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Spatial Sciences Group

The Spatial Sciences Group conducts research to improve our understanding, management and monitoring of the environment at landscape scales.

We use remote sensing, geographic information systems, ecological modelling and multi-objective decision support systems to understand spatial variability, temporal dynamics, change and interrelationships in the environment. Contexts for our work include a diversity of natural and managed agro-ecosystems, terrestrial, aquatic and marine environments.

Major themes of our research are:

  • Spatial variation in landscape – what occurs where and why?
  • Biodiversity and landscape composition
  • Improving environmental and resource mapping
  • Assessing land, habitat, vegetation, soil and water condition
  • Monitoring environmental change over time
  • Natural resource management planning and decision support

We work with a wide range of environmental managers to develop and apply new approaches and tools for their assessments and monitoring.

For available Honours projects please download the Ecology and Environmental Science Honours booklet.

  • Ecology and management of the Southern Hairy-nosed Wombat
    Southern Hairy-nosed Wombat

    Image: M. Swinbourne

    (ARC Linkage Project 2016-19)

    A/Prof Bertram Ostendorf, Prof Megan Lewis, Prof Lian Pin Koh, Dr David Taggart

    Partners: Flinders University, Eyre Peninsula Natural Resources Management Board, Natural History society of SA, Schultz Foundation, Dept. of Environment, Water and Natural Resources, South Australian Murray-Darling Basin Natural Resources Management Board.

    Wildlife management, especially in areas of human-wildlife conflict, relies on empirical evidence for abundance and distribution of species and an understanding of what controls species abundance in space and time. Such information has traditionally been extremely hard to come by, but modern spatial technologies can come to the rescue. This project uses the Southern Hairy-nosed Wombat as a model species to evaluate innovative methods for generating ecological models for evidence-based continental and site-specific management of native fauna.

    We will produce the first species distribution model (SDM) that is based on continental mapping presence and absence combined with nearly a half century long time series. It will be the first true spatio-temporal management model for an abundant mammal that may demonstrate that abundant species are not immune from climate change. It will provide decision support for wildlife management at continental extent with a spatial detail below the hectare scale and a decade-long time frame.

  • Remote sensing monitoring Great Artesian Basin springs influenced by mining

    Image: M. Lewis

    (2017-2019, SA Dept. State Devt., Mining & Petroleum Services Centre of Excellence)

    Prof Megan Lewis, Dr Kenneth Clarke

    Partners: BHP Billiton Olympic Dam Corporation, SA DEWNR

    Building on our past research on wetlands in the Great Artesian and Lake Eyre Basins, this project is developing and testing remote sensing methods for monitoring wetlands associated with artesian spring wetlands which are influenced by the Olympic Dam mining operation. We are analysing historic time-series of imagery to understand variability and trends in the spring-fed wetlands, and developing relationships between wetland area mapped by high-resolution satellite imagery and spring flow measured by traditional in-situ methods.

  • Improving State fire mapping and monitoring using AusCover remote sensing products

    Arid Fire Scars (Map data: Google, 2016 DigitalGlobe)

    (2016-17, AusCover Case Study)

    Dr Ken Clarke, Dr Dorothy Turner, Prof Megan Lewis, DEWNR

    The project is evaluating remote sensing-based approaches to fire mapping using several AusCover remotely-sensed land cover and fire products. The project focusses on northern arid regions of SA where fire mapping has been ad-hoc, intermittent and inconsistent, and where there are mapping discontinuities across borders because of different mapping approaches in each state. The project provides an excellent opportunity to adopt new fire mapping approaches using AusCover products, ensure an approach more consistent with neighbouring states, and working towards national fire mapping.

  • Refining a GEOSS Ecosystems map for Australia

    Image: AusCover

    (2016-17, AusCover)

    Dr Ken Clarke, Prof Megan Lewis

    Following a global standard approach adopted by the Global Earth Observation System of Systems, we are refining an ecosystem map for Australia, drawing on the best-available national spatial data to represent key determinants of ecosystem type. The resultant map is being compared with other existing national vegetation and ecosystem maps through consultation with key stakeholders and government agencies.

  • Remote sensing of ecological response to Murray River weir pool raising, SA

    (2015-16, DEWNR)

    Dr Ken Clarke, Dr Ramesh Raja Segaran, Prof Megan Lewis

    We have worked with DEWNR and PIRSA to quantify the impact on River Murray floodplain vegetation of weir pool raising on reaches of the lower river, applying and evaluating several different remote sensing approaches including satellite imagery and aerial photography. Results were compared with in-situ riverine tree health to provide new understanding of magnitude, timing and extent of floodplain response to short-term floodplain inundation.

  • Rapid drone-based remote sensing for mosquito/arbovirus surveillance and control

    Image: Tasya Sarira

    Dr Ken Clarke, Tasya Sarira, Gabrielle Hunt, Prof Megan Lewis, Prof Lian Pin Koh, Prof, Phil Weinstein

    We are developing a novel and cost effective approach for the surveillance and control of mosquito-borne diseases. The project is drawing on the latest remote sensing and spatial data and conduct research essential to translate the potential of unmanned aircraft vehicles (UAVs, or drones) for mosquito rapid response surveillance and control into reality.

    Our work to date has determined optimal operating parameters for drone-based sensing of coastal mosquito breeding habitat, trialled image-based shallow water detection and mapping over coastal saltmarsh habitat and evaluated satellite-based flood and inundation mapping.

  • Drones in vineyards
    Drones in vineyards

    A/Prof Bertram Ostendorf, Dr Vinay Pagay, Prof Megan Lewis, URAF

    We are developing remote sensing methods to detect diseases in vineyards using sensors mounted on drones and other platforms. Work to date has characterised vine virus symptoms with hyperspectral sensing, and is now moving to drone-based imaging of vineyards. The project concept was People's Choice Winner in the 2015 Westpac Agribusiness Innovation Awards.

For a list of publications, please visit researcher profiles:

Australian and International research consortia and professional institutes

Our collaborators include researchers and environmental managers and policy-makers at

Other International Contacts

Affiliated Researchers

School of Biological Sciences

School of Biological Sciences


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