Dr. ir. Wouter Maes

Research team: Hydrology and Climate

 I have a broad research interest, extending from sustainability of water use over forest ecology and biofuels. However, my main research focus has been the application of thermal remote sensing in terrestrial ecosystems, first mainly ground-based but in the last few years predominantly UAV-based. 

With a master in forest ecology, the focus of my Ph.D. at KULeuven, Belgium was on how thermal remote sensing can be applied for assessing forest functioning and detecting drought stress in terrestrial ecosystems. One of the experimental plants we used in this research was a tropical biofuel crop, Jatropha curcas, which at the time was hyped as a new miracle crop, based on scientifically unfunded claims. This triggered our interest in the crop, leading to several studies on the sustainability of this crop and of biofuels in general. 

After my PhD in 2010, I joint Ghent University and further focused my research on the application of thermal remote sensing in agricultural and natural ecosystems. For this research, we started applying a UAV (or drone), and I specialized in all aspects of UAVs (UAV programming, piloting, maintenance, processing of data, etc).

Joining the Remote Sensing group of Alfredo Huete at UTS, Sydney in 2014 allowed me to broaden my experience of UAVs to multi- and hyperspectral remote sensing, including solar-induced fluorescence. This latter application is the focus of my current project, in which we will mainly use satellite data to estimate evapotranspiration.

Research topics: satellite fluorescence, UAV, thermal remote sensing, drought stress, Jatropha curcas


Address: Coupure links 653 - Room A2.009

               9000 Ghent, Belgium

Phone: +32 9 264 61 37



  • 2016 - Present: Postdoctoral researcher - Ghent University, Laboratory of Hydrology and Water Management
  • 2013 - 2016: Postdoctoral researcher - University of Technology Sydney, Australia, Remote Sensing and Ghent University, Laboratory of Plant Ecology
  • 2010 - 2013: Postdoctoral researcher - Ghent University, Laboratory of Plant Ecology
  • 2005 - 2010: Doctoral researcher - KULeuven, Forest Ecology and Management Research Group


  • STR3S:  Stress on TRanspiration Sensed from Satellite Systems

SELECTED PUBLICATIONS (complete list here)

  1. Maes, W.H., Baert, A., Huete, A.R., Minchin, P.E.H., Snelgar, W.P., Steppe, K. A new wet reference surface method for continuous infrared thermography of vegetations, Agricultural and Forest Meteorology, 226-227, 119–131, 2016.
  2. Cleverly, J., Eamus, D., Restrepo Coupe, N., Chen, C., Maes, W. H., Li, L., Faux, R., Santini N.S., Rumman, R., Yu, Q., Huete, A.R. Soil moisture controls on phenology and productivity in semi-arid critical zone, Science of the Total Environment, 568, 1227–1237, 2016.
  3. Dillen, M., Vanhellemont, M., Verdonckt, P., Maes, W.H., Steppe, K., Verheyen, K. Productivity, stand dynamics and the selection effect in a mixed willow clone Short Rotation Coppice plantation, Biomass and Bioenergy, 87, 46–54, 2016.
  4. Maes, W.H., Minchin, P.E.H., Snelgar, W.P., Steppe, K. Early detection of Psa infection in kiwifruit by means of infrared thermography at leaf and orchard scale, Functional Plant Biology, 41, 1207–1220, 2014.
  5. Maes, W.H., Steppe, K. Estimating evapotranspiration and drought stress with ground-based thermal remote sensing in agriculture: a review, Journal of Experimental Botany (Invited Darwin Review), 63(13), 4671–4712, 2012.
  6. Maes, W.H., Verbist, B. Increasing the sustainability of household cooking in developing countries: policy implications, Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, 16(6), 4204–4221, 2012.
  7. Maes, W.H., Pashuysen, T., Trabucco, A., Veroustraete, F., Muys, B. Does energy dissipation increase with ecosystem succession? Testing the ecosystem exergy theory combining theoretical simulations and thermal remote sensing observations, Ecological Modelling, 222(23–24), 3917–3941, 2011.
  8. Maes, W.H., Achten, W.H.J., Reubens, B. and Muys, B. Monitoring stomatal conductance of Jatropha curcas seedlings under different levels of water shortage with infrared thermography, Agricultural and Forest Meteorology, 151(5), 554–564, 2011.
  9. Maes, W.H., Achten, W.M.J., Reubens, B., Raes, D., Samson, R. and Muys, B. Plant-water relationships and growth strategies of Jatropha curcas L. seedlings under different levels of drought stress, Journal of Arid Environments, 73, 877–884, 2009.
  10. Maes, W.H., Heuvelmans, G. and Muys, B. Assessment of land use impact on water resources and water related ecosystem services capturing the integrated terrestrial-aquatic system, Environmental Science and Technology, 43, 7324–7330, 2009.