Dr. Temuulen "Teki" Sankey, Associate Professor

Dr. Sankey's research focuses on geospatial data analysis and applications in coupled human-environment systems. She uses satellite-borne multispectral data and airborne hyperspectral and 3-dimensional point cloud data in geospatial and ecological applications. The ecosystems she has studied include: ponderosa pine forests in the southwestern USA, grassland-forest ecotones, aspen communities and pinyon-juniper woodlands of the inter-mountain USA, sagebrush steppe in the northern Great Basin and Columbia Plateau, USA, and grassland steppe and Siberian larch forests of northern Mongolia. At a global scale, Dr. Sankey’s current research focuses on cropland distribution and changes over time as they relate to global food security concerns. At a regional scale, she examines climate change effects on southwestern desert plant communities. In many local-scale studies, Dr. Sankey is excited to use her newly-acquired UAV instrumentation to evaluate the effects of forest restoration treatments on snow accumulation and soil erosion and to model Paria Plateau sand dune dynamics in 3-dimension.


      • -Remote sensing: multispectral satellite data, airborne hyperspectral and 3-dimensional LiDAR data

    • -Geospatial analysis, geoinformatics, geostatistics, GIS

  • -Unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) image analysis and applications

  • -Data fusion: spectral data and 3-dimensional point cloud data


  • PhD, Land Resources and Environmental Sciences, Montana State University, 2006
  • MS, Land Resources and Environmental Sciences, Montana State University, 2001

Department Webpage: School of Informatics, Computing, and Cyber systems

Department Webpage: School of Earth Sciences and Environmental Sustainability

Contact: Temuulen.Sankey@nau.edu  | Resume: PDF

Jonathon Donager, PhD Student

Jonathon has a varied background, going from geology to linguistics in his undergrad, then finding his way to geography, remote sensing, and geospatial analysis in graduate school. The overall theme of his research has been the use of geospatial data and tools for resource management and spatial ecology. The project he is currently working on in Flagstaff focuses on the use of ground- and UAV-based sensors for understanding the complex interactions of ponderosa pine forest restoration with snowpack. Jonathon is particularly interested in the fusion of remotely sensed satellite data with high resolution, UAV and terrestrially based 3-dimensional snow estimates using lidar and photogrammetric techniques.
Jonathon sees his current and future research tying together big geospatial datasets with resource management, specifically the nexus of forests, fire, and water. In the face of an uncertain climatic future, our management of natural resources will become increasingly necessary for human habitation. Having moved to Flagstaff from the Reno / Tahoe area, he is well acquainted with how fire and water are tied together.

Ryan Lima, PhD Student

In collaboration with the Grand Canyon Research and Monitoring Center at the USGS, Ryan is working to improve techniques to quantify volume changes in Grand Canyon sand bars following high flow experiments. Results will inform adaptive management of the Colorado River in Grand Canyon National Park. Ryan is utilizing 20+ years of photographs taken from remote cameras located within Grand Canyon National Park. His goal is to develop a program that can perform unsupervised classification of sandbars and provide accurate volume estimates of sandbars. Ryan has spent the past two years in Flagstaff earning a M.S. in Environmental Science and Policy, and is looking forward to several more years at NAU.

Adam Belmonte, PhD Student

Adam has joined the Remote Sensing and Geoinformatics Lab as a graduate student in the recently formed School of Informatics, Computing, and Cyber Systems. He is looking to expand the abilities of high resolution UAV data collection and how to best incorporate this data into current remote sensing methodologies. More specifically, he is interested in the possible ecohydrological applications of UAVs in the calculation of evapotranspiration and soil moisture dry down rates over semi-arid forest ecosystems. Since earning his M.S. in Applied Geospatial Sciences from NAU, Adam has been circling the Colorado Plateau chasing water, making maps, and enjoying the inspiration of the region.

