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PhD in Geographic Information Systems

There is rising demand for advanced research and researchers in the field of geospatial technologies.
The demand stems from the dependence of the country’s key decision makers and administrators on GIS and spatial data. Administrative areas like disaster management, management and conservation of natural resources, infrastructure planning and development, and land use planning rely on the availability of accurate and high-quality spatial data.

Rapid advancements in Geographic Information Systems and Global Positioning Systems have made it possible to correlate and use map information from diverse sources, in tandem, at the click of a mouse. There is a strong need now to develop the science of GIS, so that advancements in geospatial technologies can help organisations compete in national and international markets. Although routine GIS applications are managed by GIS analysts, research-based products cannot be addressed until PhD level candidates are inducted into the private/public GIS sectors.

NIIT University’s (NU) Doctor of Philosophy programme in Geographic Information Systems programme aims to nurture researchers capable of advancing the frontiers of knowledge in geospatial information sciences. Through improved theories, new technologies, innovative methodologies, sophisticated quantitative analyses, and integrative applications, the PhD in GIS programme aims to foster advanced thinking and problem solving among researchers. The goal is to build competent doctoral scholars with an ability to perform advanced quantitative analysis in spatial modelling, spatial computing and remote sensing.

Areas of Research

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) estimates (AR4, 2007) that 20 per cent of global carbon emissions originate from land-use changes such as deforestation and forest degradation. To combat this phenomenon, reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation or REDD plus (as is widely known), is a set of steps designed to use market and financial incentives in order to reduce the emissions of greenhouse gases from deforestation and forest degradation. There have been many drivers of deforestation which can be planned land-cover changes resulting from zoned infrastructure development and agriculture or unplanned changes that usually occur in areas of poor governance, often manifesting themselves as spontaneous settlements along roads, near mines or adjacent to existing settlements. Areas at risk from both planned and unplanned deforestation and forest degradation are eligible for REDD+ payments after emission reductions have been measured and verified.

Neemrana is the perfect site for GIS research. The development of industries and educational institutions in the region have resulted in a connected inflow of people and their domestic settlements. These settlements have led to a change in land use and its patterns. On the other hand, afforestation activities have continued to create a carbon sink. The amount by which emissions have decreased can be measured and modelled and can be systematically and accurately recorded and analysed using GIS, which will lead to the evaluation of current practices and effective strategies for future purposes. The key areas of GIS research at NU are:

  • Modelling areas at risk of deforestation
  • Estimating carbon stocks, emissions and probable benefits from REDD+

A recent controversy about the rate of vanishing Himalayan glaciers due to an erroneous statement in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Fourth Assessment Report, has shown major gaps in the knowledge about the behaviour of the Himalayan glaciers. There is a lack of information about long-term glacier changes and climate change in the Garhwal Himalayas. Field surveys are difficult to conduct due to complex terrain and harsh weather conditions. Thanks to the availability of remotely sensed and climate datasets, it is now possible to analyse large data-sparse glacier basins.

The focus of NU’s PhD GIS programme is to estimate the glacier changes in Garhwal Himalayas during the last five decades as a consequence of regional climatic changes using remote sensing and GIS methods. The objectives of the ongoing research are sixfold:

  • To define knowledge-based parameters which affect glacier formation and melting such as accumulation area, ablation area, slope, snow line altitude, total area, mass balance, etc.
  • To develop knowledge-based glacier mapping techniques, which can utilise the visible, shortwave and thermal infrared data with topographic parameters
  • To quantify spatio-temporal patterns of glacier changes in the Garhwal Himalayas in the past decades using a developed knowledge-based approach
  • To derive mass change of glaciers using remote sensing geodetic method using multi-temporal DEMs
  • To estimate the ice thickness distribution and volume of Gangotri glacier using Artificial Neural Networks
  • To forecast the glacier status of Garhwal Himalayas with the help of a developed knowledgebase
Imaging spectrometers, or hyperspectral sensors, are remote sensing instruments that combine the spatial presentation of an imaging sensor with the analytical capabilities of a spectrometer. They may have up to several hundred narrow spectral bands with spectral resolution in the order of 10nm or narrower. They have the capability to identify various earth surface features. At NU, researchers are working on the development of methodologies for the identification and classification of complex earth surfaces such as snow, ice, water and vegetation.
Web-based GIS is evolved from different Web maps and client-server architecture to distributed ones. Consequently, Internet redesigns all functions of information systems like gathering, storing, retrieving, analysing, and visualising data. Sharing spatial information on the web improves decision-making processes. NU’s research in this area aims to develop high performance Web GIS applications that can provide visualisation, querying and analysing spatial information on the fly.

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