GEOL-1460/2461
Remote Sensing Syllabus
Fall, 2020


  GEOL-1460: Prof. Michael Ramsey
Office: 509/511 SRCC
Office Phone: 624-8772
Email: mramsey@pitt.edu
Virtual Hours: M, W (1:30 - 2:30pm)
GEOL-2461: Dr. Daniel Williams
Office: 509/510 SRCC
Office Phone: 628-8784
Email: dbwilliams@pitt.edu
Virtual Hours: Tu, Th (1:00 - 2:00pm)
T.A./Lab Instructor: Mr. Ian Flynn
Office: 211 Thaw
Office Phone: 624-8779
Email: itf2@pitt.edu
Virtual Hours: Th (1:00 - 3:00pm)

  1. Objective: This course is designed to give you a foundation in the theory and techniques of remote sensing and geospatial data visualization spanning the electromagnetic (EM) spectrum from the visible to the radar wavelengths. Topics include light/matter interaction, optics and sensor design, image analysis using the commercial ENVI software suite, as well as current applications of remote sensing to science and engineering problems. The course and integrated laboratory are designed to provide you with a skillset in remote sensing applications, the geologic and human processes revealed in remotely-gathered data, as well as how those processes are assessed with these data.


  2. Required Text: "Remote Sensing Principles, Interpretations, and Applications Perspective", 4th edition, by: Floyd Sabins and James Eillis (Waveland Press, Inc.; 2020, ISBN: 1-4786-3710-2).

    Supplementary Text: "Remote Sensing of the Environment: An Earth Resource Perspective", 2nd edition, by: J.R. Jensen (Prentice Hall Publishing; 2007, ISBN: 0-13-188950-8).

  3. The second textbook was the one used for this class for the past 10 years, but it getting old (like the instructor!). There should be plenty of inexpensive/used options out there for it. It is recommended that you have your copy of the required textbook for exam preparation and laboratory projects. Unfortunately, there will be no two-hour loan options at the Bevier Engineering Library (as in past years) and there is no e-book available for the Sabins and Eillis text. The textbook is available at the Pitt Bookstore as well as the rental platform VitalSource, which provides a 1-semester rental for a very low cost.


  4. GEOL-1460 Meetings: the lecture is currently scheduled on Wednesday from 6:30pm - 9:20pm in Clapp L9 & the computer lab in SRCC 207. In-person lecture is still T.B.D. depending on the current state of the pandemic (see below). There will be a survey sent to all students and we will discuss this during the first online-only meeting of the class on August 19, 2020. Attendance is mandatory for all scheduled lectures (whether in-person or virtual). Much of the exam material and laboratory insights will be derived from the class notes and therefore attendance will help your grade. I will post a summary of the week's lecture notes on the schedule page the day before that lecture. The three computer labs (plus a pre-lab) will also have the option to meet in-person during the regular class meeting times (see schedule). During those weeks there will be no lecture with an option for some students meeting with the T.A. following a pre-assigned schedule (see laboratory information below). There may also be times during the semester where I will not be here due to research-related obligations. These are usually during the weeks of the labs and/or exams. If one of these occurs on a regularly-scheduled lecture night, the T.A. or a Dr. Williams will cover those weeks/classes.


  5. GEOL-2461 Seminar Time: T.B.D. Students taking this course are expected to attend the first virtual lecture of the GEOL-1460 course and will then be informed of the seminar requirements and expectations by Dr. Daniel Williams.


  6. COVID-19 Requirements: all class meetings, processes, and procedures are still in a state of flux, depending on the current state of the pandemic and the risk posture of the state, county, and university as the semester proceeds. It is most likely that I will not be present in-person to give the lectures because of this situation, although that too may change depending on conditions. I will, therefore, plan to present the lectures on Zoom each Wednesday evening during the assigned class lecture time. Students will be able to attend those synchronously by sitting in the lecture room or virtually, and/or they can watch the recordings at a later time/day (asynchronously). These recordings will be added to the schedule page as well as posted on the class Canvas page. However, because of the size of the class, only half will be able to be present in the lecture room each week. I will divide up the class into two groups and assign your meeting weeks.

    Students will also have the option to attend the laboratories in-person on a pre-assigned/limited schedule. Up to five students per hour will be allowed in SRCC-207 for ~50 minutes of laboratory instruction by the T.A. followed by time for cleaning/disinfecting the computer workstations. With this new de-densified schedule, only 15 students per lab will be able to attend in person. However, over the course of the semester, all students will have to the opportunity for at least one in-person meeting (see laboratory description below).

