Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Alan BlackburnDr Alan Blackburn

Lancaster Environment Centre,
Lancaster University, Lancaster, LA1 4YQ, UK

Tel: +44 (0) 1524 510237            email


Research interests

My overall motivation is to develop a deeper understanding of environmental systems in order to define appropriate practices and strategies for the management of those systems. To achieve this I undertake basic and applied research in geospatial technology, which focuses on the following three themes:

(1) Remote sensing of plant responses to environmental stress: Here the emphasis is on developing novel remote sensing techniques using ground-based, airborne and satellite systems for measuring the biochemical and biophysical responses of vegetation to factors such as water deficit, nutrient deficiency and pollution. This work is contributing towards the adoption of remote sensing in forestry, agriculture and environmental security.

(2) Modelling the relationships between spatial properties and ecosystem processes: This theme emphasises the importance of understanding ecological processes across multiple scales in order to determine the controls on biodiversity and other ecosystem services. This work uses novel combinations of remote sensing and field data for collecting ecologically meaningful information across multiple scales and spatial modelling for assimilating data and building predictive systems.

(3) Applying geospatial technologies across different environmental systems: Here the emphasis is on adapting the rapidly emerging capabilities in remote sensing, GIS and spatial modelling to provide new insights into the functioning of a range of different environmental systems. Throughout, the emphasis has been on exploiting the unique properties of remotely-sensed information (large area coverage, spatial continuity, repeat acquisition etc.) and the ability for multi-scale analysis and representation of processes, in order to investigate the environmental system from new perspectives.

Current teaching

Undergraduate modules

LEC 103 Environmental Processes and Systems (Biosphere section)

LEC 115 Geographical Skills in a Changing World (Remote Sensing section)

LEC 214 Interacting Landscapes: Biogeography and Geomorphology

LEC 215 Investigating Mediterranean Environments (Field Course)

LEC 315 Environmental Remote Sensing and Image Processing

Masters module

LEC 402 Geoinformatics


Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Alan teaching in Spain

La Alpujarra, Spain


Academic posts.
Present. Senior Lecturer, Lancaster Environment Centre, Lancaster University.

1993 -2000. Lecturer, Geography Department, King's College London.

Ph.D. in Remote Sensing, Southampton University. 1993.

B.Sc. in Physical Geography. University of Bristol. 1990.

Key admin roles.
Director of the Graduate School of the Environment, 2016-present.

Lancaster Environment Centre Associate Director (Postgraduate Research), 2015-present.

Part 1 Director of Studies, 2012-2015.

Director of Teaching and Learning, 2008-2011.

Undergraduate Admissions Tutor, 2003-2007.


Recent funded research projects

“Increasing the resilience of cereal and oilseed rape production to weather damage.” 2016-2019, BBSRC/NERC Sustainable Agriculture Research and Innovation Club. Partners: University of Birmingham, ADAS, BASF, SOYL, Monsanto, Telespazio.  PI £697k.

“Delivering resilient power, road and rail networks by translating a tree failure risk model for multi-sector applications”. 2016-17, NERC Environmental Risks to Infrastructure Innovation Programme. Partners: ADAS, BGS Scottish Power, UK Power Networks, Transport Scotland, Scottish Water, Bluesky and Atkins. See: PI £83k.

“Remote Sensing for Sustainable Intensification in China.” 2015-16, STFC Newton Agritech Programme. Partners: UK: Rothamsted, ADAS, Southampton University, AgSpace, Aberdeen University, UEA, China: ZJU, CAAS, CAU, CMA & CAS. Co-I £189k to Lancaster (£640k to consortium)

“Quantifying the risks of tree failure to guide proactive management and increase the resilience of electricity distribution networks.” 2014-15, NERC Environmental Risks to Infrastructure Programme. Partners: ADAS & Scottish Power. PI £153k

“Exploiting satellite ‘hyper-sensing’ to deliver yield sustainability in China.” 2014-15, STFC Newton Agri-Tech Programme. Postdoc: Alex Onojeghuo. Partners: UK: CEH & ADAS, China: ZJU, CAAS, CAU, CMA & CAS. PI £50k

“Understanding disturbance and regeneration in tropical forests to support sustainable forest management.” 2013-16, Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation, Malaysia & NERC. Partners: Forest Research Institute Malaysia & UiTM. PI £51k.

Current PhD students

Merryn Hunt, in progress, “Sustainable intensification of agriculture: The role of EO in quantifying the agricultural landscape”. NERC Centre for Ecology & Hydrology Studentship.

