Oliver Sonnentag

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Current Research Interests

  • Atmospheric biogeosciences at high latitudes: understanding alterations in biosphere-atmosphere interactions of northern ecosystems in response to rapidly changing permafrost conditions
  • Local, regional and global biophysical parameter monitoring and mapping to study changes in ecosystem composition, structure, functioning and phenology

2008 PhD, University of Toronto, Department of Geography and Program in Planning, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
2003 MSc GIS, University of Salzburg, Department of Geoinformatics/UNIGIS, Salzburg, Austria
2001 Dipl. geol., Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, Department of Applied Geology, Karlsruhe, Germany

My initial training is in applied geosciences with a major focus on hydrogeology obtained through a diploma (Dipl. geol.) from the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), Germany.  After graduation from KIT in 2001, I started working as a geographic information systems (GIS) technician and consultant for a surveying and consulting company to gain professional experience. In parallel, I studied for a MSc degree in GIS at the University of Salzburg, Austria from where I graduated in 2003. The final stop on my educational quest (well, in terms of academic degrees at least) was the University of Toronto (UofT). As part of Fluxnet-Canada/Canadian Carbon Program, I worked with Dr. Jing Chen on various questions related to peatland carbon and water cycles using the Boreal Ecosystem Productivity Simulator, a process-oriented ecosystem model in a remote sensing framework. After graduation from UofT in 2008, I moved to the University of California Berkeley (UC Berkeley) to conduct postdoctoral research with Drs. Dennis Baldocchi and Maggi Kelly, looking at questions related structure, functioning and phenology of various managed (pasture, rice plantation) and unmanaged (grassland, oak-savanna woodland) ecosystems in California using different micrometeorological, near-surface sensing and modeling techniques. My work at UC Berkeley sparked a keen interest in using digital cameras to monitor and model vegetation status and in 2010 I moved to Harvard University to work with Dr. Andrew Richardson on a camera intercomparison experiment at Harvard Forest. The goal was to develop a measurement and analysis protocol for digital camera-based vegetation monitoring for phenological research. In 2011, I was hired by the Université de Montréal at the rank of assistant professor in the Département de géographie where I have been establishing a research program in Atmospheric Biogeosciences. In 2014, I was awarded a Canada Research Chair Tier 2 in Atmospheric Biogeosciences at High Latitudes and I joined the Department of Geography at McGill University at the rank of adjunct professor, and I started serving as Co-Lead on the Committee on Earth Observation Satellites Working Group (CEOS) on Calibration and Validation (WGCV) Land Product Validation (LPV) Subgroup Leaf Area Index.


  • American Geophysical Union
  • Global Environmental and Climate Change Centre (McGill University)