Thomas L. Millette

Thomas L. Millette

Professor of Geography

Director GeoProcessing Laboratory

GeoProcessing Laboratory (GPL)
Miller Worly Center for the Environment (MWCE)


Office: Room 411 Clapp Laboratory
Email: Thomas L. Millette
Phone: 413-538-2813 (office)
Fax: 413-538-2239


  • Ph.D. Physical Geography, 1989
  • Clark University, Worcester, Massachusetts
  • M.A. Physical Geography, 1986
  • Clark University, Worcester, Massachusetts
  • M.Sc. Physical Geography, 1983
  • McGill University, Montreal, PQ, Canada
  • B.A. Physical Geography/Geology, 1978
  • University of Massachusetts, Amherst, Massachusetts

Specializations include:

Remote Sensing, Expert Systems, Geographic Information Systems, Forest Modeling, Land Cover Change, Geomorphology

Personal Statement

One of the most fundamental motivating forces in my life is the practice of environmental science. I enjoy thinking about the environment and how it works. I enjoy exploring the complex biophysical relationships and interactions that provide the opportunity for a rich diversity of life to evolve and flourish. As a scientist, I engage on a daily basis in attempts to abstract the environment into some manageable model in order to test and measure human impacts on natural systems. My work in science cuts across a wide spectrum of individual disciplines including geography, geology, ecology, biology, forestry, physics, chemistry, computer science, psychology, politics, and economics in the search for A better understanding of environmental stresses and responses.

I have been extremely fortunate in my career, I have worked in most of the far flung corners of the world including the High Arctic of Canada and the African Rift Valley of Kenya; from the majestic Himalayas to the quaint villages of Southern Vermont. I love the work that I do. It is as much a part of me as the color of my eyes, the sound of my voice, and the tenor of my wit. I feel very lucky to be able spend my life in the practice of science in a place with a wonderful intellectual and aesthetic spirit. My colleagues and students at Mount Holyoke are central to the excitement that fills my professional life. I think these people and this place help make me a better teacher and scientist.


The courses I teach, although varied in content, share two common characteristics: first, they focus on the application GIS class digitizes bike trails with GPS receiverof computer technology for environmental modeling; and second, they are almost exclusively project based and student driven. My courses have very few traditional lectures or labs. Each class is organized around a"real world" environmental problem or situation requiring the application of remote sensing (satellite imagery analysis) or geographic information systems (GIS - computer modeling with spatial data).


The courses I teach include the following:

  • Geog 201 - Computer Mapping and Analysis - is a basic introduction to maps, computer mapping tools, and spatial data analysis.
  • Geog 203 - Introduction to Geographic Information Systems (GIS) - which introduces students to the computer hardware, software and data models pertinent to GIS and explores environmental applications of GIS technology.
  • Geog 204 - Atmosphere and Weather - is an introduction to the structure and processes of the atmosphere including enerdy budgets and adiabatic processes. The class also includes a basic primer inRemote Sensing class heads to VT to field check satellite data weather forecasting.
  • Geog 303 - Advanced GIS - is a project based class that applies GIS modeling to a real world situation. Sometimes the GIS application is drawn from the local community, and sometimes from my personal research in the Himalayas.
  • Geog 304 - Planning and the Environment - is a seminar class that focuses on the development and suburbanization of the United States following the mass dissemination of the automobile.
  • Geog 307 - Remote Sensing - is a project based introduction to multispectral satellite imagery analysis. Computer techniques for image enhancement and classification are explored via an actual land cover database development project.

Above: Landsat TM Satellite data of southern Vermont.

Student classification of southern Vermont land cover

Above: Student classification of southern Vermont land cover.


More research details can be found on the GPL site.


