Tomislav Hengl

Tomislav Hengl

B.Sc. M.Sc. Ph.D.


Machine Learning, automated mapping and spatial analysis, web-services for gridded data

Tom Hengl has more than 20 years of experience as an environmental modeler, predictive soil mapper, data scientist and spatial analyst. He is a passionate advocate for, and supporter of, open data, reproducible science and career development for young scientists. 

Tom obtained his PhD in 2003 from the Wageningen University in the field of Pedometrics under the supervision of Prof. Alfred Stein and David Rossiter.

Tom has published more than 50 journal articles and several textbooks in the fields of geo-information science, predictive soil mapping and spatial statistics (Google Scholar h-index of 30 and with >500 citations per year). He has been a key figure in promoting and advancing the disciplines of Geomorphometry, Spatial Statistics and Pedometrics. He initiated and co-edited the first textbook to present geomorphometry as an individual discipline and subsequently promoted establishment of The International Society for Geomorphometry ( which organizes scientific conferences for this discipline every two years. Tom was the vice chair of the society from 2011–2015. He also conceived of, and initiated the development of, the GEOSTAT Summer school courses (presently: OpenGeoHub Summer schools), which since 2007 have provided leading edge training, directed primarily at postgraduate students and early career scientists, in the use of Open Source Software tools (R / OSGeo) for spatial statistics and spatial analysis.

Tom has collaborated on projects with numerous international organizations including The Nature Conservancy, Woods Hole Research Centre, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF), UNCCD, the Africa Soil Information Service (AfSIS), PBL and others. His extensive experience in spatial prediction and statistically-based modeling has led him to become a widely recognized expert in the areas of Machine Learning and Big Geodata for environmental modeling. Tom created a package for use in R called “plotKML” that enables users to more easily produce scientific visualizations of complex spatial and spatiotemporal phenomena. His most recent efforts, as a developer and programmer in R / OSGeo have increasingly focussed on efficient processing of very large raster data sets, at global to local scales, using automation, parallelization, distributed, cloud-based computing and space-time statistical modeling. Tom is currently preparing a new textbook on using Machine Learning to address applied environmental problems as a potential replacement for more traditional model-based geostatistics

Tom is passionate about working with massive global environmental data sets, making Open Geodata and Open Source software for use by researchers, businesses and the general public and assisting in the education and training of the next generation of geoscientists, especially ones from less advantaged backgrounds or countries. Tom designed, created and implemented the global SoilGrids dataset partially in response to inspiration provided by the likes of other well known open data projects such as OpenStreetMap, GBIF, GlobalForestWatch and open climate mapping projects. He is currently leading the development of the LandGIS web-mapping system that aspires to become the OpenStreetMap for environmental data. He genuinely believes that, tight collaboration between multiple fields (multidisciplinary approaches) and strong technological capabilities (professional ICT) are essential if major global environmental problems are to be satisfactorily addressed and solved.

"The acquisition of any knowledge is always of use to the intellect, because it may thus drive out useless things and retain the good. For nothing can be loved or hated unless it is first known."

Leonardo da Vinci


  • 2018–present: EnvirometriX Ltd. / Vice-Chair OpenGeoHub Foundation, Wageningen, the Netherlands.
  • 2010–2018: Senior research, ISRIC — World Soil Information (Wageningen University), the Netherlands.
  • 2007–2010: Post-doctoral researcher, University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam, the Netherlands.
  • 2005–2007: Post-doctoral researcher / contractual agent, European Commission JRC, Ispra Italy.
  • 2003–2005: Assistant Professor, Faculty of Agriculture in Osijek, Croatia.
  • 1998–2003: PhD student / assistant Professor, ITC / Faculty of Agriculture in Osijek, Enschede, the Netherlands.


  • IBED / University of Amsterdam (Ecology / biodiversity) Post-doc, 2010
  • JRC European Commission (Soil science / Pedometrics) Post-doc, 2007
  • ITC / Wageningen University (Geoinformation science) Ph.D., 2003
  • ITC Enschede (Soil Resource Management) M.S., 2000
  • University of Zagreb (Forestry) B.S., 1996

Previous projects and initiatives:

  • Spatial analysis and mapping of soil carbon (global agricultural land, mangrove forests) for the purpose of The Nature Conservancy.
  • Project leader Global Soil Information Facilities 2011–2016.
  • Creator and Convener, GEOSTAT Summer school for PhD students ( held at 12 locations from Quebec City to Canberra, Australia.
  • Vice Chair International Society for Geomorphometry ( 2011–2015.
  • Guest editor Hydrology and Earth System Science special issue on Geomorphometry 2016.
  • Guest editor Earth Surface Dynamics special issue on Geomorphometry 2014.
  • Guest editor Hydrology and Earth System Science special issue on Geomorphometry 2009.
  • Editor / lead author Geomorphometry book (