    During all in-person meetings (lecture or lab), students and instructors are required to wear face coverings at all times. No exceptions will be granted (including for drinks or eating)! Those with a mask issue, should plan to attend all classes/labs virtually. If you show up without a face covering (or remove it during class), you will be asked to leave immediately. These are the university rules, so please strictly adhere to them!


  7. Course Requirements:

    1. Exam:

      There will be one mid-term exam to be taken on-line. The exam will include essay questions, quantitative problem solving, short answers, and multiple choice. Exam questions will be based on material covered in the lectures and textbook. I do not give make-up exams or work, so please make sure you are there for the mid-term!

    1. Final Project:

      In lieu of a final exam, all students taking the GEOL-1460 course will be expected to submit a final project. You will be given the choice of 4 different datasets similar to the ones that you will see in the labs. You will choose one of these datasets, propose a science question/goal, and conduct some level of image processing on the data using the skills that you've learned in the labs to answer that question/goal. You will hand-in the project at the end of the semester (after Thanksgiving), which will consist of a 5-slide Powerpoint file and 3-page Word report. More information will be given on the project in the coming weeks.

    1. Image-processing Laboratories:

      There will be three graded labs in addition to one non-graded "prelab". For this year, we have secured individual software licenses for each of you, so you will not be required to be in the small computer laboratory room in order to finish your labs. The T.A. will be sending out more information on how to install the ENVI Image Processing Software and the temporary license on your personal computer. Please work with him and the Department's computer specialists to get this software running by the end of the month of August. The software is also present on the 10 machines in the Remote Sensing computer lab (SRCC 207), however the occupancy size is limited to only 5 students at a time. Those that do not have access to a personal computer or cannot get the software to install on their computer will be given priority to access the computer laboratory in person. All labs meet during the normal class meeting time. However, the lab exercises will likely take longer than the scheduled meeting time. Extended laboratory hours may be offered by the TA. He will send out information on this, his office hours, and how he will present the labs during those weeks. More details will be given in the first lecture. The TA will also decide on a grading policy for late lab reports. You will lose significant points if your lab report is more than 1 week late! Finally, he will create a guide to writing your lab reports. That will be posted as a link at the bottom of this page before lab #1.

    1. Graduate-level Course:

      The GEOL-2461 course is established for graduate students or, in special circumstances, undergraduate students who have prior experience and/or require graduate-level course credit. The course will be overseen by Dr. Daniel Williams. Anyone registering for this course needs his permission and has two options for credit:

      • course + seminar + small project: students who have never taken a remote sensing course in the past should choose this option. You will be expected to attend a weekly seminar (Time/Date/Location T.B.A.) with Dr. Williams as well as the course lectures/labs and take the exam. Students will also work on a small remote sensing research project (alone or as part of a small group) and present the results to the class at the end of the semester together with 4-page written report.

      • seminar + large research project: students who have had a remote sensing course in the past (particularly this class taken as an undergraduate) should take this option. You will attend the weekly seminar (Time/Date/Location T.B.A.) with Dr. Williams. You are, of course, welcome to sit-in on any of the course lectures and labs as a review/refresher if needed. Your grade, therefore, will be based solely on your seminar participation and a large, in-depth, independent research project using remote sensing data. The results will be presented at the end of the semester to the class together with a 12-page written report.


  8. Grading: Grading for the 1460-level course will be based on both exams, the laboratories and class participation, with the exact breakdown being:

  9. Mid-term exam 30%
    Final project 30%
    Laboratory #1 5%
    Laboratory #2 10%
    Laboratory #3 15%
    Class participation 10%


  10. Cheating: This is not even worth bringing up in a university-level course. Cheating/plagiarism will not be tolerated. Students suspected of violating the University of Pittsburgh Policy on Academic Integrity will be required to participate in the outlined procedural process as initiated by the instructor. A minimum sanction of a zero score for the quiz, exam or paper will be imposed. No excuses.


  11. Other Policy Statements and Resources: Can be found here.


  12. Course Web Site: The primary information portal for this course is this webpage: http://ivis.eps.pitt.edu/courses/geol1460/. It contains the syllabus, schedule, online notes, announcements, and assignments for the class. I tend to continually revise the class schedule as the semester progresses, so please check there for the most current class information.


  13. Web Links:



This page last updated: Monday, 21-Sep-2020 17:17:16 EDT