Developing an Eastern Hemlock inventory for Ontario using satellite remote sensing imagery

The Department of Geography, Environment and Geomatics, University of Guelph, together with the Great Lakes Forestry Centre, Natural Resources Canada, is recruiting a MSc student beginning in Fall 2021 to investigate the use of satellite imagery to support the development of an inventory of Eastern hemlock in Ontario.


Eastern hemlock (Tsuga canadensis) is an ecologically and economically important tree species in Ontario. Hemlock in Ontario is at risk of infestation by the hemlock woolly adelgid (HWA), an invasive insect species native to western North America and Asia. The insect was detected in the United States in the 1950’s and has since caused significant damage and mortality to hemlock stands in the eastern United States. In Canada, HWA was detected and successfully eradicated in the 2000’s. However, the insect has since been found to be widespread throughout part of southern Nova Scotia where it has caused significant mortality. As recently as 2019, the insect was found in a stand of hemlock near Wainfleet, Ontario. This most recent detection in Ontario is cause for concern as the population is well established, infests large trees and therefore unlikely to be eradicated, implying that the insect has now established a foothold in Ontario. There is therefore an urgent need to develop a province-wide inventory of hemlock to support risk assessment, the development of survey and detection strategies and the prioritization of areas for treatment and monitoring of HWA. Remote sensing imagery are ideal tools for the creation of such an inventory, given their ability to provide wall-to-wall coverage at the provincial scale.

The overall goal of this project is to develop an inventory of hemlock in Ontario through the use of satellite imagery and plot inventory data. The student will investigate the use of moderate to fine resolution satellite imagery (e.g., Sentinel-2), plot inventory data and machine learning tools to classify hemlock stands across Ontario. The project will involve some fieldwork at various locations across Ontario.


The successful applicant will have a Bachelor’s degree in remote sensing, GIS, forestry, ecology, environmental sciences, or related fields. Demonstrated experience in the use of GIS and remote sensing for environmental mapping and monitoring (e.g., through coursework and/or project work) is essential.

Application instructions

Interested candidates should submit a CV and an unofficial transcript from their undergraduate studies by email to Dr. Ben DeVries ( and Dr. Christian MacQuarrie ( Applications will be reviewed until the position is filled. This project will only be able to fund tuition for Canadian citizens or permanent residents. International students are encouraged to apply but will need to obtain additional research funding to reduce this funding gap.