Surveying Camp

Summer geomatics field courses are in progress. Despite the rain, students are committed to completing their tasks!

Photo Credit: Tetiana Sitiugina

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Prof. McElroy at the Brewer Ozone Spetrophotometer Workshop

Professor Tom McElroy of ESSE will be attending the biennial Brewer Ozone Spectrophotometer workshop in Mazagon, Spain at the end of May this spring.  Approximately 20 Brewer spectrometers will be brought together for maintenance and calibration at the Spanish El Arenosillo rocket range on the Atlantic coast South of Portugal.  McElroy designed the double monochromator Brewer which is gradually replacing the original single Brewer in the global network.  Ozone data and UV spectra collected by the Brewer were used to develop the UV Index, reported in the weather forecast in 25 countries around the world.  May 27 marks the 25th anniversary of the introduction of the UV Index.   McElroy and colleagues David Wardle and James  Kerr are credited with its invention.  There are now more than 200 Brewers in service globally.

The featured image displays Brewer Ozone Spectrophotometers on the roof of the El Arenosillo observatory in spring of 2015 (Photo Credit: Tom McElroy)


By: Prof. Tom McElroy


European Geosciences Union 2017

Dr. Peter Taylor and Dr. Keith Aldridge have spent the week of April 23rd-28th at European Geosciences Union (EGU) General Assembly 2017 held in Vienna, Austria. EGU General Assembly brings together geoscientists from around the world to one meeting covering all disciplines of the Earth, planetary and space sciences.

Dr. Taylor has given a talk “Observation and Modelling of Fog at Cold Lake, Alberta, Canada,” slides for which can be found here

Ground Instruments at Cold Lake, Alberta (Photo Credit: Peter Taylor)

Ground Instruments at Cold Lake, Alberta (Photo Credit: Peter Taylor)


Google earth map of Cold Lake (54°N, 110°W, 541 m ASL) and ECCC’s ground instruments site (Photo Credit: Peter Taylor)

Google earth map of Cold Lake (54°N, 110°W, 541 m ASL) and ECCC’s ground instruments site (Photo Credit: Peter Taylor)

An Interview: Dr. Sunil Bisnath

Dr. Sunil Bisnath (Photo Credit:

Dr. Sunil Bisnath
(Photo Credit:

What is your educational background?

I obtained a BSc and an MSc in Surveying Science at University of Toronto, and a PhD in Geomatics Engineering from the University of New Brunswick.

What is your most memorable project?

The first one that comes to mind is a project that I worked on as a PhD student: assessing GPS-based helicopter approaches on an 80-storey oil platform under construction in a Newfoundland harbour.

If you could create any course at York, which course would you create?

A multi-sensor integration course. Students will take different sensors, e.g., GPS, inertial, optical, etc. and integrate them physically and with optimal estimation code in order to produce positioning and orientation solutions. Actually, soon this course will be introduced as a fourth-year technical elective, possibly integrated with a graduate component.

Which part of teaching is most exciting to you?

Being in the lectures, interacting with students, and seeing them learn through understanding the concepts.

What do you like/dislike about York the most?

Like: The learning environment – to see students learn, but also learning new things myself. Coming in every day and doing so many various tasks has always made the job interesting from my first day at York.

Dislike: Administration and bureaucracy. We work to try to change (fix, improve) things, but intuitional change is always difficult.

Favourite building at York?

I don’t know about favourite, but I think that the coolest building is the new York University Subway Station.

What’s your pet peeve?

Stupidity in general – on the roads, on the news, etc. Another one is ignorance –  when people aren’t even trying to understand something.

Favorite quote?

“Great spirits have often encountered violent opposition from weak minds.” – Albert Einstein

Favorite Lassonde colour?  

Blue I guess; it is the colour of our department.

Favorite food?  

Almost everything! It’s easier to say what I don’t like – quinoa, for example.

Favorite movie?

“It’s a Wonderful Life”. It’s an old Christmas movie that basically says that life is not that bad at all.

What do you do in your free time?

Work! But, if its an answer, playing with my now five year old son and seeing him learn … everything.

If you could be any age, which age would you choose and why?

I would just be my age, as I’ve never had a problem of being too old or too young.

Where would you like to travel to?

