Skip to main content


Dr Karen Anderson

Dr Karen Anderson

Professor in Remote Sensing

 01326 371854

 Environment and Sustainability Institute 1.38


Environment and Sustainability Institute, University of Exeter, Penryn Campus, Penryn, Cornwall, TR10 9FE, UK


Current research: I work with spatial data captured by satellites, airplanes and drones to understand ecosystem processes, particularly flows and stores of carbon and water. I work predominantly in non-forest systems where vegetation pattern and volumetric structure provides a useful proxy for function. 

Expertise: My PhD was focused on developing proximal sensing and spectroradiometric approaches for calibrating and validating coarser-grained remote sensing (RS) data through which I gained a deep critical understanding of the physical aspects of RS. My research now addresses questions about the relationships between spatial pattern, volumetric structure and ecosystem function in vegetated systems using RS observations, in situ data and spatial modelling. I work extensively with RS data of all types, from satellite observations to airborne and terrestrial laser scanning, and spectroscopy. With my DroneLab research group, I have pioneered the use of lightweight drones for spatial ecological research, with a particular focus on spatial modelling of vegetation structure in wetland, grass and shrub ecosystems. I have undertaken a range of practical research developing drone sensing methodologies, the latter which has led to me producing the first spatial estimates of shrub biomass in drylands using drone-based SfM photogrammetry methods.

Supervision: I currently manage a team comprising postdoctoral, doctoral and MbyRes researchers. I have supervised 7 PhD students to successful completion, all of whom have published peer-reviewed papers during their research projects.

I a geographer and I work also within the Geography Department in the College of Life and Environmental Sciences.

You can find my Google Scholar account here.

My personal webpages can be accessed here.

I'm on twitter @KAnderson_RS

You can find out more by watching a two-minute video of me explaining my work.


2005 PhD Geography (University of Southampton)
1999 BSc Environmental Science (University of Southampton, First Class Hons)


2016 Associate Professor, University of Exeter
2010 Senior Lecturer, University of Exeter 
2004-2010 Lecturer, University of Exeter 
2000-2002 Manager of the NERC Equipment Pool for Field Spectroscopy, University of Southampton
2000-2002 Remote sensing consultancy, GeoData Institute


Research group links

Back to top


Research interests

  • Remote and proximal sensing
  • Laser scanning and waveform LiDAR
  • Field spectroscopy
  • Drone sensing
  • Structure-from-motion photogrammetry
  • Eco-hydrology
  • Vegetation structure
  • Mountain hydrology
  • Ecosystem services

Further information can be found on my personal webpages.

Research projects

Current major research projects:

  • NERC DRIVING-C - Do dryland ecosystems control variability and recent trends of the land carbon dioxide sink?
  • NERC ICAAP - Increasing C accumulation in Arctic Peatlands.
  • ESIF Agritech "ClimateHub" Project - modeling microclimate using spatial and volumetric approaches to improve understanding of crop pests and diseases.
  • EU Marie Curie International Training Network - 'TRUSTEE' - Innovative proximal sensing solutions for vegetation biophysical characterisation
  • Exmoor and Dartmoor Mires Restoration Project - remote sensing monitoring for the 'upstream thinking' programme. In collaboration with South West Water.
  • NERC-SWEEP - Project 003 - Leak detection using remote sensing, landscape indicators and proxies.
  • EU cost Action ESI309 - 'OPTIMISE' - Innovative optical tools for proximal sensing of ecophysiological processes

Full list of research grants to date:

  • 2017 NERC - £800K – DRIVING-C Do dryland ecosystems control variability and recent trends in the land CO2 sink? (Co-I leading shrub survey RS work package)
  • 2017 NERC SWEEP-leak - £82K - developing RS-based operational solutions to leak detection (Co-PI)
  • 2017 Internal funding - £1K - collaboration with UK Met Office for aerosol monitoring from drones (Co-I)
  • 2016 Marie Sklodowska-Curie Innovative Training Network - Total: €3M; €275 K to University of Exeter - “TRuSTEE” Training on Remote Sensing for Ecosystem modelling – proximal sensing solutions for vegetation biophysical characterization: I am leading a drone methodology work package (Co-I).
  • 2016 European Space Agency - £30K - AO/1-8536/15/NL/FF/ - Scientific Assessment of Satellite Ocean Glitter (SArONG; Co-I)
  • 2016 EU COST Action Optimise - £3.1K - training course on ‘safe operations for drone RS’ (PI)
  • 2016 South West Water Consultancy Project £2.5K - Drone operations, survey assistance (PI)
  • 2016 Dartmoor Consultancy Project  - £20K - Remote sensing peatlands (Co-I)
  • 2015 NERC PhD studentship to Darren Jones (Himalayan rock glaciers and RS; Co-PI)
  • 2015 South West Water - £600K – Mires on the moor upland monitoring (Co-I)
  • 2015 NERC Impact Accelerator - £12K – Remote sensing with Westcountry Rivers Trust (PI)
  • 2015 European Social Fund - £10K – Development of a mobile ‘map app’ for RS from drones (PI)
  • 2015 UK ICURE- £35K – National funding for innovation/commercialisation of DroneLab (PI)
  • 2015 South West Water - £2.8K – Thermal imaging leak detection pilot project (PI)
  • 2015 Devon Wildlife Trust - £40K – Beaver reintroduction monitoring project (Co-I)
  • 2014 NERC PhD studentship to James Duffy (coastal monitoring from low-cost drones; Co-I)
  • 2013 EU COST Action - €300K - ES1309 ‘Optimise’ Innovative optical tools for proximal sensing of ecophysiological processes (Co-I)
  • 2013 DEFRA - £600K – Developing a cost effective framework for soil erosion (Co-I)
  • 2012 NERC - £2.2M – Urban biodiversity, functions and flows (Co-I leading LiDAR work package)
  • 2012 Devon Wildlife Trust - £80K - Culm grassland monitoring project (minor role as Co-I)
  • 2010 European Social Fund PhD studentship to Amy Nettley (coasts, LiDAR, visualisation; Co-I)
  • 2010 DEFRA - £120K - DEFRA soil erosion pilot study (Co-I leading RS work package)
  • 2008 NERC - £120K – Remote sensing peatland responses to hydrological change (PI)
  • 2010 South West Water and NERC - £300K - Moorland restoration (Co-I)
  • 2010 South West Water £25K – Evaluating LiDAR and thermal imaging for upland survey (PI)
  • 2009 EU COST Action - €300K - ES0903 ‘GroundSpec’ Spectral sampling tools for vegetation Biophysical Parameters and Flux measurements in Europe (Co-I)
  • 2008 Winston Churchill Memorial Trust (~£10K) - Travelling Fellowship to NASA Ames (PI)

Back to top

External Engagement and Impact

I undertake many external activities.

I was a member of the steering committee of the NERC Airborne Research and Survey Facility (ARSF) from 2009 to 2013. I have been on the NERC Peer Review College since 2012. I belong to a network of international collaborators including industrial partners (e.g. South West Water, UK; Exmoor National Park, UK; Agua Sustentable, Bolivia; FoAM Kernow, UK).

Some of my collaborations have been realised through funded EU COST Actions (E.g. ES0103 (‘Eurospec’) and ES1309 (‘Optimise’)), where I have also served on the Management Committee.

Science into policy: In December 2015 I was invited to present to the UK government at the Parliamentary and Scientific Committee, in a debate on ‘drones and how to regulate them’ and I have presented my work on BBC television twice in the past five years. Most recently, I presented at the BBC's 'Click Live' technology show held at BBC Television Centre in London.

I am also:

There is a short video about my research and teaching available here.

Back to top


  • Remote sensing
  • Drone methodologies
  • Environmental science



Back to top

Supervision / Group

Postdoctoral researchers

  • Andrew Cunliffe
  • Naomi Gatis
  • Emilie Grand-Clement
  • David Luscombe

Postgraduate researchers

  • Jonathan Crocker
  • Leon Debell
  • James Duffy
  • Nicola Ellis
  • Dominic Fawcett
  • Joel Forsmoo
  • Martin Goodall
  • Hugh Graham
  • Darren Jones
  • Israa Kadhim

Back to top

Office Hours:

Due to timetabling this term, my office hours will vary from week to week. 

You can easily look at my availability and book a slot to meet me online through my booking page. Typically office hours will be via Teams. If you require a face-to-face meeting please contact me separately.

Back to top

Edit Profile