Christopher Obida, in progress, “A spatial decision support system for pipeline spill monitoring.” Petroleum Technology Development Fund Studentship.

Craig Pearce, in progress, “Remote sensing of grassland condition and responses to environmental stress”. NERC Centre for Ecology & Hydrology Studentship.

Iliya Nababa, in progress, “The impacts of oil spills on mangrove forest ecosystem services”. Petroleum Technology Development Fund Studentship.

Nurul Ain Mohd Zaki, in progress, “Quantifying tropical rainforest biomass by fusing LiDAR and satellite remote sensing data for sustainable forest management.” UiTM, Malaysia.

Jon Murray, in progress, “A step-change in tree hazard assessment using emerging techniques and technologies”. EPSRC studentship.

Iguniwari Ekeu-Wei, in progress, “Application of geoinformatics for flood management and urban planning in Yenagoa City, Nigeria”. Niger Delta Development Commission studentship.

Anson Hancock, in progress, “Multi-scale, multi-sensor monitoring of volcanic activity”.

Sek Aun Tan, in progress, “Characterizing and quantifying tropical rainforest structure through LiDAR technology”. Malaysian Government studentship.

Completed PhD’s

Ahmed Nassar, PhD 2016, “Urban growth and its impact on urban heat sink and island formation in the desert city of Dubai”.

Beth Brockett, PhD 2016, “An interdisciplinary approach to mapping soil carbon” NERC LWEC studentship.

Adam Kimberley, PhD 2015, “Environmental, spatial and temporal drivers of plant community composition in British forest habitat.” NERC studentship.

Lisiane Zanella, PhD 2015, “The Brazilian Atlantic Forest: Investigations into deforestation, forest fragmentation and the distribution of threatened plant species”. Brazilian Government Studentship.

Obinna Anejionu, PhD 2015, “Remote survey of gas flares in the Niger Delta and modelling of the environmental and health impacts”. Petroleum Technology Development Fund studentship.

Alison Birkett, PhD 2014, “Dung beetles and ecosystem functions in UK uplands: predicting responses to environmental change.” NERC studentship.

Louisa Reynolds, PhD 2014, “The measurement of net available energy using satellites: method development and evaluation.” NERC studentship.

Alex Parker, Ph.D. 2014, “Exploring the potential of remote sensing techniques in irrigation scheduling for potato crops” Perry Foundation Studentship.

Marin Cvitanovic, PhD 2014, “Land use and land cover change in theKrapina County, Croatia, from 1991 to 2011.” University of Zagreb studentship.

Percival Cho, Ph.D. 2014, “An investigation of tropical forest response to hurricane disturbance with evidence from long-term plots and earth observation in Central America.” LU Faculty of Science and technology studentship.

Rachel Carmenta, Ph.D. 2013, “From earth observation to ethnography: Investigating the relationship between land-tenure and Amazonian wildfires.” NERC-ESRC studentship.

Alex Onojeghuo, Ph.D. 2011, “Reedbed mapping using remotely-sensed data”. Petroleum Technology Development Fund Studentship.

Ebele Emengini, Ph.D. 2010, “Hyperspectral and thermal remote sensing of plant stress responses to oil pollution, waterlogging and water deficit.” Petroleum Technology Development Fund Studentship.

Zulkiflee Latif, Ph.D. 2010, “Modelling microclimates in broadleaved deciduous forests using remotely-sensed data.”. Malaysian Government studentship.

Tom Martin, Ph.D. 2010, “Avifauna and anthropogenic forest disturbance in two biodiversity hotspots.”, Faculty of Science and Technology Studentship

Uwem Ituen, Ph.D. 2007, “Land use inventory and change detection in a rural environment of northern Akwa Ibom State, Nigeria.” British Council Studentship.

Kina Stewart, Ph.D. 2006 “Airborne remote sensing of Grímsvötn subglacial volcano, Vatnajökull, Iceland.” Self-funded.

Niels Nielsen, Ph.D. 2004 “Spatial metrics of structure and diversity: calculation from Earth Observation and map data, for use as indicators in environmental management.” EU & Danish Government funding.

Waleed Alsabhan, Ph.D. 2002 “A real-time hydrological model for flood prediction using GIS and the WWW.”, Saudi Arabian Government Studentship.

Sotirios Koukoulas, Ph.D. 2001 “Analysing the spatial structure of semi-natural deciduous woodlands through high-resolution airborne imagery and Geographic Information Systems.”, Self-funded.

