GIS/Remote Sensing Technician, EUC; Adjunct Faculty Member & Research Associate, York University
Master of Science in Geography 2004
Bachelors in Environmental Science 2001
PhD in Earth and Space Science & Engineering 2014
About Connie Ko
Connie Ko is the GIS / Remote Sensing technician (Faculty of Environmental and Urban Change), adjunct faculty member and research associate at York University. Besides her work as a GIS / Remote Sensing technician for 18 years, which includes interaction with a wide range of students, faculty members, and staff, she is also involved in several research projects at York University. In particular, she is interested in the processing, analyzing and mapping of LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) data. Ko has 13 years of LiDAR data experience, and her current research interest involves the development and application of AI for 3D object detection using LiDAR data.
Tell me about your career path and journey. What led you to pursue a career in GIS/Remote Sensing?
I finished my B.Sc. Environmental Science Degree at York, with a GIS and Remote Sensing Certificate, and an undergraduate thesis titled “The potential role of tundra ponds in the regional carbon budget of the Hudson Bay Lowland” under the supervision of Dr. Richard Bello. In the thesis, we started early work of using GIS for mapping out the ponds, contour lines and spatial analysis of the Hudson Bay Lowland. I continued to pursue my M.Sc. using more sophisticated geospatial analysis. Under the supervision of Dr. Qiuming Cheng, I worked on using GIS and Remote Sensing for hydrology applications. I graduated with an M.Sc. from York University in 2004, with my thesis titled “Storm runoff volume estimation in the Oak Ridges Moraine area, using GIS and remote sensing techniques.” I was incredibly lucky to be employed as a student in 2003, as the GIS/Remote Sensing Technician under the Department of Geography. Since then, I have had the opportunity to submerge myself with various kinds of GIS and Remote Sensing projects from other faculty members as a technical supporting role.
I decided to pursue my Ph.D. after a few years of being in a staff role to continue my passion towards research and development. Under the supervision of Dr. Gunho Sohn and Tarmo Remmel, I completed my Ph.D. in 2014 with my dissertation titled “Tree genera classification by ensemble classification of small–footprint Airborne LiDAR.” The dissertation was nominated for Best Thesis Award. As a doctoral graduate, I am continuing my research on using LiDAR for AI applications. In 2019, I became an Adjunct Faculty Member in the Faculty of Graduate Studies at York and continue to mentor students by being involved in projects such as 3DMMAI (3D Mobile Mapping Artificial Intelligence) and of ISSUM (Intelligent System for Sustainable Urban Mobility).
My research interest is to use AI methods for object detections, creating benchmark datasets for AI applications, and digital twin platform for the University. In the GIS laboratory over the years, I have developed working experience with students at all levels. In this capacity I have transformed the GIS computer lab into a welcoming space of learning and participatory engagement: from exploring map-art and research projects, and as a forum for discussion, teaching, and learning. Over the years, I have been able to provide intellectual support particularly for students who might need some extra support due to different challenges. I actively contribute to the training of teaching assistants and students in a broad range of labs and tutorials.
What made you choose your program at York? Your MSc to PhD?
The Department of Geography at York University has one of the greatest programs for studying environmental science, or physical geography. What makes the program so special is the great professors we have. The professors at York have excellent teaching skills, and a true passion to mentor. For me, I have a very shy personality and if not for them encouraging me to pursue my education further and further, I would not be where I am right now. If not because of Dr. Bello, I would not have pursued my undergraduate thesis, had great fieldwork experiences (and been able to see polar bears and apply for my M.Sc! Dr. Cheng has provided me with great technical skills during my M.Sc., allowing me to broaden my horizon about how GIS, Remote Sensing, and spatial science can be applied to environmental problems. Over the years I met new professors and under the encouragement of Drs. Cheng and Remmel, I applied to my Ph.D. and through my application, I met Dr. Sohn, whose team I am still continuously perusing my research with.
What is a typical day like for you?
Working as a GIS Remote Sensing Technician, I apply my wide range of knowledge related to computer lab management, planning, personnel relations, and front-line service to students. Not only do I provide technical support, I also actively contribute my knowledge by giving instructions to teaching assistants and students for a broad range of labs and tutorials. I also provide advice on various research projects at undergraduate, graduate, and faculty levels. At the undergraduate level, I am heavily involved with their weekly laboratory assignments, providing help on a daily basis, and discussing teaching materials with their teaching assistants. At the graduate level, I provide help to graduate students (not only within EUC) with advice in using GIS and Remote Sensing analyses related to their research projects. At the faculty level, I sometimes discuss lab material and provide technical assistance (and instruction) so that faculty can deliver their material effectively.
If you could leave current students with a piece of advice, what would it be?
Fully submerge to the academic environment and enjoy every moment of being a student. Read, learn, and write! While EUC offered me a great education, I gained something very valuable beyond it – lasting friendships, mentorship, and support. I am grateful for the great field experiences and the guidance I received from my mentors throughout my education and career.
Do you have a favourite memory or place on campus?
My favourite place on campus is my lab (RN302), I have a lot of memories in there. I studied there as an undergraduate student, I did all my labs and assignments there. I digitize my maps using the digitizing table within the lab. Then, I turn into staff working in that space with students, TAs, and faculty members. I have mentored a countless number of students in that space and brainstorm countless research projects in the lab.