Willem van Leeuwen

Director Arizona Remote Sensing Center
  School of Natural Resources and the Environment - Office of Arid Lands Studies
  School of Geography and Development
Chair Remote Sensing and Spatial Analysis Graduate Interdisciplinary Program

Arizona Remote Sensing Center
1064 East Lowell Street
The University of Arizona
Tucson, AZ 85721
Office: ENR2 N410



1995             Ph.D., University of Arizona, Tucson, Arizona. Major: Soil and Water & Remote Sensing (Dept. of Soil, Water and Environmental Science)

1988             M.S., Wageningen University, University for Life Sciences, Wageningen, The Netherlands. Major Field: Soils and Remote Sensing. Department of Soil Science

1986             B.S., Wageningen University, University for Life Sciences, Wageningen, The Netherlands. Major Field: Soils. Department of Soil Science


The most exciting research projects I am pursuing are multi-disciplinary in nature. My main research interests lie in understanding soil and vegetation ecosystem dynamics and how they respond to climate and human interactions. These interests center on the diverse ecosystems of the Western U.S. My research efforts seek an improved understanding of long term landscape-scale dynamics in forest and rangeland ecosystems, concentrating especially on ecosystem health and sustainability.

In the southwestern United States, drought, wildfire and monsoon rainfall events can have a devastating impact on the sustainable use of natural resources. As such, understanding ecosystems responses to and the effects of wildfire, water erosion and management activities are foci of my research interests. In addition to applying remote sensing and GIS techniques to problems of sustainable land use and land degradation, a long-term goal of mine is to develop new drought and ecosystem monitoring products based on the integration of climate data and remotely sensed land surface temperature and biophysical data.

Current research projects revolve around Decision Support Systems and the integration of remotely sensed products in Geographic Information Systems in order to monitor natural resources, vegetation dynamics, post-wildfire effects, and land degradation through time and across landscapes.

Remote sensing science research interests include canopy and atmospheric radiative tranfer, multispectral time series analysis for better understanding  climate and phenology interactions, lidar and multispectral data fusion for enhanced land cover classifications.


Select Publications
van Leeuwen, Willem J.D., Kyle Hartfield, Marcelo Miranda, Francisco J. Meza, 2013. Trends and ENSO/AAO driven variability in NDVI derived productivity and phenology alongside the Andes Mountains. In: Monitoring Global Vegetation with AVHRR NDVI3g Data (1981-2011), Remote Sens., In Press.

Casady, G.M., Willem J.D. van Leeuwen, Reed, B.C., 2013. Estimating Winter Annual Biomass in the Sonoran and Mojave Deserts with Satellite- and Ground-Based Observations. Remote Sens., 5, 909-926.

Landau, K.I. MA, Willem J.D. van Leeuwen, 2012. Fine scale spatial urban land cover factors associated with adult mosquito abundance and risk in Tucson, Arizona. Journal of Vector Ecology, 37(2):407-418.

Kariyeva, J. , Willem J. D. van Leeuwen, C. A. Woodhouse, 2012. Impacts of climate gradients on the vegetation phenology of major land use types in Central Asia (1981-2008) Frontiers of Earth Science, 6(2):206-225.

Kariyeva, J. , Willem J.D. van Leeuwen, 2012. Phenological dynamics of irrigated and natural drylands in Central Asia before and after the USSR collapse. Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment, 162, 77-89.

Romo Leon, J. R., Willem J.D. van Leeuwen, G. M. Casady, 2012. Using MODIS-NDVI for the Modeling of Post-Wildfire Vegetation Response as a Function of Environmental Conditions and Pre-Fire Restoration Treatments. Remote Sensing. 4(3): 598-621.

Villarreal, M.L., Willem J.D. van Leeuwen, Jose Raul Romo-Leon. 2012. Mapping and monitoring riparian vegetation distribution, structure and composition with regression tree models and post-classification change metrics, International Journal of Remote Sensing, 33:13, 4266-4290

Hartfield, K.A., Landau, Katheryn I., Willem J.D. van Leeuwen, 2011. Fusion of High Resolution Aerial Multispectral and LiDAR Data: Land Cover in the Context of Urban Mosquito Habitat. Remote Sensing, 3(11): 2364-2383.

van Leeuwen, Willem J.D, Chuck Hutchinson, Sam Drake, Brad Doorn, Verne Kaupp, Tim Haithcoat, Vladislav Likholetov, Ed Sheffner, and Dave Tralli, 2011. Benchmarking enhancements to a decision support system for global crop production, Expert Systems with Applications 38(7): 8054-806.