Benito Meza-Diaz, Ph.D. 2000, “Remote sensing of the biophysical properties of mangroves: an evaluation of spectral vegetation indices.”, Departmental Studentship.

Caiti Steele, Ph.D. 2000, “Empirical evidence of the relationships between spectral reflectance and vegetation canopy physiology.”, KCLA Studentship.

Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: P1020115

Badaling, China


Journal articles

Nassar, A.K., Blackburn, G.A. and Whyatt, J.D. (2016) Dynamics and controls of urban heat sink and island phenomena in a desert city: development of a local climate zone scheme using remotely-sensed inputs. International Journal of Applied Earth Observation and Geoinformation, 51 (2016) 76–90.

Onojeghuo, A.O. and Blackburn, G.A. (2016) Exploiting high resolution multi-seasonal textural measures and spectral information for reedbed mapping. Environments, 3, 5; doi:10.3390/environments3010005

Carmenta, R., Blackburn, G.A., Davies, G., Lima, A., Parry, L., Tych, W., Barlow, J. (2016) Does the establishment of sustainable use reserves affect fire management in the humid tropics? PLOS ONE. 11, 2, 19 p.

Cvitanovic, M., Blackburn, G.A. and Jepsen, M.R. (2016) Characteristics and drivers of forest cover change in the post-socialist era in Croatia: evidence from a mixed-methods approach. Regional Environmental Change. DOI 10.1007/s10113-016-0928-0

Shahtahmassebi, A.R., Son, J., Sheng, Q, Blackburn, G.A. and Wang, K. (2016) Remote sensing of impervious surface growth: A framework for quantifying urban expansion and re-densification mechanisms. International Journal of Applied Earth Observation and Geoinformation. 46, 94–112.

Kimberley, A., Blackburn, G.A., Whyatt, J.D. and Smart, S. (2016) How well is current plant trait composition predicted by modern and historical forest spatial configuration? Ecography. 39, 67-76.

Huang, J., Wei, C., Zhang, Y., Blackburn, G.A., Wang, X., Wei, C., Wang, J. and Song, X. (2015) Meta-analysis of the detection of plant pigment concentrations using hyperspectral remotely sensed data. PLoS ONE 10 (9): e0137029. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0137029.

Anejionu, O.C.D., Whyatt J.D., Blackburn, G.A. and Price, C. (2015) Contributions of gas flaring to a global air pollution hotspot: Spatial and temporal variations, impacts and alleviation. Atmospheric Environment. 118, 184–193.

Onojeghuo, A.O., Blackburn, G.A, Okeke F. and Onojeghuo, A.R. (2015) Habitat suitability modeling of endangered primates in Nigeria: integrating satellite remote sensing and spatial modeling techniques. Journal of Geoscience and Environment Protection, 2015, 3, 23-38.

Anejionu, O.C.D., Blackburn G.A. and Whyatt J.D. (2015) Detecting gas flares and estimating flaring volumes at individual flow stations using MODIS data. Remote Sensing of Environment.158, 81-94.

Pan, Z., Huang, J., Zhou, Q., Wang, L., Cheng, Y, Zhang, H., Blackburn, G.A., Yang, J., Liu, J. (2015) Mapping crop seasonality parameters using NDVI time-series derived from HJ-1 A/B data. International Journal of Applied Earth Observation and Geoinformation. 34, 188–197.

Blackburn, G.A., Abd Latif, Z., & Boyd, D.S. (2014) Forest disturbance and regeneration: a mosaic of discrete gap dynamics and open matrix regimes? Journal of Vegetation Science. Doi: 10.1111/jvs.12201

Kimberley, A., Blackburn, G.A., Whyatt, J.D. and Smart, S. (2014) Traits of plant communities in fragmented forests: The relative influence of habitat spatial configuration and local abiotic conditions. Journal of Ecology. 102, 632–640.

Nassar, A.K., Blackburn, G.A. and Whyatt, J.D. (2014) Developing the desert: The pace and process of urban growth in Dubai. Computers Environment and Urban Systems. 45, 50-62.

Anejionu, O.C.D., Blackburn G.A. and Whyatt J.D. (2014) Satellite survey of gas flares: development and application of a Landsat-based technique in the Niger Delta. International Journal of Remote Sensing. 35(5), 1900-1925.

Martin, T.E. and Blackburn, G.A. (2014) Conservation value of secondary forest habitats for endemic birds, a perspective from two widely separated tropical ecosystems. Ecography,37(3), 250-260.

