Dr. Craig Coburn, Department of Geography, University of Lethbridge

Dr. Craig Coburn

Associate Professor

Department of Geography


Office: WE2002

Phone: Office. 403-317-2818
Fax: 403-329-2016


1994 - B.Sc. (honours) from the University of Saskatchewan.
1996 - M.Sc. in Geography from the University of Alberta.
2002 - Ph.D. in Geography (Remote Sensing) Simon Fraser University.


Geography 1010 - Introduction to Geography.
Geography 2700 - Geographic Data and Analysis.
Geography 2735 - Introduction to Geographical Information Science.
Geography 3080 - Soils.
Geography 3720 - Remote Sensing.
Geography 3740 - Geographical Information Science.
Geography 3850 - Geography Field Experience.
Geography 4725 - Digital Image Processing.
Geography 4751 - Seminar in Spatial Modelling.
Geography 4740 - Applied Geographic Information Systems.
Geography 4753 - Seminar in Remote Sensing.
Geography 5850 - Graduate Research Methods.

Professional Experience

2009 - Present. Associate Professor, The University of Lethbridge.
2002 - 2009. Assistant Professor, The University of Lethbridge.

Research Interests

My research is broadly focused in the field of remote sensing science. I am most interested in searching for new ways of visualizing problems and extracting information from remotely sensed data. This requires generating different approaches to gleaning information from data or making discoveries by testing previously held notions of the way things “work”. My research spans all areas of RS science, from the collection of data with airborne remote sensing systems to the development of algorithms to process these data.

New problems require new tools (even old problems need new tools), as the science of remote sensing has progressed from imaging and mapping to information extraction and integration, we need to improve our understanding of fundamental issues from geographic scale to light/target interactions. I have created a number of remote sensing systems to forward my interest in these areas. This work is conducted in one of our two on-campus laboratories or in my garage!

In Situ Systems:

I have also built and tested a series of advanced field and laboratory goniometers. Goniometers are precise positioning instruments that position sensors over targets to measure how light interacts with the surface. All surfaces reflect light in an anisotropic fashion and measurements of the reflected light with respect to angle gives us a better understanding of the role of various target attributes (biophysical and biochemical) – improving the quality and reliability of the remote sensing measurements that we make.

Click here for further details on BRDF and the Goniometer

Airborne Systems: My interest in airborne remote sensing systems extends from my PhD research at Simon Fraser University. The ability to control the parameters of data captured for specific remote sensing applications is vital to furthering our development of imaging science. To date I’ve built a number of airborne remote sensing systems including a 6-band digital remote sensing system for testing in the summer of 2005, a photographic system was added in 2006 and the digital system was upgraded in 2008 to include high-resolution digital cameras and improved computing systems and power handling.

Recent research includes branching out my airborne system development to include Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV’s) – these systems take advantage of a number of technological developments. The primary advantage being that there is no requirements for locating a pilot willing to fly with your camera system! Real advantages include, small size, autonomous flight, GPS navigation and image acquisition, gyroscopically controlled camera mounts, and off-the-shelf reliability. I have been working on two instrument busses (UAV’s) from MikroKopter in Germany and have developed an imaging instrument package that includes four spectral channels (visible and near IR wavelengths). Test flights in 2012 – with any luck.

I continue to pursue a variety of interests in the field of image texture and am working on image processing problems related to processing data with complex structures (spatial and spectral). My applied research is currently focused on improved biophysical and biochemical characterisation of agricultural crops using crop bidirectional reflectance features.

My interests in remote sensing as a powerful visual and scientific vehicle has lead to an interesting project that seeks to characterise spatial and spectral variation as differences in sound. This collaborative effort with Dr. A. William Smith from the Department of New Media, has begun to take on a life of its own. To date we have created unique sonic compositions from many Canadian cities and have also produced a variety of video compositions that go along with the sounds. We have had very good receptions to this research in both the scientific community and in the arts world. Our website further explains this walk on the wild side of remote sensing science Click here for more details.


Forbes, K., Kienzle, S.W., Coburn, C.A., Byrne, J.M. and Rasmussen, J. 2011. Modeling the impacts of selected GCM derived climate scenarios on the future hydrology of a hybrid watershed in the Oldman River watershed, Alberta, Canada. Climactic Change 105:555-576.[PDF]

Letts, M.G., Johnson, D.R.E. and Coburn, C.A. 2010. Drought stress ecophysiology of grass and shrub functional groups on opposing slopes of a temperate grassland valley. Botany 88 (9): 850-866.[PDF]

Teillet, P. M. and Coburn, C.A., 2010. “Radiometric Correction.” Encyclopaedia of Geography. Sage Publication.[PDF]

Soenen, S.A., D.R. Peddle, R.J. Hall, C.A. Coburn, and F.G. Hall, 2010. Estimating Aboveground Forest Biomass from Canopy Reflectance Model Inversion in Mountainous Terrain. Remote Sensing of Environment. 114(7): 1325–1337. DOI: 10.1016/j.rse.2009.12.012[PDF]

