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Dr. Jonathan Thayn

Felmley Hall of Science - FHS 200A
  • About
  • Education
  • Awards & Honors
  • Research


I grew up in a relatively small coal-mining community in southeastern Utah, halfway between the Book Cliff Mountains and the desert of the San Rafael Swell. My interest in geography first took root as I hiked, explored and camped with my family and friends in the wilderness around my home. Fieldwork continues to be a principal element of my research, which focuses on understanding landscape-scale ecosystems, their response to perturbation, and their seasonal variations. My primary tools are remote sensing, GIS and statistical spatial analysis.

Current Courses

287.006Independent Study - Geography

398.001Professional Practice: Internship in Environmental Systems

305.001Remote Sensing

305.002Remote Sensing

405.001Remote Sensing

405.002Remote Sensing

238.001Statistics for Geographers I

398.001Professional Practice: Internship in Environmental Systems

Teaching Interests & Areas

I am a proponent of research-based learning. My remote sensing and biogeography courses are built around research projects. Students typically complete the bulk of the project during the semester with the goal of submitting the completed work to scientific peer-review. This holds students’ attention, introduces them to research and the value of the material discussed in class, and introduces a sense of authenticity to coursework. Smaller research projects are used in my geography of Latin America course.

Research Interests & Areas

Most of my work focuses on characterizing and modeling landscape-scale ecosystem function and response to perturbation using time-series' of satellite imagery. I am particularly interested in applications associated with agriculture, grassland and forest ecosystems, and archaeology. Much of my work is done in the Great Plains region of the United States and in Latin America.


Centro Interdisciplinario de Ciencias Marinas (CICIMAR)
La Paz, Baja California Sur, Mexico

Other Remote Pilot Certification

Parkland College
Champaign, Illinois

Ph D Geography

University of Kansas
Lawrence, Kansas

Other Geography

University of Texas at Dallas
Dallas, Texas

MA Public Administration

Brigham Young University
Provo, Utah

BS Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and Cartography

Brigham Young University
Provo, Utah

AA Spanish

College of Eastern Utah
Price, Utah

Douglas Clay Ridgley Endowed Fellow

Illinois State University

Kenneth A. and Mary Ann Shaw Teaching Fellowship

College of Arts and Sciences, Illinois State University

Outstanding Scholarly Achievement Pre-Tenure

College of Arts and Sciences

Research Initiative Award

Illinois State University

Douglas Clay Ridgley Endowed Fellow

Illinois State University

American Society for Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing (ASPRS)

Robert N. Colwell Memorial Fellowship

Eugene Dehner Award

Kansas Academy of Science

American Society for Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing (ASPRS)

Ta Liang Memorial Award

Francis E. "Gene" Lortz Memorial Award

American Society for Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing (ASPRS)

Book, Chapter

Sampeck, K., & Thayn, J. Translating Tastes: A Cartography of Chocolate Colonialism. Substance and Seduction: Ingested Commodities in Early Modern Mesoamerica. University of Texas Press (2017)
Thayn, J. B., K.P. Price, and W.I. Woods. (2008) Locating Amazonian Dark Earths (ADE) using satellite remote sensing – a possible approach. In W. I. Woods, W. G. Teixeira, J. Lehmann, C. Steiner, A. WinklerPrins & L. Rebellato (Eds.), Amazonain Dark Earths: Wim Sombroek's Vision. Berlin: Springer-Verlag.


Thayn, J.B. (in review). Eigenvector Spatial Filtering and Spatial Autocorrelation, an entry in the Encyclopedia of GIS, 2nd Edition. Edited by S. Shekhar and H. Xiong.

Journal Article

Thayn, J.B. A. Paque, and M. Maher. (2021) Detecting Geo-Positional Bias in Imagery Collected using Small UASs. Photogrammetric Engineering and Remote Sensing. 87(9)
Thayn, J.B. (2020) Detecting Narrow Mangrove Stands in Baja California Sur, Mexico using Linear Spectral Unmixing and LandSat 8 Data. Marine Geodesy. 43(5) 493-508.
Thayn, J.B., C. Ballard, E. Eichholzer, J. Richard, J. Hawks, and M. Genard. (2018) Predicting gypsy moth population size in Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park using a satellite disturbance index. Geographic Bulletin. 59 116-127.
Jadallah, M., Hund, PhD, A., Thayn, J., Studebaker, J., Roman, Z., & Kirby, E. Integrating geospatial technologies in fifth-grade curriculum: Impact on spatial ability and map-analysis skills. Journal of Geography 116.4 (2017): 139--151.
Thayn, J.B, K. Sampeck, and M. Spaccapaniccia. (2016) Refining Hernando de Soto’s route using Electric Circuit Theory and CircuitScape. Professional Geographer. 68(4) 595-602.


