) and a PhD from the University of British Columbia (UBC) in Forestry (2008). After a 3 year postdoctoral position at UBC (2008-2011), he worked as a Research Associate at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center (2011- 2012). From 2012 through 2016 Thomas held a position as Assistant Professor at Oregon State University’s College of Forestry, leading the Remote Sensing Laboratory and teaching classes in remote sensing and spatial data analysis. In 2015 and 2016 he also was a visiting Researcher at the National Institute for Space Studies in Brazil (Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas Espaciais INPE). He looked forward to start a new position as an Associate Professor of Earth System Science and Remote Sensing at the University of Southampton, UK.

Thomas was a well-loved colleague of many remote sensing researchers world-wide. He built a network of collaborators in Canada, the US, Brazil, Europe and Australia. He approached environmental questions and challenges with vigor and zeal and had an enormous curiosity and passion for science. He was respectful of others opinions, eager to share ideas and approaches, and recognized science was a collaborative endeavor. He frequently returned to Vancouver to see old friends, and make new ones, and remained actively involved in UBC research projects enthusiastically supporting and mentoring old and new IRSS lab mates.


Beyond all, Thomas became a good friend to many.  His infectious smile, energy and loyalty and sense of humor will be greatly missed.