Douglas A. Stow


Doug StowDistinguished Emeritus Professor of Geography (on FERP)
Storm Hall 307B | [email protected]
Curriculum Vitae

Dr. Douglas (Doug) Stow is a Distinguished Professor Emeritus at San Diego State University (SDSU) and has been on the Geography faculty for over 40 years. He has over 45 years of experience in the remote sensing field. His research focuses on multitemporal image analysis, with an emphasis on mapping and monitoring of land use and land cover, vegetation and habitat condition, wildfire behavior analysis and post-hazard damage assessment. He teaches courses in remote sensing, GIScience and wildfire science and management. Doug served as major advisor of 14 doctoral and 71 master’s degree students. He is Co-Founder and Co-Director of the Center for Earth Systems Analysis Research. He authored over 200 refereed publications and served as a principal investigator for 50 grants and contracts with funding totaling over $35 million. Doug is an ASPRS Fellow and received the SAIC John Estes Teaching Award from ASPRS, and the Association of American Geographers Remote Sensing Specialty Group, Outstanding Contributions in Remote Sensing Award. He was selected as the Albert W. Johnson Lecturer for the 2015-16 Academic Year, and with it was designated Distinguished Professor of Geography.

  • Ph.D., University of California, Santa Barbara, 1985, Doctoral Intercampus Transfer, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California, San Diego
  • M.A., University of California, Santa Barbara, 1978
  • B.A., University of California, Santa Barbara, 1976
  • GEOG 104: Geographic Information Science and Spatial Reasoning
  • GEOG 512: World on Fire
  • GEOG 591: Remote Sensing of Environment
  • GEOG 592: Intermediate Remote Sensing of Environment
  • GEOG 688: Advanced Remote Sensing
  • GEOG 688L: Advanced Remote Sensing Lab
  • GEOG 780: Seminar in Techniques of Spatial Analysis
  • Wildfire fuel and spread relationships, and post-disturbance recovery for shrublands of southern California

  • Repeat station imaging (RSI) in support of wide-area and time-sensitive land surface monitoring

  • Monitoring shrubland habitat in southern California with remote sensing and image processing technologies.

  • Impacts of ecosystem service payments in coupled natural and human systems

The research group of Dr. Doug Stow, Distinguished Professor of Geography at San Diego State University, emphasizes multi-temporal remote sensing for a wide range of applications and techniques. Multi-temporal remote sensing pertains to the processing and analysis of images captured by sensors on aerial and satellite platforms for the same locations over time. Access to multi-temporal data provides users with the ability to monitor and study land surface dynamics associated with human activities and natural processes; update maps; and track changes in infrastructure, as well as movements of people, plants and animals. More specifically, Dr. Stow and his team of students, post-docs and staff currently conduct research within the following realms: (1) wildfire processes and postfire vegetation recovery; (2) mapping and monitoring of vegetation, habitat and wildlife; (3) land use and land cover change associated with urbanization; and (4) repeat station imaging for detailed change detection and inspection. Current projects and participants are summarized below.


Wildfire processes and postfire vegetation recovery

Southern California is particularly prone to large, catastrophic fires, making it worthwhile to better understand how wildfires spread and how vegetation recovers after burning. With support from the National Science Foundation (NSF) and US Forest Service, Stow and his SDSU team, and collaborators with the U.S. Forest Service and National Center for Atmospheric Research developed and tested new approaches for: (1) measuring rates of wildfire spread through repetitive airborne thermal infrared imaging, (2) understanding how fuels, topography and weather control spread rates (3) mapping and analyzing fire intensity and overall energy input to shrubland and forest ecosystems of southern California, and (4) mapping tree mortality and analyzing its influence of burn severity following wildfires. A recent NASA Equity and Environmental Justice grant is supporting research on integrating satellite image-based products into community vulnerability to wildfire assessment, with an emphasis on vulnerability of Tribal communities.

Mapping and monitoring vegetation, habitat and wildlife

As part of an NSF Complex Human-Environment Systems (CNH-L) funded project for which Geography Professor Li An is P.I., Stow, collaborators and SDSU students are developing and testing drone imaging techniques for characterizing vegetation structure in Chitwan National Park and environs, to understand how natural resource management actions and human activities are influencing large mammals such as rhinos, tigers and elephants and their habitats.

Repeat station imaging for detailed change detection and inspection

For over 20 years, research and campus GIS database staff member Pete Coulter and Stow have conducted research on detecting very detailed changes of land surfaces and infrastructure features. This is based on relatively low-cost aerial imaging systems, including drones, and a new approach to capturing and co-aligning images captured over time called repeat station imaging (RSI). RSI supports applications such as infrastructure inspection, law enforcement, post-hazard damage assessment, and even detection and censusing of large animals. This research was funded by federal agencies such as DHS, DOT, NASA and NSF. Coulter and Stow have five issued U.S. patents related to this technology and are collaborating with a local company to commercialize this intellectual property. Former doctoral student Andy Loerch’s dissertation research built on RSI image capture with drones and co-alignment techniques and integrates advanced machine learning object classifiers to automatically detect damage to built structures and infrastructure following earthquakes and other hazards. Drone image capture, using survey-grade GPS and image co-alignment software tools that Andy developed, are providing prototypes for commercial applications through the ChangeAerial startup which Coulter, Loerch and Stow co-founded.

Current grants, contracts and cooperative agreements

  • NSF Geography and Spatial Sciences, Landscape-level Measurements of and Controls on Wildfire Spread Rates, $295,000, 2016-2019.
  • US Forest Service, Effects of Drought Stress and Forest Management on Fire Behavior and Post-Fire Forest Structure in a Western Coniferous Forest, $92,000, 2018 – 2023.
  • California Strategic Growth Council, Climate Smart Connectivity Planning for Southern California Communities, (Megan Jennings and Rebecca Lewison, Co-PIs), $1,800,000, 2019-2023.
  • NSF CNH-L: People, Place, and Payments in Complex Human-Environment Systems, Impacts of Ecosystem Service Payments in Coupled Natural and Human Systems, Co-PI, (Li An, P.I.), $1,450,000, 2018-2023.
  • National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Spatial Decision Support for Fire management in Indigenous Cultural and Stewardship Practices, Co-PI, (Megan Jennings, PI) $250,000, 2022-2024.
  • US Forest Service, Remote Sensing of Forest Health and Fire Effects, SDSU PI, (Philip Riggan USFS, PI) $27,000, 2023-2024.

Doctoral Students

  • Krista West - Satellite-based monitoring of herb expansion and implications on fire regime in southern California

Master’s Students

  • Elizabeth Bushnell – Comparison of drone LiDAR and Structure from Motion photogrammetry approaches to mapping and monitoring rocky intertidal habitats in southern California
  • Brenna Fowler – Vegetation structure analysis of Chitwan National Park, Nepal, based on uncrewed aerial imagery and Structure from Motion photogrammetry
  • Alexander McFadden - Estimating fire radiative energy density with repetitive aerial thermal infrared imaging of actively progressing wildfires
  • Nowshin Nawar – Influence of tree mortality on burn severity for southern California forests based on aerial optical imagery
  • Thomas Smith - Plant canopy change analyses based on multi-temporal aerial imagery and Structure from Motion techniques
  • Matthew Twyman – Spatial decision support for community wildfire vulnerability in southern California, with an emphasis on Tribal lands