School of Natural and Environmental Sciences

Staff Profile

Dr Rachel Gaulton

Lecturer in Remote Sensing


Area of Expertise

Environmental remote sensing


Rachel joined Newcastle University in 2011 as a Lecturer in Remote Sensing and now works within the Modelling, Evidence and Policy group in the School of Natural and Environmental Sciences, whilst retaining strong teaching and research links to the Geospatial Engineering group within the School of Engineering. Her research interests lie in the application of remote sensing techniques, including ground-based and drone mounted sensors, to ecology and environmental monitoring, with a particular focus on the measurement and monitoring of vegetation structure, dynamics and health. Rachel teaches remote sensing, primarily on the undergraduate Geospatial Engineering programmes.


PhD, Remote Sensing for Continuous Cover Forestry, University of Edinburgh, 2009.

BSc (Hons.) Ecology, University of East Anglia, 2003. 

Roles and responsibilities

CEG representative on the SAgE Athena SWAN steering group (2013 - 2017).

Chair of School of CEG Athena SWAN Self-Assessment Team (2013 - 2017).

Deputy Chair of Geomatics Board of Examiners (2013 - 2019).

Previous Positions

 2010 - 2011, Research Fellow, School of Environment and Life Sciences, University of Salford, UK. Multispectral, full-waveform terrestrial LiDAR for improved vegetation characterization.

2009 - 2010, Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Department of Forest Resources Management, University of British Columbia, Canada.

Sept 2006 - Dec 2006, Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology Fellow (sponsored by British Ecological Society). POST, UK Parliament.


Terrestrial laser scanning international interest group (

Remote Sensing and Photogrammetry Society (member).

British Ecological Society (member). 

Google scholar: Click here.

SCOPUS: Click here.


Current Work

My research is focussed on the use of remote sensing technology (ground-based, airborne and satellite) in measuring and monitoring vegetation structure and dynamics, especially in forested and agricultural environments. I have particular interests in the estimation of forest and crop health, including vegetation stress and disease detection. Active projects include the use of novel dual-wavelength laser scanner technologies in measuring leaf and canopy physiological parameters such as water content; characterising vegetation structure and composition in the agricultural environment; development of ground-based and remote sensor networks for tree health monitoring; and monitoring of agricultural / horticultural crop health for precision farming applications. I have particular interests in the calibration and validation of low-cost and novel sensors for unmanned aerial vehicle platforms and the application of UAV imaging in ecology, agriculture and forestry. I also have ongoing interests in the use of satellite imagery for long-term mapping and monitoring of vegetation change at regional extents, as a result of human and natural disturbances.

Past work has included the fusion of Landsat and MODIS imagery for generating a high temporal and spatial resolution disturbance sequence over a grizzly bear habitat area in western Canada, the use of a physiological forest growth model (3-PG) for predicting forest volume and growth changes under current and future climatic conditions, and mapping of forest canopy gaps and quantifying spatial aspects of forest structure from airborne LiDAR and hyperspectral data (in collaboration with the UK Forestry Commission). 

Main expertise

  • Terrestrial and airborne LiDAR for vegetation applications.
  • Unmanned aerial vehicles and low-cost sensors for quantitative remote sensing.
  • Multispectral and hyperspectral remote sensing from airborne and satellite platforms.
  • Characterising and quantifying vegetation structure, dynamics and health. 

Other expertise

  • Vegetation ecology and forest management.
  • Agricultural applications
  • Multi-temporal remote sensing. 

Postgraduate Supervision

  • Mohammed Al Safran (PhD, completed, 2015). Distribution and ecology of Acacia in Qatar. [co-supervsior].
  • Elias Berra (PhD, completed, 2018). UAVs for forest phenology monitoring. Science Without Borders funded. [primary supervisor].
  • Magdalena Smigaj (PhD, completed, 2018). Remote sensing for UK forest health monitoring. NERC funded. [primary supervisor].
  • Lyndsey Graham. Optimizing hedgerow structure for biodiversity; developing and testing lidar-based structural condition models. NERC IAPETUS project in collaboration with CEH. [primary supervisor].
  • Annock Chiwona (PhD, completed, 2020). Extending the reach of crushed rock fertilisers to Africa. [co-supervisor].
  • Surassawadee Phoompanich (PhD, completed, 2020). Improvement of risk assessment framework by applying remote sensing technology for inclusive disaster risk reduction in Thailand. [co-supervisor].
  • Ahmed Elsherif (PhD, completed, 2020). Estimation of vegetation canopy moisture content as an indicator of plant health using dual-wavelength laser scanning. [primary supervisor].
  • Aleksandra Zaforemska (MPhil, started 2018). Individual tree delineation from lidar point clouds. [co-supervisor].
  • Khunsa Fatima (PhD, started 2019). Integrated sensing technologies for rapid tree health assessment. IAFRI and NUORS PhD studentship in collaboration with Fera Science Ltd. [primary supervisor].
  • Eylem Elmer (PhD, Started 2019). Developing a suite of cost-effective remote sensing methods for habitat monitoring of Zostera sp. in Lindisfarne National Nature Reserve (NNR), Northumberland. [co-supervisor].

