Dr Emma Tebbs
Lecturer in Physical Geography
Tel: +44 (0)20 7848 2628
Department of Geography
King's College London
Office: Bush House North East Wing, Room 6.03
Emma Tebbs is a Lecturer in Physical Geography at King’s College London. She has expertise and interests in the application of Earth Observation technology to issues of biodiversity conservation and sustainable development. Her research focuses on the remote sensing of aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems.
Prior to joining King’s, Emma worked as a Research Associate in Spatial Ecology and Remote Sensing at the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology (2013 – 2015). In this role she contributed to a wide range of projects, including developing indicators of high nature value farmland for the Welsh government; analysing land cover change and modelling ecosystem service trade-offs. While at CEH, Dr Tebbs also produced a high resolution woody cover product, from airborne radar data and optical satellite imagery, for mapping small-scale woody features at a national scale. As Field Campaign Manager and Data Manager for the Land Cover Plus project, Emma led the collection of field data on crop type and condition for development and validation of satellite products. She also acted as Project Manager for the MacArthur funded ‘Lake Turkana ecological/ hydrological baseline’ project.
Emma has an interdisciplinary PhD in ‘Remote sensing for the study of ecohydrology in East African Rift lakes’ (University of Leicester, 2014). Her PhD research used remote sensing to investigate the sustainability of alkaline-saline lakes in Kenya and Tanzania, critical to the lifecycle of Lesser Flamingos. She used satellite datasets and field measurements to investigate the connections between ecological and hydrological processes in these lakes and to assess the impact of environmental and climatic changes on these ecosystems.
Alongside her PhD, Emma was employed as a Graduate Teaching Assistant by the Centre for Interdisciplinary Science, University of Leicester. In this role, Emma was awarded a Teaching Partnership Award in 2012, for her contribution to enhancing the student learning experience. Emma led groups of students taking part in the ‘Sustainable Livelihoods’ field course in Kenya, and she developed units for the cross-departmental Sustainable Futures module. Emma has developed an educational resource, ‘The Sustainability Game’, and an accompanying film. The game is currently used on undergraduate modules at the University of Leicester and by schools and charities in Kenya.
- Remote sensing of aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems
- Field spectroscopy and algorithm development
- Ecohydrology and lake ecology
- Biodiversity conservation
- Sustainable development
- East Africa
Emma is a remote sensing scientist with particular interests in the innovative use of Earth Observation technology for addressing issues of biodiversity conservation and sustainable development. She has expertise in remote sensing of terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems, including forests, wetlands, inland waters and agricultural landscapes, with a focus on developing countries, particularly Africa. Her research investigates complex relationships within interconnected, human-natural systems and addresses problems with global significance, such as how to sustainably manage resources, and ensure food and water security, in a world with a growing population and increasing demand for natural resources.
Emma’s research is highly interdisciplinary. Her work uses remotely sensed datasets to explore the connections between ecological, hydrological and social systems, at a range of spatial scales. She makes use of innovative technologies, including unmanned aerial vehicles and new satellite sensors, alongside traditional field based methods, for monitoring environmental change and understanding systems and processes. Emma develops bespoke remotely-sensed products, from satellites and ground-based measurements, to investigate ecosystem processes and to provide valuable information to policy-makers. This has included developing indicators of high nature value farmland for the Welsh government; analysing land cover change; habitat mapping and modelling ecosystem service trade-offs. Emma has developed novel methods for mapping natural capital, including a method for mapping vegetation productivity for the UK and a high resolution woody cover product. Emma is a Project Manager for MacArthur funded 'Lake Turkana ecological/hydrological baseline’ project, which is using remotely-sensed water parameters to investigate the long-term natural variability in Lake Turkana and to assess the risks posed by the Gibe III dam which is currently being built on the lake’s main river inflow.
