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Dr. Songnian Li

Songnian Li
Professor, Associate Chair, Graduate Studies
BEng, PhD, PEng
416-979-5000 ext. 556450

Areas of Academic Interest

Geospatial information systems

Big geospatial data analytics


Geospatial web

Spatio-temporal dynamics

Public participation GIS


Year University Degree
2002 University of New Brunswick PhD
1983 Wuhan Technical University of Surveying and Mapping BEng

Selected Courses

Course Code Course Title
CVL 736 Geospatial Information Systems
CV8501 Advanced Geospatial Information Systems
CV8505 GIS for Civil Engineering


Throughout his career, Songnian Li has pursued what deeply interests him. Today that includes the processing and analysis of geospatial big data, with a particular focus on event detection and human mobility patterns in urban environments. He is also developing techniques for spatial-temporal analysis of social media data in order to extract high-level, real-time traffic insights that can improve traffic flow. 
Li has encouraged his students to follow their interests as well, and success has followed. “When students pursue research that is deeply interesting to them,” he says, “they get very good results.” In one case, a doctoral student he supervised shifted focus mid-degree and went on to publish a paper that was chosen for an ultra-prestigious award.
Li’s belief in following a passion is rooted in experience. “After my undergraduate degree, I spent 14 years teaching survey engineering at two different universities, but I could not conduct research,” he recalls. “One day, I thought, ‘this is too far away from my dream,’ and I decided to go for my PhD. I’m so glad I did.”

 Songnian's Twitter Profile (external link, opens in new window) 
Songnian's LinkedIn Profile (external link, opens in new window) 


Songnian Li

“The opportunities from leveraging geospatial big data for societal management and decision-making are enormous, but needs to move beyond the hype and traditional analytics.”

  • The U.V. Helava Award 2016 for the best paper in the ISPRS Journal of Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing
  • 2015/2016 President’s Citation, Canadian Institute of Geomatics, Canada
  • Xu, S., S. Li, & R. Wen. 2018. Sensing and Detecting Traffic Events using Geosocial Media Data: A Review. Computers, Environment and Urban Systems, 72(2018), 146–160.
  • Huang, W., & Li, S. 2016. Understanding human activity pattern based on space-time-semantics, ISPRS Journal of Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing, 121(2016), 1-10.
  • Li, S., S. Dragicevic, F. Anton, M. Sester, S. Winter, A. Coltekin, C. Pettit, B. Jiang, J. Haworth, A. Stein, T. Cheng. 2016. Geospatial Big Data Handling Theory and Methods: A Review and Research Challenges. ISPRS Journal of Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing, 115(2016), 119-133.
  • Sun, Y. & S. Li. 2016. Real-time Collaborative GIS: A Technological Review. ISPRS Journal of Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing, 115(2016), 143-152.
  • Huang, W., S. Li, X. Liu & Y. Ban. 2015. Predicting human mobility with activity changes, International Journal of Geographical Information Science, 29(9), 1569–1587.
  • Associate Editor, Cartography (2002/08) and GIS/Cartography (2008-present), Geomatica, Canada
  • Co-Editor, International Journal of Engineering and Geosciences (2017.2.21-present)
  • Member, Editorial Advisory Board, ISPRS Journal of Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing (2016.5.1-2019.4.30)
  • Member, Editorial Board, Geography and Geo-Information Science (2016.1.1-2019.12.31)
  • Council Member (Treasurer), International Society for Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing (2016-2020)
  • Director, Executive Committee, Canadian Society for Remote Sensing (2018-present)
  • President, Technical Commission II, International Society for Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing (2012-2016)
  • Canadian National Delegate, Commission 3, International Federation of Surveyors (2007-present)
  • Council Member, Canadian Institute of Geomatics (2009.3.26-2016.11.19)
  • Chair, Canadian National Committee for ISPRS (2009.3.26-2016.11.19)