Research Roles / Esteem Indicators

Associate Editor, International Journal of Remote Sensing, 2017 - present.

Member of NERC Peer Review College, 2020 - present.

NERC Airborne Research Facility Steering Committee member, 2016 - 2018.

EUFAR User Group Selection Panel member 2013 - 2017.

Guest Editor (2018) of special issue in Interface Focus, 8 (2), The Terrestrial Laser Scanning Revolution in Forest Ecology.

Book review editor, International Journal of Remote Sensing 2011-2014.

Journal reviewer for > 15 international journals including Remote Sensing of Environment, International Journal of Remote Sensing, Agricultural and Forest Meteorology, Journal of Applied Ecology, ISPRS Journal of Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing, Sensors, Progress in Physical Geography.

Member of RSPSoc Awards and Professional Standards Committee 2011-present.

Invited lecturer: Intensive PhD course - Analysing and Modelling Spatial Forest Structure, Estonian University of Life Sciences, Tartu, 08/10/12 - 12/10/12; CLIMO COST Action Summer School - Multiscale monitoring tools for a smart management of mountain forests, San Michele all’Adige, 01/07/19 – 03/07/19. 

Session co-chair, Silvilaser 2012, Vancouver, Canada, September 2012.

Student representative, Remote Sensing and Photogrammetry Society Council, 2005-7. 

Invited guest lecturer: University of Salford, 2010; University of Edinburgh, 2008 and 2009.

Funding received

Sentinel Treescapes for Biosecurity and Risk Management - Multiple Threats. Newcastle PI. 2020-2022. NERC Constructing a Digital Environment Demonstrator Project.

REmote sensing and Decision support for Apple tree Precision management, Production and globaL tracEability (RED-APPLE). Co-I. 2019 - 2022. BBSRC-Innovate UK.

PAPPADAAM (Pluri-scalar Approaches for co-Production of Pan-Asian Drought Assessment and Adaptive resource Management). Co-I. Dec. 2017 - May 2019. Royal Society GCRF.

Earth observation for the improved management of tree health in urban and periurban settings. Jul 2017 - Jun 2019. Co-I. STFC CLASP Energy and Environment award.

DRIER-China: Drought Resilience in Ecosystem services and Rural communities in China. PI. 2016-2017. NERC GCRF Building Resilience award.

PAFiC: Precision Agriculture for Family Farms in China. 2016-2019. Co-I. STFC-NSFC Newton Fund Agri-tech Joint Programme award.

Non-invasive biomass estimation in coppice plantations (SRC). Sep. 2014 - Apr. 2015. Co-I. EPSRC IAA award.

Thermal imaging from an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) for UK forest health monitoring. Dec 2013 - Nov 2014. PI. Royal Society Research Grant.

Dual-wavelength laser scanning for forest health monitoring. Sep 2012 - Nov 2013. PI. NERC New Investigators Grant NE/K000071/1.

Full-waveform multispectral lidar to measure vegetation structure and dynamics. April-Dec 2011. Researcher Co-Investigator, NERC Small Project Grant, NE/I01702X/1. 


 Undergraduate teaching

  • CEG1706  Principles of Remote Sensing (100% and module leader)
  • CEG1711 Tutorial Study Skills for Geomatics (Contributor)
  • CEG2709  Applied Remote Sensing and Image Processing (100% and module leader)
  • CEG3799 Individual Research Project (supervisor)
  • NES8002 MSc Research Dissertation project (supervisor)

Student project supervision

I supervise undergraduate BSc and postgraduate MSc projects on the application of remote sensing and ground-based sensing technologies to environmental monitoring, with a particular focus on characterising crop and tree health and monitoring vegetation structure, composition and changes over time. Recent past projects have examined a range of applications from use of drones to characterise erosion in peat bogs and hedgerow structure in agricultural environments to monitoring crop health and detecting deforestation and land cover change from satellite sensors. Where possible I encourage students to work with external partners on areas of real-world application.