Luckily, with my job, I have travelled to many places already. I would like to go to Antarctica, as it’s the only continent I have yet to visit. I don’t know if I want to stay there for too long though! I also want to go to all the other continents again … and again.

A few items from your bucket list?

I would love to go on Safari in Africa with my son for him to see what I saw previously. I also want to visit every single national park in Canada with him son. We have already started, and we are visiting a few more parks this summer, but there are a lot of national parks!

Another item is to find that elusive work-life balance and to maintain it.

Interesting fact about yourself?

I was born in Trinidad.

Anything you would like to add?

I like what we’re doing, and I hope we can further improve the student experience and ESSE community.


Summer/Winter Apple/PC Star Wars/Star Trek Ketchup/Mustard


Mars Rover Spots Clouds Shaped by Gravity Waves

Even though NASA’s Curiosity rover mostly focuses on Mars’s bedrock, every few days it observes the sky. Last summer, the rover has shot the first ground-based view of Martian clouds shaped by gravity waves as recently reported at the Lunar and Planetary Science Conference. These shots are the best record made so far of a mysterious recurring belt of equatorial clouds known to influence the martial climate.

The potential gravity wave cloud captured by  Curiosity’s navigation camera. (Photo Credit:  NASA/JPL-Caltech/York University)

The potential gravity wave cloud captured by
Curiosity’s navigation camera.
(Photo Credit:
NASA/JPL-Caltech/York University)

“Understanding these clouds will help inform estimates of ground ice depth and perhaps recurring slope lineae, potential flows of salty water on the surface,” says John Moores, a planetary scientist at York University in Toronto, Canada, who led the study with his graduate student, Jake Kloos. “If we wish to understand the water story of Mars’s past,” Moores says, “we first need to [separate out] contributions from the present-day water cycle.”

During Curiosity’s 1302th  martian day, it saw a sequence of straight, parallel rows of clouds flowing in the same direction, known as gravity wave clouds. Not to be confused with gravitational waves, gravity waves are atmospheric ripples that result from air trying to regain its vertical balance. Similar to the waves that follow a pebble tossed into a pond, gravity waves are created when some unknown feature of the martian landscape causes a ripple in the atmosphere that is then seen in clouds. Such waves are common at the edge of the martian ice caps, but thought to be less frequent over its equator.

It is not certain those are gravity waves, however. They could also be “cloud sheets”, a similar looking pattern that’s potentially associated with strong winds striking heated air parcels as they near the top of the lower atmosphere.

 Read the full article here

Adopted from  the article by Paul Voosen in “Science Magazine”


48th Lunar and Planetary Science Conference

On March 20th-24th, ESSE students have attended the 48th Lunar and Planetary Science Conference (LPSC) in The Woodlands, Texas. Twelve members of the department were in attendance, including nine students from John Moores’s group, two from Mike Daly’s group, and one from Jim Whiteway’s group.

By: Prof. John Moores

AOLS Student Poster Awards

p2The Educational Foundation of the Association of Ontario land Surveyors (AOLS) sponsored a Graduate Student Poster session at the AGM in Ottawa during the National Surveyors Conference, March 1-3, 2017. The awards handed out were: Gold ($2000), Silver ($1500), Bronze ($1000), Fourth Place ($750) and Fifth Place ($500).

The posters were judged on aspects of content, innovation, clarity, layout, acknowledgements, esthetics and overall presentation. The Judging Committee was composed of three judges from Geomatics Industry/Academia who are members of the Association of Ontario Land Surveyors.

Our ESS program has a strong participation and three of our graduate students received the Gold, Silver and Fourth place poster awards.

John Aggrey (PhD candidate)

Gold Award

Poster title: From dual- to triple-frequency multi-GNSS PPP: Benefits and challenges

Supervisor: Sunil Bisnath

Ravi Persad (PhD candidate)

Silver Award

Poster title: Alignment of 3D models from UAV and laser scanning systems

Supervisor: Costas Armenakis

Julien Li-Chi-Ming (PhD candidate)

Fourth place Award

Poster title: Assessing the mapping accuracy of mobile 3D scanners

Supervisor: Costas Armenakis


Congratulations to our graduate students!

