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Thomas Gillespie

Contact Information

Office  1255 BUNCHE HALL
Phone  51818

(Ph.D., UC Los Angeles, 1998) is a Professor with research interests in Geographic Information Systems (GIS), Remote Sensing, and Biogeography. Professor Gillespie leads the EOS seminars and teaches classes in remote sensing and the geography of tropics.


Ph.D. University of California, Los Angeles, 1998 
Department of Geography 

M.A. California State University, Chico, 1994 
Department of Geography and Planning 

B.A. University of Colorado, Boulder, 1990 
Department of International Affairs

Fields of Study

Biogeography, Forest Ecosystems, Remote Sensing

Selected Publications

  • Rovzar, C., Gillespie, T.W., Kawelo, K., Hirshen, M., Riordan, E.C., and Pau, S. 2013 Species distribution modeling of Hibiscus brackenridgei on Oahu. Pacific Conservation Biology (In Press)
  • Gillespie, T.W., Keppel, G., Pau, S., Price, J., Jaffré, T., and O’Neill, K. 2013. Scaling species richness and endemism of tropical dry forests on oceanic islands. Diversity and Distribution (In Press)
  • Wolf, J.A., Fricker, G.A., Meyer, V., Hubbell, S.P., Gillespie, T.W., and Saatchi, S.S. 2012. Plant species richness is associated with canopy height and topography in a Neotropical forest. Remote Sensing 4, 4010-4021.
  • Gillespie, T.W., Lipkin, B., Sullivan, L, Pau, S., Benowitz, D.R., and Keppel, G. 2012. The rarest and least protected forests in biodiversity hotspots. Biodiversity and Conservation 21, 3597–3611.
  • Pau, S., Gillespie, T.W., and Wolkovich, E. 2012. Dissecting NDVI-species richness relationships in Hawaiian dry forests. Journal of Biogeography 36, 1678–1686.
  • Pau, S., MacDonald, G., and Gillespie, T.W. 2012. A dynamic history of climate change and human impact on the environment from Kealia Pond, Maui, Hawaiian Islands. Annals of the Association of American Geographers 102, 1-15.
  • Gillespie, T.W., Pincetl, S., Brossard, S., Smith, J., Saatchi, S., Pataki, D., and Saphores, J.-D. 2012. A time series of urban forestry in Los Angeles. Urban Ecosystems 15, 233-246.


My past research interests have focused on using geographic information systems (GIS) and remote sensing data for predicting patterns of species richness and rarity for plants and birds at a regional spatial scale. 

Biodiversity Research 
My botanical research will continue to focus on surveying tropical dry forests in biodiversity hotspots. I have collected floristic data from Wallacea, Sundaland, Indo-Burma, Mesoamerica, New Caledonia, and Caribbean hotspots and within four years, I will collect data from a number of other tropical dry forests in biodiversity hotspots. This research is field intensive and taxonomically challenging but provides comparative floristic and structural data for regions where relatively little information exists. This research will result in a number of publications on global conservation priorities, natural resource management, and tropical ecology and will be used as ground truth data for remote sensing studies of anthropogenic disturbance and estimates of forest biomass. 

My faunal research has focused predominately on tropical bird communities, but I have published papers on mammal and herpetofauna diversity. My long-term research agenda for fauna will focus primarily on combining detailed natural history and field data with remote sensing data to model species distributions and probability of extinction in fragmented landscapes. Models of species distributions will also be examined for a number of environmental change scenarios to predict the future distribution of species. 

Remote Sensing Research 
My remote sensing research is divided into airborne and spaceborne sensors that can be used to measure and monitor terrestrial vegetation. My spaceborne sensor research focuses specifically on high-resolution data from Landsat and IKONOS satellites to test hypotheses on the utility of these sensors for predicting floristic composition and structure in fragmented landscapes and to develop new algorithms that predict the distribution and abundance of endangered species. Advances in geographic information systems and remote sensing techniques have resulted in a number of landscape metrics and indices that may be used to predict the distribution of species richness in habitat fragments. I am currently testing the utility and accuracy of landscape metrics and remote sensing indices for predicting patterns of woody plant species richness and rarity in tropical dry forests of south Florida and Oceania. In particular, I focus on testing the accuracy of landscape metrics within three fragmented systems: anthropogenic fragments, natural habitat fragments, and true islands. The long-term goal is to develop algorithms that predict the distribution of plants and endangered species in other tropical dry forest regions and California ecosystems.


National Institute of Aging
‘Evolution of well-being among older adults after a disaster’ Co-Principal Investigator, Five years, $2,237,670 

Environmental Protection Agency, STAR grant 
‘Creating sustainable indicators to asses the physical, social, and economic values of greening cities: A study of the million tree initiative in Los Angeles, CA’ 
Co-Principal Investigator, Three years, $299,985 

National Institute of Child Health and Human Development ‘California Center for Population Research’ Co-Principal Investigator, Five years, $3,167,479 

MacArthur Foundation ‘Enhancing Population-Based Surveys with Satellite Imagery and Geographic Information Systems’ 
Co-Investigator, $86,000 

NASA Earth and Space Science Fellowship 
‘Estimating species richness and structure of Hawaiian Dry Forest using Terra ASTER’ 
Principal Investigator (Co-Principal Investigator, Pau) $45,920 

National Science Foundation: Program of Human and Social Dynamics 
‘Social, Economic, and Physical Effects of a Natural Disaster’ 
Co-Principal Investigator, Four years, $726,078 

National Science Foundation: Geography and Regional Studies
‘Remote Sensing, Biogeography, and Conservation of Tropical Dry Forests 
in Pacific Biodiversity Hotspots.’ Principal Investigator, Three years, $64,767