ILWS - Charles Sturt University
ILWS - Charles Sturt University

Spatial Research

Spatial Research in Environment, Agriculture and Health  Research Theme

Led by Dr Rachel Whitsed

The information on these pages is accurate to the end of 2016 when reporting for SRA was completed for the 2015-16 Biennial Report.  All reporting for our projects is now found in relevant areas under the four research themes.

  • About
  • Research
  • Members
  • Projects
  • Publications
  • Postgrad Research


Avalon SwampThe research group Spatial Research in Environment, Agriculture and Health aims to gather Spatial Sciences expertise into a research group capable of delivering applied innovative research involving GIS, Remote Sensing and Geostatistics.

Its general objectives are to

  • Deliver high quality research and spatial data applications for CSU core research areas in Agriculture, Land and Water, Health and Regional Development
  • Promote cooperation across CSU schools and research centres, local government agencies and industry
  • Produce high quality scientific publications related to spatial science
  • Attract external funding for spatial science based research projects
  • Foster a research and training environment for spatial sciences including Honours and RHD student supervision


The research group works on cooperation with other researchers by proposing and developing new approaches that use spatial data to improve analysis and modelling, utilising existing spatial data acquisition equipment.

Growing degree daysThe research group develops its own projects in areas including Environment and Health, Environmental Monitoring, Natural Resources Management and Precision Agriculture. The research group also aims to form a focal point for other researchers, Honours and RHD students with an interest in spatial science methods to integrate spatial science into their research projects through collaboration and information sharing


Landsat Image BeechworthCurrent research themes

Spatial health data analysis and environmental monitoring. Horta, Whitsed et al. (2015-ongoing). This project will gather health data considered relevant for the Murrumbidgee region (in terms of incidence and mortality) and will use visualization and statistical techniques for spatial pattern analysis. Additionally, environmental information will be collected and combined with health patterns to ascertain possible correlations that will help health and government agencies to improve their assessments.

Soil National Database for International Year of the Soils. Horta (in cooperation with the Technical University of Lisbon, Portugal) (2015) The first Portuguese soil database is going to be published in the context of the International Year of Soils (2015). Additionally, spatial modelling techniques will be used to produce national soil properties maps.

Cellular Automata modelling. Whitsed and Smallbone (2012-ongoing). A cellular automata model is spatial modelling technique that can be applied to modelling vegetation change. Dr Whitsed and Dr Smallbone currently have two publications on uncertainty in a cellular automata for vegetation change, with further publications in progress.

Spatiotemporal variability in vineyard phenology. Hall (with partners in Australia and USA) (ongoing) Several externally funded projects have led to significant research outputs on the topic of vineyard phenology, specifically, the effect of soil and topographical variability on within vineyard performance (precision viticulture) and climatic suitability for wine production and its sensitivity to climate change. This research has involved the development of novel techniques in time-series vegetation remote sensing, object based image analysis and spatially explicit heat accumulation and vegetation phenological modelling using advanced GIS modelling techniques.

Ecological responses to environmental watering events using remote sensing products. Hall, Horta (with PhD students and partners in NSW Office of Environment and Heritage) (2012 – ongoing) Monitoring ecological outcomes of environmental watering events are major research activities of ILWS. Spatial science has a large role within these projects, utilizing remotely sensed high resolution digital terrain models for hydrological modelling of wetland inundation connected with specific flow events and in-channel hydraulic modelling to ascertain effect on in-channel productivity and ecology, and remote sensing image analysis techniques for monitoring vegetation responses to wetland inundation. Spatial science techniques are a major component of the Murrumbidgee Long Term Intervention Monitoring Project, particularly in terms of modelling wetland hydrology with GIS analysis of LiDAR derived digital terrain models, broad-scale monitoring of vegetation response using spatiotemporal analysis of remote sensing data and habitat occupancy modelling.

Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV's) for Precision Agriculture and Environmental Monitoring. Dehaan (with partners in CSU, NSW DPI, Rural Industries Research and Development Corporatin, GRDC, Australian Herbicide Resistance Initiative, Local Land Services)  (2012 – ongoing) Unmanned aerial systems are becoming popular in numerous environmental and agricultural applications as a platform for the collection of ultrahigh spatial resolution imagery in a cost-effective and dynamic manner. Current research efforts have focused on system development and capacity building with research focused on the use of hyperspectral, multispectral, thermal and traditional digital cameras mounted on UAV's to identify weeds, model rice crop nitrogen, identify plant diseases and evaluate crop health and productivity

Spatial science and urban modelling. Whitsed, Davidson, Black (in cooperation with city councils) (2011-ongoing) Several urban modelling problems can be approached using spatial sciences. For example using aerial photography and satellite imagery together with GIS the researchers measured solar orientation in single dwelling houses of different ages, to measure whether energy efficiency is improving in line with building design regulations. Liveability is another key concept in urban modelling and can be analysed using socio-economic and environmental data such as neighbourhood characteristics and access to open space.

