School of GeoSciences

School of GeoSciences

Luke Smallman BSc (York), MRes (York), PhD (Edin)

I am a PDRA within the Global Change Ecology Lab (GCEL) within the School of GeoSciences. I am heavily involved in the development and application of model-data fusion (MDF) approaches on terrestrial ecosystem models. My research interests focus on using models and MDF to improve our understanding of the underlying ecological processes governing ecosystem processes (such as growth, mortality and decomposition). I completed my PhD here in Edinburgh between 2009 and 2013. Between 2013 and 2017 I worked as PDRA on the NERC GHG programme GREENHOUSE project and since March 2017 I am working on the Forests 2020 project. Forests 2020 is a UK Space Agency funded Overseas Development Assistance (ODA) grant, lead by Ecometrica.


Within Forests2020 my work focuses on Theme 2: Opportunity and Risks mapping.


My overall objective for GREENHOUSE was to develop and implement a MDF approach (Bloom & Williams 2015; Bloom et al., 2017) in combination with the data assimilation linked ecosystem carbon model (DALEC; Williams et al., 2005, Bloom & Williams 2015) to improve constraint of the state and dynamics of the C-cycle for UK managed terrestrial ecosystems. This work has focused on forestry, for which we have quantified the impact of varied levels of biometric information on error and uncertainty of our analyses. We demonstrated that repeated measurement of the woody component significantly increases our analysis constraint on wood stocks and dynamics, but importantly also on the underlying ecosystem traits leading to improved knowledge of the dynamics of soil and dead organic matter stocks (Smallman et al., 2017). Our forestry framework is currently conducting a UK wide analysis for the period 2001-2010, providing the finest scale national analysis of the UK's forest estimate known to have occurred (Smallman et al., inprep). The UK wide analysis combines databased information from forest planting maps, soil carbon with satellite based remote sensing of leaf area, woody biomass stocks and disturbance information. The forestry analysis has involved collaborations with the UK's Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, Forest Research, Forestry Commission facilitated by the UK's Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS).

The framework development and testing process conducted as part of GREENHOUSE has been key in forming the basis of the tools needed for the Forests2020 project.


I completed my PhD at the School of GeoSciences, University of Edinburgh, titled 'Atmospheric profiles of CO2 as integrators of meso - scale exchange.' funded by NERC through National Centre for Earth Observations (NCEO). This project involved the development of a coupling between the weather research and forecasting model (WRF) and the soil plant atmosphere SPA, creating WRF-SPA. The development of WRF-SPA lead to the inclusion of significant new science within biogeophyical process representation within SPA. My PhD was Supervised by John B. Moncrieff and Mat Williams. My PhD project investigated land atmosphere exchange and feedbacks of CO2 using the WRF-SPA model with validation at multiple spatial scales, including site level eddy covariance through to atmospheric CO2 concentrations observed from aircraft and tall tower Angus, Scotland. Furthermore using a novel arrangement of ecosystem specific tracers of CO2 exchange with the surface, WRF-SPA model was used to investigate the information relating to surface processes contained within these atmospheric observations.

Using WRF-SPA we demonstrated that simulation of meteorological processes is improved by the inclusion of a more complex process orientated representation (provided by SPA) of land surface processes (Smallman et al., 2013). Moreover, we showed that atmospheric observations of CO2 made at tall towers contain within their signal information on the distinct seasonal patterns of CO2 uptake and release from forests verses arable agriculture (Smallman et al., 2014).

Teaching activities

Over the last several years I have supported 4 undergraduate dissertation projects lead by Mathew Williams, and I have co-supervised (With Terry Sloan of EPCC) a student on the High Performance Computing Masters course in EPCC. The project title was "Code optimisation for data-based global carbon cycle analysis".

Previously I was responsible for running an 'Introduction to R for GeoSciences'. The course was aimed at introducing postgraduate researchers at the School of GeoSciences to the R statistical and programming environment, providing them with the basic skills required to carry out simple analysis and produce publication quality graphics. While the course was aimed at postgraduate students, previous attendees have included final year undergraduates as well as members of staff wishing to learn a new programming language. The course was also offered as part of Innovative Learning Week (ILW) at the University of Edinburgh. Ultimately, this material was folded into the Ecological and Environmental Analysis course as part of the Ecological and Environmental Sciences undergraduate degree programme.

If you have any questions about my current or previous work please feel free to contact me.

Contact Details

Luke Smallman

University of Edinburgh,
Crew Building,
Alexander Crum Brown Road,