My training as a scientist is both broad and eclectic. Although my degrees come from geography and geology departments, I have had significant contributions to my bag of tools from forestry, physics, computer science (including artificial intelligence), biology, ecology, and planning. Due to my broad interests and training, I have always maintained a very broad research program that has included:

  • Land cover database development from satellite data
  • Integration of remote sensing and GIS for non-point source pollution modeling
  • Artificial intelligence applied to image analysis and resource management
  • GIS based land use and forest modeling
  • Development of institutional delivery models for GIS products and services

My current projects include developing airborne sensor systems for forest modeling and non-point source pollution modeling, using satellite imagery to assess and characterize the driving forces for land cover change and forest degradation in the Middle Mountains of the Nepalese Himalayas; Characterizing historical land cover change in the mangrove forests of the Sundarbans of Northeast India; Land cover change impacts on the Lake Champlain Basin of Vermont, New York, and Southern Quebec; and my newest interest, spatial modeling and urban design - how to use GIS modeling to help make urban settings richer places to live.

Remote Sensing in Nepal A Hierarchical Approach to Inferring Land Use Dynamics in Nepal The use and limts of remote sensing for analysis of environmental and social change in Nepal


Selected Publications (abbreviated list)

  • T.L. Millette, J.D. Sullivan, and J. Henderson, 1997, "A GIS Based Regional Forest Land Evaluation and Site Assessment Model". Journal of Forestry, 95:9 pp.27-32.
  • Foresman, T.W. and T.L. Millette, 1997 "Integration of Remote Sensing and GIS Technologies for Planning", in Integration of Remote Sensing and Geographic Information Systems, J. Star, J. E. Estes, and K.C.. McGuire, Eds., Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK, pp 134-157.
  • Millette, T.L., R.E. Wilkie and R.Herbert, 1997, Exploring The Images of Data: Computer Exercises and Data Sets for Exploring Imagery and Data. Five Colleges, Inc. Amherst, MA 160 p.
  • T.L. Millette, A.R.Tuladhar, R.E. Kasperson, and B.L. Turner II, 1995, "The Use and Limits of remote sensing for Analyzing Environmental and Social Change in the Himalayan Middle Mountains of Nepal", Global Environmental Change 5:4 pp.367-380.
  • Cameron, D, R. Cohn-Lee, D. A. Saunders, and T.L. Millette, 1995, "Poison Runoff Solutions for Cuyahoga County: Healing the Waters of Greater Cleveland", NRDC Briefing Paper, Natural Resources Defense Council, Washington, DC, 58p.
  • Millette, T.L., 1992, "Vermont Planners Add Image Processing to GIS Tools", Geo Info Systems, Aster Publishing, Eugene OR, v2:5, pp.42-45
  • Millette, T.L. and T. Sickley, 1992, "Integration of Idrisi Raster Land Cover Classifications with Vermont GIS 1:5000 Orthophoto Based Arc-Info Coverages", VGIS Technical Paper #7, Vermont Center for Geographic Information, State of Vermont, Burlington, VT 9p.
  • Millette, T.L., 1990, "The Vermont GIS: A Model for Using Regional Planning Commissions to Deliver GIS in Support of Growth Management", Chapter 4 in GIS Development and Applications, L. Worral Ed., Belhaven Press, London, U.K., pp. 65-86.

Professional Activities

  • Research Associate - George Perkins Marsh Institute for the Environment, Clark University, Worcester, Massachusetts - 12/93 to present
  • Member - Technical Advisory Board, Vermont State GIS, Vermont Center for Geographic Information, State of Vermont 10/92 to present
  • Member - Advisory Board for Undergraduate Education (Semester in Ecology Program), Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL) Woods Hole, Massachusetts 5/97 to present
  • Member - Advisory Board for Undergraduate Education, Columbia University Biosphere II Center, Oracle, Arizona 9/97 to present

Of Note

  • 1997 Distinguished Lecturer
    The Mountain Research Institute, University of Montana, Bozeman, MT
  • Member Organizing Committee of the NSF Funded Workshop  "Land Cover/Use Dynamics in the Hindu-Kush Himalayas" Kathmandu, Nepal, April, 1997
  • Member Organizing Committee, 1998 Annual Meeting of the Association of American Geographer