Kariyeva, Jahan, and Willem J.D. van Leeuwen, 2011. Environmental Drivers of NDVI-based Vegetation Dynamics in Central Asia, Special Issue Remote Sensing in Climate Monitoring and Analysis - Remote Sensing3(2), 203-246.

Davison, J.E., Breshears, D.D., van Leeuwen, W.J.D., & Casady, G.M., 2011. Remotely sensed vegetation phenology and productivity along a climatic gradient: on the value of incorporating the dimension of woody plant cover. Global Ecology and Biogeography, 20, 101–113.

Casady, G.M., Willem J.D. van Leeuwen, S.E. Marsh. 2010. Evaluating post wildfire vegetation dynamics as a response to multiple environmental determinants. Environmental Modeling and Assessment. 15(5): 295-307.

van Leeuwen, Willem J.D., Davison J.E., Casady, G.M., and Marsh S.E., 2010. Phenological Characterization of Desert Sky Island Vegetation Communities with Remotely Sensed and Climate Time Series Data. Remote Sens., 2, 388-415.

van Leeuwen, Willem J.D., G. M. Casady, D. G. Neary, S. Bautista, J. A. Alloza, Y. Carmel, L. Wittenberg, D. Malkinson, B. J. Orr, 2010. Monitoring post-wildfire vegetation response with remotely sensed time-series data in Spain, USA and Israel. International Journal of Wildland Fire, 19: 75-93.

Huang, C., Geiger, E., Willem J.D. van Leeuwen, and Marsh, S., 2009. Discrimination of invaded and native species sites in a semi-desert grassland using MODIS multi-temporal data. International Journal of Remote Sensing, Vol. 30, No. 4, pp 897–917.

Michael A. White, Kirsten M. de Beurs, Kamel Didan, David W. Inouye, Andrew D. Richardson, Olaf P. Jensen, John Magnuson, John O’Keefe, Gong Zhang, Ramakrishna R. Nemani, Willem J.D. van Leeuwen, Jesslyn F. Brown, Allard  de Wit, Michael Schaepman, Xioamao Lin, Michael Dettinger, Amey Bailey, John Kimball, Mark D. Schwartz, Dennis D. Baldocchi, John T. Lee, William K. Lauenroth, 2009. Intercomparison, interpretation, and assessment of spring phenology in North America estimated from remote sensing for 1982 to 2006. Global Change Biology, Volume 15, Number 10, October 2009, pp. 2335-2359(25).

van Leeuwen, Willem J.D., 2009. Chapter 3: Visible, Near-IR & Shortwave IR Spectral Characteristics of Terrestrial Surfaces. In: Handbook of Remote Sensing. Editors: T. Warner, D. Nellis and G. Foody. SAGE. 33-50.

van Leeuwen, Willem J.D., 2008. Monitoring the Effects of Forest Restoration Treatments on Post-Fire Vegetation Recovery with MODIS Multitemporal Data. Sensors, 8, 2017-2042.

van Leeuwen, Willem J.D., B. Orr, S. Marsh, S. Herrmann, 2006. Multi-Sensor NDVI Data Continuity: Uncertainties and Implications for Vegetation Monitoring Applications. Remote Sensing of Environment, 100(1):67–81.

van Leeuwen, Willem J.D., Barron J. Orr, 2006. Spectral Vegetation Indices and Uncertainty: Insights from a User’s Perspective. IEEE Transactions on Geoscience and Remote Sensing. 44(7):1931–1933.

Courses Taught

  • GIST 330: Introduction to Remote Sensing
  • GIST 483/583: Geographic Applications of Remote Sensing
  • GEOG 490/590: Remote Sensing for the Study of Planet Earth
  • GIST 601B: Remote Sensing Science


Research Scope
Soutwest USA, Mexico, South America, Chile, Spain, Israel, Central Asia, West Africa, World

Willem van Leeuwen's picture
ENR2 N410
(520) 626-0058