MSc Topics

Introduction

Master students interested in writing a thesis in remote sensing are very welcome to approach us to discuss their ideas and suggestions. In general, you should think about your interests, the skills you like to acquire and potential career paths. You should be excited about your topic, as you'll work on it for some months. Just pass by and talk with us about themes you find fascinating, interesting, or simply fun. For your inspiration, we occasionally advertise for specific Master theses. You can find these calls for Master theses below.

External MSc theses

We offer MSc theses supervised by external colleagues. If you are interested, check out the following links:

WSL: MSc thesis on Reconstructing spatial and temporal spread of invasive forest pathogens using satellite images and machine learning (PDF, 346 KB)

Internal MSc theses

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Can we look into crops and forests from space?

When looking in satellite images of crops or forests, one can easily recognize horizontal heterogeneity in terms of structural traits (e.g. leaf area) or biochemical traits (e.g. pigment or leaf water content). Less obvious is the substantial vertical heterogeneity of these traits.

An increasing amount of studies discusses a sensitivity of optical measurements for vertical trait variability. This finding determines the hypothesis that vertical trait gradients can be quantified with spectroscopy data.

It will be your task to design an experiment that allows assessing sensitivity of optical data for vertical trait distribution. You can for example create an artificial canopy and measure it under laboratory conditions. You can also use existing models or a combination of them to evaluate the hypothesis. A second task would be to design a retrieval scheme for vertical trait variations and apply it to airborne or satellite spectroscopy data.

Working on this thesis requires a high commitment and a good grasp of experimental design and scientific programming. This topic is designed for a 60 ECTS thesis. If you are interested, please contact Prof. Dr. Alexander Damm

Can we see effects of extreme weather on ecosystems from space?

The number and intensity of extreme weather events is increasing over the last years. Summers in 2018 and 2019, for example were the 4th and 3rd warmest summers in Switzerland since the beginning of temperature records. It is known that such extreme events affect ecosystem functioning in general and carbon and water exchange processes in particular. Exact spatial and temporal information of drought caused effects are still rare.

An increasing number of studies indicates increased sensitivity of latest remote sensing data for ecosystem gas exchange processes. This development defines the hypothesis of this study that latest remote sensing data allow assessing ecosystem gas exchange dynamic and thus interactions and feedbacks between weather extremes and ecosystem processes.

It will be your task to implement a mechanistic model (e.g. the Penman-Monteith equation), parameterize this model with globally available remote sensing and meteorological data, and calculate maps of transpiration. A second task would be to assess the spatial and temporal impact of extreme events on ecosystem transpiration rates.

Working on this thesis requires a high commitment and a good grasp of experimental design and scientific programming. This topic is designed for a 60 ECTS thesis. If you are interested, please contact Prof. Dr. Alexander Damm

Can we see hot spots of ecosytem functioning from space?

Vegetation ecosystems play a pivotal role in the Earth system, since they mediate the carbon and water exchange between atmosphere, plants and soils. Depending on various environmental conditions that favor or limit such processes, one can identify substantial spatial and temporal dynamics in ecosystem functioning.

The direct assessment of ecosystem functioning from space is not possible but indirectly approximate it. The hypothesis to be evaluated in this thesis is that an expert based combination of satellite derived vegetation information enables the detection of hot and cold spots of ecosystem functioning.

It will be your task to identify and collect relevant information describing spatial and temporal dynamics of vegetation ecosystems. You should conceptualize an approach to combine such information and quantify dynamics of ecosystem functioning. You will then apply the approach to satellite data of and eventually calculate maps of hot and cold spots of ecosystem functioning.

Working on this thesis requires a high commitment and a good grasp of experimental design and scientific programming. This project is designed to work either as 30 or 60 ECTS master thesis. If you are interested, please contact Prof. Dr. Alexander Damm

Can solar absorption lines help to learn more about plants?

Plant photosynthesis is the foundation for life on Earth. Still, we do not know enough about this important process and its dynamics since it is difficult to measure. New space-based measurements of sun-induced chlorophyll fluorescence will open more possibilities to assess photosynthesis at ecosystem and even global scale. The measurement of fluorescence is complicated by many disturbing factors. Even for in situ measurements with short distances between the instrument and the surface, atmospheric effects are severe.

This thesis hypothesizes that a fluorescence retrieval approach based on Frauenhofer Lines in spectral regions not affected by the Earth atmosphere supports accurate fluorescence retrievals.

It will be your task to develop a new algorithm to retrieve fluorescence from in situ spectral measurements. You will implement a common reference method (e.g. iFLD) and then develop a new approach based on the exploitation of Frauenhofer lines. You will also evaluate possibilities to modify and apply the approach to airborne data acquired over several European test sites.

Working on this thesis requires a high commitment and a good grasp of experimental design and scientific programming. This project is designed to work either as 30 or 60 ECTS master thesis. If you are interested, please contact Alexander Damm

A multi-sensor survey of daytime variations in lake surface water temperature

Several spaceborne thermal radiometers provide suitable observations to estimate Lake Surface Water Temperature (LSWT). When specific sensor and data properties are accounted for, these observations can provide access to daytime temperature variations, which are of critical importance for the lakes’ energy budget. By doing so, this study demonstrates the potential of a new Phyton LSWT retrieval plugin for ESA’s SNAP toolbox, which was recently implemented in a project by the Swiss Space Office and will subsequently be published under an open source license.
Dr. Daniel Odermatt