dr. Y. Zeng (Yijian)

Assistant Professor

About Me

Dr. Yijian Zeng is an Assistant Professor at the Department of Water Resources (WRS), Faculty of Geo-Information Science and Earth Observation (ITC), University of Twente in Enschede, the Netherlands.

He is elected as the co-chair of ISMC(International Soil Modeling Consortium), which aims to integrate and advance soil system modeling, data gathering, and observational capabilities to address key global issues and stimulate the development of transdisciplinary and translational research activities. Additionally, he serves as a member of the GLASS Panel (Global Land/Atmosphere System Study) of the GEWEX (The Global Energy and Water Exchanges) Project, which is a part of the World Climate Research Programme (WCRP) and dedicated to understanding Earth’s water cycle and energy fluxes on and below the surface and in the atmosphere. The GLASS panel focuses on the development and evaluation of models, with a particular emphasis on the new generation of land surface models. Currently, he is the co-lead of GEWEX-SoilWat (Soil and Water) Initiative, a joint project between GEWEX and ISMC, which aims to improve the representation of soil and subsurface processes in climate models. The initiative brings together two research communities to identify benchmarking philosophy, critical datasets, challenges and unresolved issues related to this effort.


Climate projections strongly suggest that the sweltering summer of 2022 may be a harbinger of Europe's future climate. Climate extremes, such as droughts and heatwaves, jeopardize terrestrial ecosystem carbon sequestration, impacting the EU's targets and policies to become the first climate-neutral continent by 2050. Therefore, it is pivotal to understand the climate resilience of agriculture and natural ecosystems. To address this challenge, Yijian Zeng, with colleagues of same vision, has been developing an "Open Digital Twin of Soil-Plant System," which includes three core components: i) The soil-plant model for a digital representation of the soil-plant system; ii) Physics-aware machine learning algorithms to approximate the soil-plant model; and iii) Data assimilation framework to digest Earth Observation data to update the states of soil-plant system.



Zhuang, R., Manfreda, S. , Zeng, Y. , Su, Z., Ben-Dor, E., & Petropoulos, G. P. (2023). Soil moisture monitoring using unmanned aerial system. In S. Manfreda, & E. Ben Dor (Eds.), Unmanned Aerial Systems for Monitoring Soil, Vegetation, and Riverine Environments (pp. 179-200). Elsevier. Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1016/B978-0-323-85283-8.00003-5
Jiang, X. W., Xie, H. Y., Ge, S., Tang, H., Tan, S. C., Wang, X. S., Wan, L. , & Zeng, Y. (2023). On the extinction depth of freezing-induced groundwater migration. Journal of hydrology, 619, Article 129358. Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jhydrol.2023.129358
Shaoning, LV. , Yu, L. , Zeng, Y., Wen, J., Simmer, C. , & su, Z. (2023). Inference of soil freezing front depth during the freezing period from the L-band passive microwave brightness temperature. IEEE Journal of selected topics in applied earth observations and remote sensing, 16, 4039-4049. Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1109/JSTARS.2023.3241876
Brêda, J. P., Melsen, L., Ploeg, M. V. D., Athanasiadis, I., Siqueira, V., Verhoef, A. , Zeng, Y., & Dijk, A. V. (2023). Input features importance to hydrological indices simulated by Land Surface and Global Hydrological Models. Abstract from EGU General Assembly 2023, Vienna, Austria. https://doi.org/10.5194/egusphere-egu23-2649
Alidoost, F., Liu, Y., Schilperoort, B. , Su, Z. , & Zeng, Y. (2023). Accelerating the understanding of plant response to drought stress. Abstract from EGU General Assembly 2023, Vienna, Austria. https://doi.org/10.5194/egusphere-egu23-6416

UT Research Information System

Google Scholar Link


The WRS’s mission is to “build communities of water professionals, scientists and engineers with skills to work toward a sustainable and resilient living environment using Earth Observations and Modelling of Water and Climate”. With this overarching mission, which contributes to all four profiling themes of ITC, WRS education centres on a ‘challenge-based’ format that offers potential solutions to society’s water-related problems with state-of-the-art knowledge, data, and models developed in research. This approach shifts from the concept of bringing ‘data to compute’ to bringing “compute to data” by using a cloud-computing platform like CRIB to bring questions (and needed computation) to the available data in the cloud and solve them there. Aligned with WRS’s missions and focus, Yijian Zeng has been working towards the Open Digital Twin of the Soil-Plant System, the elements of which are used in challenge-based education. Specifically, he has been actively initiating, developing, and coordinating the plan, content, and teaching for two WRS specialty courses and beyond, evolving these courses based on students’ and lecturers’ feedback. 

Courses Academic Year  2022/2023


The development of the Soil-Plant Digital Twin is linked to the EU’s green and digital transitions and contributes to ITC’s profiling themes on Resources Security, Disaster Resilience, and GEO-AI. A soil-plant digital twin refers to a highly interconnected workflow, with a data assimilation framework at its core to combine observations and the process-based model (STEMMUS-SCOPE), accompanied by an interactive and configurable platform that allows users to create and evaluate user-specific scenarios for scientific investigation and decision support. Creating an open digital twin of soil-plant system means creating a digital twin following Open Science and FAIR principles, for both data and research software. 

Yijian Zeng has sustained the acquisition of multi-year scientific projects from competitive grants to stay the course to develop and create the “Open Soil-Plant Digital Twin”.

Current Projects


Yijian Zeng in the news:

GEOHERO-ITC: Soil-Plant Digital Twin

UT-News: International Soil Modelling Consortium (ISMC) Elects Yijian Zeng as Co-Chair


UToday: Predicting Vegetation Health


UT-News: Monitoring And Predicting The Effect Of Climate Extremes On Ecosystems


70 years of ITC: 200th PhD


ITC-News: Featured Projects: NWO SMAP-FT, FP7-CORE-CLIMAX


UT-News: WMO Research Award


ITC-News: Yijian Zeng PhD Cum Laude


News on utwente.nl


Contact Details

Visiting Address

University of Twente
Faculty of Geo-Information Science and Earth Observation
Langezijds (building no. 19), room 1124
Hallenweg 8
7522NH  Enschede
The Netherlands

Mailing Address

University of Twente
Faculty of Geo-Information Science and Earth Observation
Langezijds  1124
P.O. Box 217
7500 AE Enschede
The Netherlands

Additional Contact Information