Menu Close

Leila Character (previously Donn) is a PhD student in the Department of Geography and the Environment at the University of Texas at Austin focused on using machine learning and remotely sensed imagery to identify archaeological and natural features. Her work seeks to bridge the gap between earth scientists with on-the-ground problems and computer scientists that are working on cutting edge technology that can help address these problems. Leila’s work includes partners from academia, federal government, and private industry. Her current archaeology-focused projects include a shipwreck identification model being completed in partnership with the US Navy, a Maya archaeological feature identification model (that includes caves) being completed in partnership with a group of archaeologists that work in Guatemala and Mexico, and an ancient burial mound identification model being completed with a group of archaeologists that work in Romania.

She also works at an artificial intelligence start-up on a project that uses a similar methodology for a different application focused on building a multi-species tree and health status classifier using hyperspectral imagery collected by drone. Prior to beginning her PhD, she completed a master’s degree in the same department at the University of Texas focused on the use of lidar and geoarchaeological methods to study the land-use patterns of the ancient Maya in north-central Belize. Her B.S. is in geology with a minor in anthropology focused on archaeology. Between receiving her B.S. and M.A. she worked for five years as a geologist and environmental scientist in Alaska, Texas, and Tennessee. You can contact Leila at, check out her website at, and follow her on Instagram for research updates at @leiladonn.


  • –present
    Doctoral student in Geography, The University of Texas at Austin College of Liberal Arts