CCST9083 Science, Technology and Big Data

Earth as Seen by Satellite

This course is under the thematic cluster(s) of:

  • Sustaining Cities, Cultures, and the Earth (SCCE)

Course Description

Our planet Earth is experiencing unprecedented environmental changes, such as climate warming, sea level rise, intensified wildfires, prolonged flooding and droughts, agricultural expansion, and intensification, and worsened water and air pollution. These changes largely result from human activities and seriously impact the sustainability of human life. Earth observations based on satellite remote sensing enable environmental, social, and economic monitoring of our changing planet. This course will summarize current observational capabilities, present how satellite data can contribute to understanding the functions and interactions of Earth’s sub-systems (e.g., atmosphere, biosphere, cryosphere, and hydrosphere), and provide the application examples of environmental change at regional to global scales, such as forest disturbance, water quality, carbon emission, air/water/soil pollution, natural disasters, agricultural production. These are highly related to some crucial sustainability issues, so this course will, directly and indirectly, address multiple sustainable development goals (SDGs), including SDG 2 (Zero hunger), SDG6 (Clean water and sanitation), SDG 10 (Reduced inequalities), SDG11 (Sustainable cities and community), SDG13 (Climate action), SDG 14 (Life below water) and SDG15 (Life on land), in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development set by the United Nations in 2015.

Course Learning Outcomes

On completing the course, students will be able to:

  1. Understand how human can observe the Earth from space, how the Earth, as a system, functions, and two major challenges our society are currently faced: environmental change, particularly climate change, and sustainable development
  2. Apply the basic skills for processing big Earth data through cloud storage and cloud computing (GEE), as well as analytical skills to address the critical issues of environmental change and sustainable development by using geo-spatial information.

Offer Semester and Day of Teaching

First semester (Wed)

Study Load

Activities Number of hours
Lectures 24
Tutorials 10
Seminars 5
Laboratory 6
Reading / Self-study 24
Assessment: Essay / Report writing 15
Assessment: Presentation (incl preparation) 25
Assessment: In-class quizzes 4
Assessment: Peer evaluation 10
Assessment: Case study 15
Total: 138

Assessment: 100% coursework

Assessment Tasks Weighting
Case study 20
Group project 30
Essay 30
In-class quizzes 20

Required Reading

  • Amundson, R., Guo, Y., & Gong, P. (2003). Soil diversity and land use in the United States. Ecosystems, 6, 470-482.
  • Garcia-Soto, C., van der Meeren, G. I., Busch, J. A., Delany, J., Domegan, C., & Dubsky, K. (2017). Earth Observations in Support of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) on Behalf of GEO. [Selected chapters]
  • Grill, G., Lehner, B., Thieme, M., Geenen, B., Tickner, D., Antonelli, F., Babu, S., Borrelli, P., Cheng, L., Crochetiere, H., & Ehalt Macedo, H. (2019). Mapping the world’s free-flowing rivers. Nature, 569(7755), 215-221.
  • Latour, B. (2018). Gaia 2.0: Could humans add some level of self-awareness to Earth’s self-regulation? Science, 361(6407), 1066-1068.
  • Lenton, T. (2016). Earth system science: a very short introduction (Vol. 464). Oxford University Press. [Selected chapters]
  • Mace, G. M., Barrett, M., Burgess, N. D., Cornell, S. E., Freeman, R., Grooten, M., & Purvis, A. (2018). Aiming higher to bend the curve of biodiversity loss. Nature Sustainability, 1(9), 448-451.
  • Singh, A. (2005). One planet, many people: atlas of our changing environment. UNEP/Earthprint. [Selected chapters]

Course Co-ordinator and Teacher(s)

Course Co-ordinator Contact
Professor S. Liang
Department of Geography, Faculty of Social Sciences
Tel: 3917 7113
Teacher(s) Contact
Professor S. Liang
Department of Geography, Faculty of Social Sciences
Tel: 3917 7113
Professor H. Zhang
Department of Geography, Faculty of Social Sciences
Tel: 3917 7022