Emengini E.J., Blackburn, G.A., Theobald, J.C. (2013) Discrimination of plant stress caused by oil pollution and waterlogging using hyperspectral and thermal remote sensing. Journal of Applied Remote Sensing. 7(1), 073476 (Nov 26, 2013).

Cho, P., Blackburn, G.A., Bird, N., Brewer, S. and Barlow, J. (2013) The FORMNET-B database: monitoring the biomass and dynamics of disturbed and degraded tropical forests. Journal of Vegetation Science. 24, 1204–1207.

Kimberley, A., Smart, S., Blackburn, G.A., Whyatt, J.D. and Kirby, K. (2013) Identifying the trait syndromes of conservation indicator species: How distinct are British ancient woodland indicator plants from other woodland species? Applied Vegetation Science, 16(4), 667-675.

Emengini, E.J., Blackburn, G.A and Theobald, J.C. (2013) Early detection of oil-induced stress in crops using spectral and thermal responses. Journal of Applied Remote Sensing, 7(1), 073596 (Jan 17, 2013)

Onojeghuo, A.O. and Blackburn, G.A. (2013) Characterising reedbeds using LiDAR data: potential and limitations. IEEE Journal of Selected Topics in Applied Earth Observations and Remote Sensing, 6(2), 935-941

Martin, T.E. and Blackburn, G.A. (2012) Habitat associations of an insular Wallacean avifauna: A multi-scale approach for biodiversity proxies. Ecological Indicators. 23, 491-500.

Martin, T.E., Kelly, D.J., Keogh, N.T., Heriyadi, D., Singer, H.A. and Blackburn, G.A. (2012) The avifauna of the Lambusango Forest Reserve, Buton Island, South-East Sulawesi (with additional sightings from Southern Buton). Forktail. 28, 107-112.

Onojeghuo, A.O. and Blackburn, G.A. (2011) Mapping reedbed habitats using texture-based classification of QuickBird imagery. International Journal of Remote Sensing. 32 (23), 8121-8138.

Huang, J.F. and Blackburn, G.A. (2011) Optimising predictive models for leaf chlorophyll concentration based on continuous wavelet analysis of hyperspectral data. International Journal of Remote Sensing. 32 (24) 9375-9396.

Abd Latif, Z. & Blackburn, G. A. (2011) Deriving spatial inputs for forest microclimate modelling using remote sensing techniques. International Journal of Electrical and Electronic Systems Research, 4, 13-20.

Onojeghuo, A.O. and Blackburn, G.A. (2011) Optimizing the use of hyperspectral and LiDAR data for mapping reedbed habitats. Remote Sensing of Environment. 115, 2025-2034.

Carmenta, R., Parry, L., Blackburn, G.A., Vermeylen, A. and Barlow, J. (2011) Understanding human-fire interactions in tropical forest regions: A case for interdisciplinary research across the natural and social sciences. Ecology and Society 16(1): 53.

Onojeghuo, A.O. and Blackburn, G.A. (2011) Forest transition in an ecologically important region: patterns and causes for landscape dynamics in the Niger Delta. Ecological Indicators. 11, 1437-1446.

Martin, T.E. and Blackburn, G.A. (2010) Impacts of tropical forest disturbance upon avifauna on a small island with high endemism: implications for conservation. Conservation and Society. 8(2), 127-139.

Martin, T.E. and Blackburn, G.A. and Simcox, W. (2010) An assessment of the effectiveness of two methods in describing a neotropical cloud forest bird community. Ornitologia neotropical. 21, 131–147.

Abd Latif, Z. & Blackburn, G. A. (2010) The effects of gap size on some microclimate variables during late summer and autumn in a temperate broadleaved deciduous forest. International Journal of Biometeorology. 54, 119–129.

Martin, T.E. and Blackburn, G.A. (2009) The effectiveness of a Mesoamerican ‘paper park’ in conserving cloud forest avifauna. Biodiversity and Conservation. 18, 3841–3859.

Joseph, S., Blackburn, G.A., Gharai, B., Sudhakar, S., Thomas, A.P. and Murthy, M.S.R. (2009) Monitoring conservation in a global biodiversity hotspot: the contribution of land cover change assessment. Environmental Monitoring and Assessment. 158, 169-179.

Stewart, S. F., Pinkerton, H., Blackburn, G.A. and Gudmundsson, M.T. (2008) Monitoring active subglacial volcanoes: a case study using airborne remotely sensed imagery of Grímsvötn, Iceland. International Journal of Remote Sensing. 29(22), 6501–6514.