During her PhD, Emma used remote sensing to investigate the relationship between ecological and hydrological processes in Eastern Rift Valley lakes, and role of these lakes in supporting the near-threatened Lesser Flamingo. She used Landsat imagery and field measurements to develop ecological indicators for monitoring long term change in these lakes. She then used these results to assess the impact of environmental and climatic changes on these ecosystems. She collaborated with a diverse team of scientists addressing biodiversity conservation and the sustainability of ecosystem services provided by the Rift Valley lakes. Key results from Emma’s PhD include the development of a new algorithm for the remote sensing of chlorophyll-a in Lake Bogoria, as an indicator of the Lesser Flamingo’s food supply. This work was featured as a Science Highlight in the NERC Field Spectroscopy Facility’s Annual Report 2013/14. She also produced a lake surface area time series for Lake Natron, the Lesser Flamingos’ sole breeding site in East Africa, and combined this with ground based observations of flamingo breeding. Emma’s results showed that successful breeding occurs on a receding and intermediate lake level. Her PhD provided extremely valuable knowledge for the future management and conservation of Rift Valley lakes.
Emma is a first year academic tutor and a supervisor for the second year Physical Geography India field trip. She also contributes to the following modules:
5SSG2043 Environmental Remote Sensing I (shared with Nick Drake)
This module aims to provide a comprehensive overview of the fundamental principles of environmental remote sensing. Students will learn the characteristics of electromagnetic radiation and how it interacts with the Earth’s surface. The course will consider how this radiation is recorded using a wide variety of sensors on a wide range of platforms (e.g. aeroplanes, satellites). Students will also learn about the diverse applications of remote sensing in geography including topics such as climate change, tropical deforestation and land-use change.
6SSG3028 Environmental Remote Sensing II (shared with Martin Wooster)
This module covers the theory and application of passive environmental remote sensing techniques, and is examined by two online exams (50%:50%) that include both a theoretical and practical component. The module commences with an introduction to electromagnetic radiation theory and spectroscopy, with the wavelength regions covered being the VIS, NIR, SWIR and thermal IR regions. The module then focuses on use of observations made within these spectral regions in satellite Earth Observation (EO) programmes. The module is taught 50% by lectures and 50% by practical classes, the latter based primarily around the use of the software ENVI to derive environmental information about the Earth from analyses of various EO satellite imagery, data and time series. Methods covered include gaining information on the condition and distribution of vegetation and biome types (e.g. forests, savannah, croplands etc), the temperature of the land and oceans, the concentration of various trace gases in the atmosphere, and the land cover changes induced by e.g. deforestation and biomass burning.
6SSG3070 (undergraduate) 7SSG5176 (masters) Global Environmental Change I: Past and Present (shared with Nick Drake and Tom Smith)
This module covers the past and current climate and environment of the Earth, and is examined by two coursework projects. The focus of my contribution is on the more rapidly changing constituents of Earth's atmosphere, namely certain trace gases (such as carbon monoxide and methane) and aerosols (organic aerosols and black carbon). We study their sources, consequences and fate, and the methods used in their quantification and monitoring - including satellite remote sensing. One session of the module us given over to practical work, enabling the students to use the NASA 'cloud computing' tool Giovanni (http://disc.sci.gsfc.nasa.gov/giovanni) to study these aspects of the Earth system using large, global satellite datasets.
7SSG5029 (masters) Environmental Remote Sensing (shared with Martin Wooster)
This module covers the theory and application of passive environmental remote sensing techniques, and is examined by one online exam (20%) and one 3200 word (max) coursework project (80%) that is focused around analysis of a satellite Earth Observation dataset selected by the student. The module commences with an introduction to electromagnetic radiation theory and spectroscopy, with the wavelength regions covered being the VIS, NIR, SWIR and thermal IR regions. The module then focuses on use of observations made within these spectral regions in satellite Earth Observation (EO) programmes. The module is taught 50% by lectures and 50% by practical classes, the latter based primarily around the use of the software ENVI to derive environmental information about the Earth from analyses of various EO satellite imagery, data and time series. Methods covered include gaining information on the condition and distribution of vegetation and biome types (e.g. forests, savannah, croplands etc), the temperature of the land and oceans, the concentration of various trace gases in the atmosphere, and the land cover changes induced by e.g. deforestation and biomass burning.
7SSG5035 Monitoring Environmental Change (shared with Andreas Baas)
This module covers the use of measurement and instrumental techniques in the study of the Earth's land, water and atmospheric environments. My contribution includes material on satellite positioning methods (e.g. GPS), ground-based remote sensing (e.g. field spectroscopy) and the associated analysis approaches. The module is examined by two coursework projects.