Geomatics PhD student takes home Enbridge Graduate Student Award

Sowmya Natesan

York geomatics PhD student Sowmya Natesan has been selected as the recipient of the Enbridge Graduate Student Award for her research on tree species identification. The award supports students at York University pursuing research in sustainability and the environment.

After completing her master’s degree in remote sensing at the Indian Institute of Technology, Natesan joined Lassonde’s Geomatics Engineering PhD program as an international student, attracted by the endless career opportunities Canada offered her field of study.

Natesan said that she has since found the expertise and breadth of experience of Lassonde’s professors extremely helpful in driving her research forward, and she indicated that she is continuously impressed with the high-level multidisciplinary research being conducted across the school.

“I am particularly grateful to my supervisor, Professor Costas Armenakis, for his incredible support and encouragement,” said Natesan.

Her research focuses on individual tree species identification in forests using technologies such as unmanned aerial vehicles and deep learning, with the goal of introducing a cost-effective method to automatically identify tree species in forests.

Precise tree species classification will play an important role in the monitoring of biodiversity, forest health, wildlife habitat modelling, hazard management and climate change studies, helping to ensure the sustainability of Canada’s publicly owned forests.

Canada is home to nine per cent of the world’s overall forest cover, making the country’s resources essential to future environment, communities and economy.

“Efficient management of Canadian forests provide critical contributions to the conservation of the global ecosystem. Canada is committed to sustainably managed forests,” said Natesan, whose work is contributing to this goal through applications like robotization in forestry.

“As a mother of a two-year-old, this award gives me great confidence in my abilities,” she said. “It’s been challenging juggling studies and motherhood, but I’m motivated to work even harder. This award helps me work toward my degree without the financial worry.”