Su-Yin Tan


Photo of Su-Yin Tan

Ph.D. Geography, University of Cambridge, UK, 2008

M.Sc. Environmental Change and Management, University of Oxford, UK, 2004

M.A. Geography, Boston University, USA, 2003

B.Sc. (Hons) Environmental Science, University of Guelph, Canada, 2001

Contact information:
519-888-4567 ext. 48772
Location: EV3 3219

Research Group Website:  Applied Geomatics Research Laboratory (AGRL)


Su-Yin joined the University of Waterloo in 2008 and she is jointly appointed to the School of Planning and the Department of Geography and Environmental Management.  She teaches undergraduate and graduate courses on the theory and application of geographic information systems (GIS) and remote sensing technologies.  Her interdisciplinary research interests are in the fields of geomatics and spatial data analysis with diverse application areas in urban geography, public health, crime, environmental monitoring, and climate change.   She has an international and intercultural background, born in Edmonton, Alberta and raised in Rabaul, Papua New Guinea.

Research interests:

  • Geographic information systems (GIS) and geomatics
  • Remote sensing and satellite applications
  • Spatial data analysis and spatial statistics
  • Urban geography, environmental criminology, and crime mapping
  • Public health and spatial epidemiology
  • Environmental monitoring and climate change
  • Land cover, vegetation, and climatology
  • GIScience education

My research interests are in the field of spatial data analysis and geomatics with diverse application areas that span physical and human geography disciplines.  I teach undergraduate and graduate courses on the theory and application of geographic information systems (GIS) and remote sensing technologies.  Current research projects include exploring threshold concepts and teaching in the GISciences, crime mapping in Toronto and the Kitchener-Waterloo region, and remote sensing for examining biogeophysical patterns, such as how land cover and ecosystem properties are affected by surface climate and weather systems.

Previous projects have included studying nitrogen uptake in montane forests of the Andes (Peru) and a NASA-funded project exploring the application of GIS and data mining techniques for understanding high dimensional remotely sensed images and climate data.  My PhD research at the University of Cambridge (UK) focused on developing similar spatial data analysis methodologies from an urban geography perspective, exploring the links between public health and crime, a project funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Currently, I hold the position of Chair of the Space Applications Department in the Space Studies Program (SSP) and serve on the Academic Council as a Faculty member at the International Space University (ISU).  I have a keen interest in continuing research in the related areas of conservation science and environmental health while focusing on the application of statistical tools and geographic information technologies.

Academic honours

  • Visiting Fellowship, Wolfson College, University of Cambridge, UK (2015)
  • Outstanding Performance Award, University of Waterloo, Canada (2014)
  • Gates Cambridge Scholarship, University of Cambridge, UK (2004-2008)

Graduate student supervision

  Number of students currently supervising/co-supervising Total number of student supervisions/co-supervisions
Masters 5 31
PhD 0 1

Recent/key publications

[* = student co-authors]

  • Tan, S-Y. (2020). Remote Sensing Applications and Innovations via Small Satellite Constellations. In: Pelton, J., and Madry, S., (eds) Handbook of Small Satellites. Springer, Cham.
  • Chu, S.H.Y.*, Tan, S-Y., and Mortsch, L. (2020). Social resilience to flooding in Vancouver: The issue of scale.  Environmental Hazards.
  • Bradshaw, J.*, Jit Singh, S., Tan, S-Y., Fishman, T., and Pott, K.* (2020). GIS-based Material Stock Analysis (MSA) of climate vulnerabilities to the tourism industry in Antigua and Barbuda.  Sustainability, 12, 8090.
  • Symmes, R.*, Fishman, T., Telesford, J., Tan, S-Y., de Kroon, K.*, and Singh, S.J. (2019). The weight of islands: A GIS-based material stock analysis for Grenada in the context of extreme weather and climate change. Journal of Industrial Ecology, 24(2): 369-382.
  • Tan, S.-Y., Haining, R. (2016). Crime victimization and the implications for individual health and wellbeing: A Sheffield case study. Social Science and Medicine, 167:128-139.
  • Tan, S-Y., (2016). Remote Sensing and Earth Observation. In: International Study on Global Space Governance, ed. J. Pelton and R. Jakhu. Springer, New York.
  • Tan, S-Y. (2016). New Developments in Hyperspectral Remote Sensing. In: Handbook of Satellite Applications, Second Edition, ed. J. Pelton. Springer, New York.
  • Tan, S-Y. (2015). NOAA Satellites and Solar Backscatter Ultra Violet (SBUV) Subsystems. In: Handbook of Cosmic Hazards and Planetary Defense, ed. J. Pelton and F. Allahdadi. Springer, New York.
  • Tan, S-Y., (2015). Dashboard Display of Solar Weather. In: Handbook of Cosmic Hazards and Planetary Defense, ed. J. Pelton and F. Allahdadi. Springer, New York.
  • Tan, S.-Y. (2014). Meteorological Satellite Systems. Springer, New York.
  • Tan, S-Y. and Li, J.* (2014). An exploratory spatial analysis of soil organic carbon distribution in Canadian ecoregions. The International Archives of the Photogrammetry, Remote Sensing and Spatial Information Sciences, Volume XL-2. ISPRS Technical Commission II Symposium.
  • Fisher, J.B., Stitch, S., Malhi, Y., Fisher, R.A., Huntingford, C., and Tan, S.-Y. (2010). Carbon cost of plant nitrogen acquisition: A mechanistic, globally applicable model of plant nitrogen uptake, retranslocation, and fixation. Global Biogeochemical Cycles, 24(1): GB1014.
  • Tan, S-Y. (2010). Effects of Deforestation on Soil Carbon in Tropical Forests. Conservation International, Arlington, VA.
  • Tan, S-Y. and Haining, R. (2009). An urban study of crime and health using an exploratory spatial data analysis approach. In: Gervasi, O, Taniar, D., Murgante, B., Lagana, A., Mun, Y. (eds.), Computational Science and Its Applications - ICCSA 2009: International Conference, Seoul, Korea, Proceedings, Part I. Springer, Berlin, Heidelberg.
  • Tan, S-Y. (2009). Effects of Deforestation on Soil Carbon in Boreal Forests. Conservation International, Arlington, VA.
  • Fisher, J.B., Tan, S.-Y., Malhi, Y., Fisher, R.A., Sitch, S., and Huntingford, C. (2008). A globally applicable, mechanistic model of plant nitrogen uptake, retranslocation and fixation. American Geophysical Union, Fall Meeting 2008, San Francisco, CA. Abstract id. B23A-0404
  • Tan, S-Y. (2007). Regional analysis of the spatial patterns of crime and health. Joint Congress of the European Regional Science Association (47th Congress) and Association de Science Régionale de Langue Française (44th Congress), Paris, France. (Peer-reviewed conference proceedings)
  • Tan, S-Y. (2007). The influence of temperature and precipitation climate regimes on vegetation dynamics in the U.S. Great Plains: A satellite bioclimatology case study. International Journal of Remote Sensing, 28 (22): 4947-4966.
  • Tan, S-Y. (2005). Modelling spatial patterns of vegetation activity and climatological parameters in the U.S. Great Plains: a satellite bioclimatology case study. 31st International Symposium on Remote Sensing of the Environment Proceedings, St. Petersburg, Russia. (Peer-reviewed conference proceedings)

Courses taught:

  • GEOG/PLAN 281: Introduction to Geographic Information Systems (GIS)
  • GEOG/PLAN 481: Geographic Information Systems (GIS) Project
  • GEOG 607: Fundamentals of Geographic Information Systems