Team Members

Members Expertise
Dr Rachel Whitsed
Spatial science for environmental modelling; Uncertainty and risk in spatial modelling; Spatial decision support systems; Species distribution and abundance modelling a
Dr Ana Horta

Geostatistics and environmental modelling; Uncertainty in spatial modelling

Dr Andrew Hall

Landscape phenology, habitat occupancy, remote sensing image analysis; Novel GIS techniques; Climatology; Climate change and variability

Dr Remy Dehaan
(Graham Centre) 
Remote sensing (hyperspectral and multispectral); Environmental monitoring, Wildlife tracking and habitat analysis; Geological mapping; Precision agriculture and landscape mapping



Selection of recent peer-reviewed publications 


Hall, A., Mathews, A. J., & Holzapfel, B. P. (2016). Potential effect of atmospheric warming on grapevine phenology and post-harvest heat accumulation across a range of climates. International Journal of Biometeorology, 1-18.

Whitsed, R. & Smallbone, L.T. (2016) A hybrid genetic algorithm with local optimiser improves calibration of a vegetation change cellular automata model. International Journal of Geographical Information Science. Published online 11 Sep 2016. doi:


Clarke, S., Lamont, K., Pan, H., Barry, L., Hall, A., & Rogiers, S. (2015). Spring root‐zone temperature regulates root growth, nutrient uptake and shoot growth dynamics in grapevines. Australian Journal of Grape and Wine Research, 21(3), 479-489.

Bishop, T.F.A., Horta, A. and Karunaratne, S.B. (2015) Validation of digital soil maps at different spatial supports. Geoderma, 241, 238-249

Horta, A., Malone, B., Stockman, U., Minasny, B., Bishop, T.F.A., McBratney, A.B., Pallasser, R. and Pozza, L. (2015) Potential of integrated field spectroscopy and spatial analysis for enhanced assessment of soil contamination: a prospective review. Geoderma, 241, 180-209

Whitsed, R. and Smallbone, L. (2014) Uncertainty in a Cellular Automata model for vegetation change. Journal of Spatial Science, 59(2), 253-268

Whitsed, R. and Davidson, P. (2013) Remote Assessment of Factors Influencing Housing Thermal Efficiency in NSW using GIS and Aerial Photography. Urban Policy and Research, 31(4), 473-492

Broster, J.C., Robertson, S.M., Dehaan, R.L., King, B.J. and Friend, M.A. (2012) Evaluating seasonal risk and the potential for wind speed reductions to reduce chill index at six locations using GrassGro. Animal Production Science 52(10): 921-928

Dehaan, R.L., Weston, L.A. and Rumbachs, R. (2012) The design and the development of a hyperspectral unmanned aircraft mapping system for the detection of invasive plants. Eighteenth Australasian Weeds Conference

Students working on topics relevant to the SRA

Students Research Topic
Amelia Walcott
PhD student
(Principal supervisor Dr Andrew Hall)
Response of habitat occupancy of frogs to environmental change in the upper Lachlan
Dena Paris
PhD student
(co-supervisor Dr Andrew Hall)
Ecology of the endangered Black Robin on Rangatira Island
Inam Ahmed
PhD student
(co-supervisor Dr Andrew Hall)
Hydraulic modelling to determine the ecohydrology of in-channel environmental flows of the Edward-Wakool river system
Paula Pipan
Masters Phil
(co-supervisor Dr Andrew Hall)
Quantifying Terroir
Tim McKay
PhD student
(co-supervisor Dr Andrew Hall)
Monitoring vegetation inventory and condition outcomes of watering events in Murrumbidgee wetlands
Graeme Glinsky
Honours student
(supervisors Dr Ana Horta and Dr Paul Humphries)
Assessment of recreational fishing access sites in freshwater riverine systems: A GIS-based approach
Chantel Pietila
Honours student
(supervisors Dr Rachel Whitsed and Dr Manu Saunders)
Species Habitat Modelling: a case study of Queensland Fruit Fly
PhD & Masters Completions
Darren Herpich
Masters student (completed)
(Principal supervisor Remy Dehaan)
Submarine discharge to estuarine, nearshore, offshore environments within a karst environment
Dr Dharmasiri Dassanayake
(co-supervisor Dr Andrew Hall) 
Role of Pacific Ocean Climate Variability on Rainfall Variability in the Murrumbidgee Catchment