Reader in Remote Sensing, UCL

I am a Reader in Remote Sensing in the Department of Geography and member of the Environmental Monitoring and Modelling Group. I am also a member of the NERC National Centre for Earth Observation (NCEO).

My background was a BSc in physics, followed by our very own UCL MSc in remote sensing. I then studied radiative transfer modelling of crop canopies for my PhD, using detailed 3D models to explore the information content of moderate resolution satellite data, to test simpler models and validate new (at the time!) satellite albedo products based on these simpler approaches. This led to work with NASA colleagues on the MODIS BRDF/albedo product, amongst other things.

My research interests lie in using new observations of terrestrial ecosystems, particularly trees and forests, across scales from individual leaves to global. My aim is to better understand the interactions between vegetation, climate and people, by quantifying the relationships between tree form and function. I do this by combining traditional field measurements with cutting-edge new technologies including in particular ground-based terrestrial laser scanning (TLS) and satellite Earth Observation (EO). The approaches I have helped develop are now being used to underpin new space-based global forest measurements by NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA), among other international organisations e.g. for calibration and validation of the forthcoming NASA GEDI (2018) and ESA BIOMASS (2021) missions. I have led field campaigns to Gabon, Ghana, and the US for this work.

I have pioneered the use of new highly-accurate TLS measurement and models to provide unique 3D measurements of forest structure and biomass. These measurements are proving to be of critical importance in reducing uncertainty in estimates of tropical forest C stocks from ground and space. My new approach to ‘weighing’ trees with lasers by calculating their 3D shape and volume very precisely, is providing new insights into current tropical forest C stocks. I have collaborated widely with partners across the tropics to characterise forest AGB, for example in the new AmazonFACE CO2 enrichment experiment set up near Manaus and funded by (among others) INPA, CNPq and Brasil Governo Federal (http://amazonface.org/program). Under various funding from NERC, the EC and others I am generating new samples of tree volume (and mass) with which to test existing methods and develop improved relationships with much lower uncertainty. This is particularly importance for the UN programme on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation in Developing Countries (REDD+) in terms of valuation of avoided deforestation C in tropical forests. This has led to funding via the UK Government Technology Strategy Board (TSB) for remote sensing of C in collaboration with industry (‘Big Data’ BioClim project) and through EC funding (EU Horizon 20:20 BACI).

My work on characterising forest structure is also providing new ways to test fundamental hypotheses relating tree and forest structure to function: what controls tree size and shape? How do size and form reflect the various contributions of metabolic, environmental and evolutionary constraints? What are the implications for responses to disturbance and change? These questions are almost impossible to answer for large, hyper-diverse trees and forests; accurate measurements of tree structure of the sort I have developed are providing new insights and empirical tests of these hypotheses, which have been sorely lacking so far. This work has led to a wide range of publications, outreach activities, and funding to lead field campaigns, develop methods, organise and participate in international workshops and research networks around the broad themes of new forest measurements. I was co-recipient of funding from the Royal Society to hold a special meeting on the Terrestrial Laser Scanning revolution in forest ecology (Feb 2017) and guest editor of and contributor to the subsequent special issue of the Royal Society: Interface Focus special issue (as well as providing the cover image). I have collaborated widely including with groups in the UK, Europe, the US, Australia, Ghana, Gabon, Brazil, Peru, Malaysia and elsewhere. As part of my outreach and impact activities in the area of public understanding, my work has featured in various recent high profiles documentaries for the BBC, and in the wider press. I maintain a blog around my work which has led to new public outreach activities, including in schools, with local government and community organisations and other organisations, including a high profile exhibition The Future Starts Here, at the Victoria and Albert Museum in 2018.

Experience

  • –present
    Reader in Remote Sensing, UCL