Investigating informal gardening in Chinese cities through satellite imagery

Project Description

In many Chinese cities, the rapid speed of urbanisation has led to uneven development on the fringes of expanding urban areas. Many urban residents of China have taken advantage of unoccupied land in cities to engage in small-scale gardening, growing vegetables and crops (城市开荒). This project builds on previous fieldwork conducted in the city of Chongqing, Southwest China, which surveyed the people involved in informal gardening, and is intended to lay the groundwork for a future largescale study. Because this land use is informal, it is very difficult to generate reliable information about when, where, and for how long urban land has been used in this way. This project will explore how these spaces have arisen in the process of urbanisation, how they are used, and how and why they are removed.

In this project, you will be working within a team at the School of Geography, University of Leeds, to develop a machine-learning process for identifying areas of informal gardening based on historical satellite imagery derived from Google Earth. This will be cross-referenced with ground-truthed data from previous fieldwork campaigns to verify accuracy. The aim of this project will be to create a reliable method of identifying informal gardening in a variety of urban environments based on satellite imagery, which will form the basis for further fieldwork to explore the uses of this space, the conditions under which they are produced and destroyed, and the place of informal gardening within the political economy of Chinese urbanisation.

You will join an interdisciplinary team that includes academics in human geography and social sciences (Dr Asa Roast) and physical geography and remote sensing (Dr Liam Taylor). This project will therefore ideally suit a candidate that is looking to broaden their horizons and gain more experience in interdisciplinary research. You will join postgraduate research groups in the School of Geography and will be able to spend time in Leeds as part of the placement.


Dr Asa Roast and Dr Liam Taylor

How to Apply

  1. Complete the online REP application form, one for each project of interest, including a copy of your CV.
  2. Complete the EDI form (only one is needed, you do not need to submit more than one if you apply for multiple projects).  Although this is optional, if places are over-subscribed, preference will be given to under-represented groups.