Leila Donn

Machine-Learning the Landscape: Computer Vision for Conservation and Resource Management

PhD Student

Department of Geography and the Environment

University of Texas at Austin

I am an earth scientist creating an aerial imagery based machine-learning model to identify natural and archaeological features across the Central American landscape.

I recently finished my master's thesis focusing on the long-term impact that the ancient Maya left on the riverine landscape of western Belize. This type of work can help us to understand the lasting impact that current human activity may leave on the landscape.

I graduated in 2008 with an undergraduate geology degree and a minor in archaeology. After finishing college, I spent three years working as a professional geologist at a mine in Alaska, offshore for an oil company, and for an environmental remediation company. These jobs all led me to my final job before coming back to graduate school:  working as an Environmental Specialist for the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation. During this time, I became interested in working to slow human-induced landscape change so that the landscapes that we appreciate today still exist 100 and more years from now. I like to think that my time as professional geologist helps to give me an understanding of the complex dynamics - human and environmental - that shape our landscape. My current work, and the work that I did during my thesis, is helping to develop methods of understanding, monitoring, and addressing landscape change. With over 10 years of GIS, Python, geomorphology, geoarchaeology, and caving experience (and a love for all of these areas!), this is my ideal type of work!

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