Historical Archaeology, 3rd Edition. Oser, Charles V. (2017) Pearson Press. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey. ISBN: 978-0-205-97213-5.
A Cartography of Chocolate. In The Recipes Project: Food, Magic, Art, Science, and Medicine. Sampeck, Kathryn. (2015). Retrieved from
Thayn, J. Various Maps of Civil War Battle Fields. Luvaas, Jay and Nelson, Harold W. (EDs), Guide to the Atlanta Campaign: Rocky Face Ridge to Kennesaw Mountain. University Press of Kansas (2008)
Thayn, J. Map of the Eastern Mediterranean. Purity Lost: Transgressing Boundaries in the Easter Mediterranean, 1000-1400. Johns Hopkins University Press (2006)
Thayn, J. Various Historical Maps of Russia. The Foe Within: Fantasies of Treason and the End of Imperial Russia. Cornell University Press (2006)

Technical Report

Thayn, J., Campbell, M., & Deloriea, T. Mapping Tile-Drained Agricultural Lands. Institute for Geospatial Analysis and Mapping (GEOMAP) at Illinois State University (2011)


Assessment of spatial and temporal variations in chloride concentration in an agricultural tile-drained area in central Illinois. Illinois Groundwater Association Spring Meeting. Illinois Groundwater Association. (2023)
Influence of tile water on nitrate concentrations in the groundwater: A case study of a saturated riparian buffer zone, McLean County, central Illinois. The Geological Society of America Connects 2023. Geological Society of America. (2023)
Commander, O., Peterson, E. W., O'Reilly, C. M., Thayn, J., Perry, W. L., and Twait, R., Assessment of spatial and temporal variations in chloride concentration in an agricultural tile-drained area in central Illinois, in Proceedings The Geological Society of America Connects 2022, Denver, CO, 2022, Volume 54, Geological Society of America, doi: 10.1130/abs/2022AM-380813.
Thayn, J.B. (2021) Remote Sensing the Sea of Cortés. Natural Resource Ecology and Management (NREM) graduate colloquia at Iowa State University. Ames, Iowa. October 15.
*Tilahun, T., Seyoum, W.M., Thyan, Jonathan, 2019 “Mapping Subsurface Tile Drainage Systems in Agricultural Fields Using Unmanned Vehicle System (UAS)-based Radiometric and Thermal and Opitcal Sensors” American Geophysical Union, Annual Conference, San Franscio, CA.
Paque, A., J.B. Thayn, L., Gallagher, and M. Maher. (2019). Assessing the Accuracy of Drones and GPS Devices. Illinois GIS Association (ILGISA) Annual Conference. Normal, Illinois. October 21-22.
Thayn, J.B. (2019) Environmental Research in Latin America. An invited presentation to the Peace Corps recruitment group at Illinois State University. Normal, Illinois. February 26.
Thayn, J.B. (2019) Invigorating Learning with Genuine Research Experiences. An invited keynote presentation at the Geography Education in the 21st Century Conference at ISU. Normal, Illinois. November 2.
Gómez-Gutiérrez J.G., C.J. Robinson-Mendoza, I. Ambriz-Arreola, J.B. Thayn. (2018) Efecto del Calentamiento del Mar y las Disminución de la Clorofila Detectados por Satélite en la Biomasa y Abundancia del Zooplancton en el Golfo de California. Seminario del Departamento de Zooplancton, Centro Interdisciplinaria de Ciencias Marinas (CICIMAR), La Paz, B.C.S., Mexico, February 14. (Spanish).
Piske, J.T., F.C. Harris, M.M. Rutte, N.A. Sheffield, E.W. Peterson, and J.B. Thayn. (2018) Correlation of Crop Cover and Nitrate in Two Agricultural Watersheds, a Preliminary Investigation. 52nd Annual North-Central GSA Section Meeting. Ames, Iowa. April 6. 10.1130.abs.2018NC-311587.

Grants & Contracts

Advancing Research and Creative Scholarship (ARCS). Illinois State University Office of Research and Graduate Studies. Illinois State University. (2023)
Mapping and Spatial Analysis of Rural Broadband Access and Quality to Develop a Roadmap for Smart Farming in Illinois. Illinios Innovation Network. State. (2021)
International Travel Grant. CAS. Illinois State University. (2015)
Cherokee Towns at the Time of Spanish Contact: Discovering the Genesis of the Overhill Cherokees. Cherokee Preservation Foundation. Other. (2013)
Modeling the Spread of Invasive Insects using Circular Probabilities: A Case Study - Gypsy Moths in the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore. NSF Geography and Spatial Sciences. Federal. (2013)