By: Prof. Costas Armenakis

Prof. Jarvis Spending Two Months at Harvard University

Prof. Gary Jarvis is currently spending two months of March and April at the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, Harvard University, collaborating with Prof. J. Mitrovica on dynamics topography produced by convective flow in the mantle and the mantle convection models of detached slab remnants below continental collision zones. Prof. Jarvis is also scheduled to give an invited lecture on these topics at Harvard University on April 19th.

By: Prof. Gary Jarvis

An Interview: Dr. Spiros Pagiatakis


Dr. Spiros Pagiatakis (Photo Credit: Lassonde School of Engineering)


What is your educational background?

I have a degree in Surveying Engineering (which is now called Geomatics Engineering) from Greece (Athens) and higher degrees (MScE and PhD) in Geodesy and Geodynamics from University of New Brunswick in Fredericton.

What is your most memorable project?

I greatly enjoy all projects I work on, so it is difficult to choose… One of the most memorable ones is when I undertook the task to determine the post-glacial rebound signature using legacy gravity measurements, which were taken over 50 to 60 years period.

 If you could create any course at York, which course would you create?

I would create an open course, which would bring together science, engineering, arts, humanities, and social sciences,  to demonstrate that there are no boundaries among these disciplines.

Which part of teaching is most exciting to you?

It is definitely interactive teaching and “flipped classroom” concept, where the students take over the learning process. I simply don’t like monologues.

Can you tell us about blended learning?

Blended learning takes a step away from simple traditional teaching from the podium, which I consider a one-way communication. Learning has to be experienced through a variety of activities, such as projects, lectures, interactive and experiential learning, etc. These are all different learning modes, taken from our daily experiences – when we listen to seminars, interact with people, work on projects… basically, the way life teaches us on a daily basis.

What do you like/dislike about York the most?

Like:  The students and the diversity of cultures.

Dislike: Micromanagement and bureaucracy.

Favorite building at York?

Bergeron, because it is relatively open to interactive learning.

What’s your pet peeve?

Get off your cellphone and texting, be social and interact face-to-face! Turn it off  when in class, at a social gathering, at a restaurant, in meetings…

Favorite quote?

“Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds.” By Albert Einstein

Favorite Lassonde colour?

Blue, the colour of our department.

Favorite food? 

I love food in general!

Favorite movie?

I don’t watch many movies, but I prefer light ones, such as “Mama Mia”.

What do you do in your free time?

I normally work on cars or work at home building things.

If you could be any age, which age would you choose and why?

I would choose thirties, because this would give me enough time to do all the things I want to do.

Where would you like to travel to?

I’d like to go to exotic islands in the Atlantic, Pacific, Caribbean, etc.

Interesting fact about yourself?

I don’t need much sleep, I don’t get tired, and I can go for a long time without food.


Summer/Winter      Apple/PC      Star Wars/Star Trek      Ketchup/Mustard


ESSE Teaching Retreat

On Wednesday, February 22nd, a number of ESSE faculty members as well as staff and one grad student attended ESSE’s annual teaching retreat. It was again held in the Victoria room at Black Creek Pioneer Village. As they arrived in the morning, faculty members were encouraged to sit with other faculty members in their programs: Geomatics, Space, and Earth and Atmospheric Science in order to be prepared for a group activity. Franz led the morning session talking about active learning exercises and their implementation to increase student understanding and grasp of material, as opposed to traditional lecture-type learning. The bulk of the morning was spent reviewing our program themes and the learning outcomes, with some suggestions identified for better alignment of learning outcomes. Some conversations also made use of the student focus group feedback gathered for some of the programs just before reading week. The morning concluded on rubric-based assessment in engineering disciplines, and Franz had a chance to show everyone some of the results of our accreditation data collection from the Fall semester. We have noticed that this semester, there is a big improvement in the number of courses with posted CLOs, however there is still room for more of us to provide assessment grades broken down by learning outcome! (On which note – a gentle reminder to provide the necessary accreditation materials this semester!). Regina drove an ESSE-related quiz asking us how well we knew our students and courses; the winners of this year’s quiz were Mojgan and Costas. In the afternoon, programs reviewed courses that were common with other programs in the department, and towards the end of the day, undergraduate program directors stayed at their tables and other faculty members switched tables to review other programs’ structures and changes. The discussions during the day were honest and open, and it was great to have so many faculty members together to discuss teaching in the department. A feedback survey will be available soon.

By: Dr. Franz Newland and Sandra Sinayuk