Gamon, J.A., Coburn, C.A., Flanagan, L.B., Huemmrich, K.F., Kiddles, C., Sanchez-Azofeifa, G.A. Thayer, D.R., Vescovo, L., Gianelle, D., Sims, D.A., Rahman, A.F., Pastorello, G.Z. 2010. SpecNet Revisited: Bridging Flux and Remote Sensing Communities (Review Paper). Canadian Journal of Remote Sensing 36 (Suppl. 2): 376-390.[PDF]

Coburn, C.A., Van Gaalen, K.E., Peddle, D.R., and Flanagan, L.B., 2010. Anisotropic Reflectance Effects on Spectral Indices for Estimating Ecophysiological Parameters using a Portable Goniometer System. Canadian Journal of Remote Sensing, 36 (Suppl. 2): 355-364.[PDF]

Eddy P.R., A.M. Smith, B.D. Hill, D.R. Peddle, C.A. Coburn and R.E. Blackshaw, 2009. Weed and Crop Discrimination using Hyperspectral Image Data and Reduced Bandsets. Weed Technology. (submitted August 28, 2009: in review)

Soenen, S.A., D.R. Peddle, C.A. Coburn, R.J. Hall, and F.G. Hall, 2009. Canopy Reflectance Model Inversion in Multiple Forward Mode: Forest Structural Information Retrieval from Solution Set Distributions. Photogrammetric Engineering & Remote Sensing. 75(4): 361–374.[PDF]

Xu,S., Peddle, D.R., Coburn, C.A., and Kienzle, S., 2008. Sensitivity of a Carbon and Productivity Model to Climatic, Water, Terrain, and Biohphysical Parameter in a Rocky Mountain Watershed. Canadian Journal of Remote Sensing, Vol 34 (3) 1-14.[PDF]

Soenen, S.A., D.R. Peddle, C.A. Coburn, R.J. Hall, and F.G. Hall, 2008. Improved topographic correction of forest image data using a 3-D canopy reflectance model in multiple forward mode. International Journal of Remote Sensing. 29(4): 1007 - 1027. [PDF]

Coburn, C.A., and A.W. Smith. (Accepted – 2008). Sonification of Satellite Data and the Process of Creating Visuals and Sound for Regina. The Art of Immersive Soundscapes: contemporary sound art practices, Pauline Minevich and Ellen Waterman Eds. University of Regina Press.

Smith A.W., and Coburn, C.A. (Accepted – 2008). Regina from Eta Carinae (DVD). The Art of Immersive Soundscapes: contemporary sound art practices, Pauline Minevich and Ellen Waterman Eds. University of Regina Press.

Eddy P.R., A.M. Smith, B.D. Hill, D.R. Peddle, C.A. Coburn and R.E. Blackshaw. 2008 Hybrid Segmentation - Artificial Neural Network Classification in Agriculture. Photogrammetric Engineering and Remote Sensing, Vol. 74, No. 10, pp. 1249-1257. [PDF]

Soenen, S.A. D.R. Peddle, C.A. Coburn, R.J. Hall, F.G. Hall, (Accepted - 2007). Canopy Reflectance Model Inversion in Multiple Forward Mode: Forest Structural Information Retrieval from Solution Set Distributions. Photogrammetric Engineering and Remote Sensing.[PDF]

Coburn, C.A. and Smith, A.W. 2007. Sonification of Satellite Image Data: Canadian Cities from Space. (Juried Paper Presentation). The Art of Immersive Soundscapes 2, University of Regina, June 20-22, 2007.

Coburn, C. A. and Peddle, D.R. 2006 A Low-Cost Field and Laboratory Goniometer System for Estimating Hyperspectral Bi-directional Reflectance. Canadian Journal of Remote Sensing. Vol 32 (3), 244-253. [PDF]

Soenen, S.A., Peddle, D.R. and Coburn, C.A. 2005. SCS+C: A Modified Sun-Canopy-Sensor Topographic Correction in Forested Terrain. IEEE Transactions on Geoscience and Remote Sensing. Vol. 43 (9), 2148-2159. [PDF]

Coburn, C.A. and A.W. Smith. 2005. Musical Landscapes Using Satellite Data. (Juried Feature Paper) in SPARK Festival of Electronic Music and Art. 3rd Annual Conference. University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN. February 16-20, 2005.[PDF]

Coburn C. A. and A.C.B. Roberts. 2004. A Multiscale Texture Analysis Procedure for Improved Forest Stand Classification. International Journal of Remote Sensing. Vol. 25 (20), 4287-4308.[PDF]

Coburn, C.A., A.C.B. Roberts, and K.C. Bach. 2001. Spectral and Spatial Artifacts from the Use of Desktop Scanners for Remote Sensing. International Journal of Remote Sensing. Vol. 22 (18), 3863-3870.[PDF]

Professional Affiliations

Member, IEEE.
Canadian Remote Sensing Society.
American Society for Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing.
Member of the Canadian Association of Geographers.