Blackburn, G.A. and Ferwerda, J.G. (2008) Retrieval of chlorophyll concentration from leaf reflectance spectra using wavelet analysis. Remote Sensing of Environment. 112, 1614–1632.

Blackburn, G.A. (2007) Wavelet decomposition of hyperspectral data: a novel approach to quantifying pigment concentrations in vegetation. International Journal of Remote Sensing. 28(12), 2831-2855.

Stewart, S. F., Pinkerton, H. and Blackburn, G.A. (2007) Mapping thermal anomalies using Airborne Thematic Mapper imagery: Grímsvötn caldera, Vatnajökull, Iceland. Geological Society, London, Special Publications 283, 31-43.

Blackburn, G.A. (2006) Hyperspectral remote sensing of plant pigments. Journal of Experimental Botany. 58(4), 855-867.

Koukoulas, S. and Blackburn, G.A. (2005) Spatial relationships between tree species and gap characteristics in broadleaved deciduous woodland. Journal of Vegetation Science. 16, 587-596.

Koukoulas, S. and Blackburn, G.A. (2005) Mapping individual tree location, height and species in broadleaved deciduous forest using airborne LiDAR and multi-spectral remotely sensed data. International Journal of Remote Sensing. 26(3), 431-455.

Blackburn, G.A., Clark, G. and Pilgrim, D. (2005) The gap year for geographers: effects and paradoxes. Geography. 90(1), 32-41.

Koukoulas, S. and Blackburn, G.A. (2004) Quantifying the spatial properties of forest canopy gaps using LiDAR imagery and GIS. International Journal of Remote Sensing. 25(15), 3049-3071.

Meza-Diaz, B. and Blackburn, G.A. (2003) Remote sensing of mangrove biophysical properties: evidence from a laboratory simulation of the possible effects of background variation on spectral vegetation indices. International Journal of Remote Sensing. 24(1), 53-73.

Al-Sabhan, W., Mulligan, M. and Blackburn, G.A. (2002) A real-time hydrological model for flood prediction using GIS and the WWW. Computers, Environment and Urban Systems. 27(1), 5-28.

Blackburn, G.A. (2002) Remote sensing of forest pigments using airborne imaging spectrometer and LIDAR imagery. Remote Sensing of Environment. 82, 311-321.

Koukoulas, S. and Blackburn, G.A. (2001) Introducing new indices for accuracy evaluation of classified images representing semi-natural woodland environments. Photogrammetric Engineering and Remote Sensing, 67(4), 499-510.

Blackburn, G.A. and Steele, C.M. (1999) Towards the remote sensing of matorral vegetation physiology: relationships between spectral reflectance, pigment and biophysical characteristics of semi-arid bushland canopies. Remote Sensing of Environment, 70(3), 278-292.

Blackburn, G.A. (1999) Relationships between spectral reflectance and pigment concentrations in stacks of deciduous broadleaves. Remote Sensing of Environment, 70(2), 224-237.

Blackburn, G.A. and Pitman, J.I. (1999) Biophysical controls on the directional spectral reflectance properties of bracken (Pteridium aquilinum) canopies: results of a field experiment. International Journal of Remote Sensing, 20(11), 2265-2282.

Blackburn, G.A. (1998b) Quantifying chlorophylls and carotenoids from leaf to canopy scales: An evaluation of some hyper-spectral approaches. Remote Sensing of Environment, 66(3), 273-285.

Blackburn, G.A. (1998a) Spectral indices for estimating photosynthetic pigment concentrations: a test using senescent tree leaves. International Journal of Remote Sensing, 19(4), 657-675.

Blackburn, G.A. and Milton, E.J. (1997)  An ecological survey of deciduous woodlands using airborne remote sensing and geographical information systems (GIS). International Journal of Remote Sensing, 18(9), 1919-1935.

Blackburn, G.A. and Milton, E.J. (1996) Filling the Gaps: Remote Sensing Meets Woodland Ecology. Global Ecology and Biogeography, 5, 175-191.

Blackburn, G.A. and Milton, E.J.(1995) Seasonal variations in the spectral reflectance of deciduous tree canopies. International Journal of Remote Sensing, 16(4),709-721.

Milton, E.J., Blackburn, G.A., Rollin, E.M. and Danson, F.M. (1994) Measurement of the spectral directional reflectance of forest canopies: a review of methods and a practical application. Remote Sensing Reviews, 10, 285-298.

Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Fieldwork at Pollino, Italy

Pollino National Park, Italy