Joshua Caster, PhD Student

Joshua Caster is pursuing a PhD degree in Earth and Environmental Sciences, while also working as a scientist for the US Geological Survey. Joshua Caster is physical scientist with research in earth surface processes, soil geomorphology, and geoarchaeology. His current project is looking at ways to combine spectral imagery and repeat topography to examine bio-geomorphic interactions. This research centers around defining novel approaches to quantify biological soil crust establishment and sedimentary environment stabilization. Joshua also works with various lidar datasets in complex terrain. 

Contact: jc3574

Nathaniel Bransky, MS Student

Nathaniel joined us as an undergraduate research assistant and is now working on his MS degree in our lab. His research evaluates the use of various satellite imagery products for studying Tamarix in Grand Canyon, in collaboration with scientists at the USGS Grand Canyon Monitoring and Research Center. Specifically, he is interested in using publicly available satellite products, such as Landsat, to quantify defoliation events and mortality of Tamarisk by the Tamarisk beetle. Through this project Nathaniel hopes to inform the scientific community as to when these free products are effective in capturing phenological changes in complex topographic regions, and when commercial products are a better alternative.

Contact: ndb65

Richard Massey, Former PhD student

Richard Massey graduated with a PhD from our lab in Fall, 2017 and became a post-doctoral research associate in another lab at NAU. As a part of a NASA-funded 5-year project GFSAD30 (Croplands.org), Richard studied global croplands in our lab. Richard is interested in developing novel pixel-, object-, and temporal feature-based approaches to classify croplands at a continental scale using MODIS and Landsat time-series data. Proficient in multiple programming languages, he is particularly interested in fusion of remote sensing data from multiple platforms at a continental scale. With background in Civil Engineering and Geodesy, his varied skill set includes computing cluster-based parallel programming, cloud computing using Google Earth Engine and Google Cloud Platform to optimize processing and classification of dense continental remote sensing datasets, and proficiency in the use of Geodesic methods for mapping and ground surveys. Richard's research focuses on improving our ability to accurately detect and monitor natural and man-made land resources for policy development towards efficient resource management.From his dissertation in our lab, Richard has published 2 manuscripts in the highest-ranking disciplinary journal Remote Sensing of Environment and they can be accessed here and here. Contact: rm885@nau.edu 

Daniel Solazzo, Former MS Student

Dan graduated with a MS degree from our lab in Fall, 2017 and moved to the east coast to pursue his career. In collaboration with USGS scientists, Dan studies rangeland degradation and soil erosion. Using satellite and UAV data time-series, Dan is interested in estimating sand dune area, volume, and erosion rates at annual to decadal scales. Dan also measures these rates at finer spatial and temporal scales using UAV-based 3-dimensional point cloud data. Specifically, Dan is interested in linking the land degradation processes to environmental management policies and land use changes. From his MS thesis, Dan published a peer-reviewed manuscript in the journal Geomorphology and it can be accessed here. 

Kaitlyn Elkind, Former MS Student

Kaitlyn graduated with her MS degree in Fall, 2017 and became a lab manager at one of ASU's research labs. Kaitlyn studies the invasive species buffelgrass in Saguaro National Park located in Tucson, Arizona. Using satellite (Landsat & WorldView) imagery and UAVs, she is working to improve the detection and monitoring of this species in the park to help managers identify control treatment strategies. Specifically she is interested in seeing how effective the restoration treatments are in battling the fight against buffelgrass.

Patrick Shin, Former MS Student

Patrick graduated from our lab in Spring, 2018 and became a research associate with the US Forest Service Rocky Mountain Research Station. Patrick studies the application of UAV and satellite imagery in forest management. Specifically, he is interested in using 3D point cloud data from UAVs and structure-from-motion, in conjunction with high-resolution satellite imagery, to measure forest structure. This data can then be used to aid in restoration treatments and wildland fire management. By using remote sensing, Patrick would like to provide forest land managers with accurate, comprehensive, and timely information to conduct precise planning and management of their resources. From his MS thesis, Patrick published a peer-reviewed manuscript in the journal Remote Sensing and it can be accessed here.