‘A bonus to my promotion’

| Rense Kuipers

Yifang Shi is the winner of this year’s ITC PhD Publication Award. The PhD student from the department of natural resources received the award and 1500 euros yesterday, for her paper about mapping tree species using multi-source remotely sensed data.

Yifang focused on tree species classification in Bavarian Forest National Park, Germany. ‘Having a variety of trees is essential for an ecosystem. So it’s important to protect certain rare species. To do so, we have to know where they are.’ That was the main focus of her research. ‘We combined spectral information from optical imagery with structural features from LiDAR data; two complementary information systems that helped us to identify different tree species. Eventually, we want to build a model that can automatically identify tree species.’

Three finalists

Yifang was one of three finalists yesterday: two from the natural resources department and one from water resources. ‘After speeches from professors about publishing high quality papers, I felt the tension increasing when the ceremony started. But I told myself: it doesn’t matter if you win or not, I’m defending my PhD thesis in January, which is already an accomplishment.’


In the end, she was declared the winner of the Publication Award. ‘I heard that one of the reasons was that I didn’t choose for a data-driven workflow. Instead, I started by looking from the perspective of the trees. This feels like a bonus to my promotion.’

Yifang also knows what she will do with the prize money. ‘My parents are coming over from China for my PhD defense next month. I want to use the money to show them around in Europe. During their visit last year, we didn’t get to visit Italy. So for a year now, my mother keeps on telling me that she wants to see Venice.’