Eleanor Thomson

Academic Profile

Eleanor graduated from Oxford in 2013 with a first-class BA in Geography. In 2016, she completed an MSc in Environmental Change and Management at Oxford with distinction. Building on her MSc dissertation, Eleanor worked as a research scholar at Northern Arizona University, USA, using drones to remotely measure tropical leaf traits. She was funded by Google Earth Engine and invited to present the results of her research at their summer conference at Google HQ, California.

Outside of academia, Eleanor has spent two years teaching and tutoring in Germany and Austria.


2016: Google Earth Engine Research Award

2015: Boardman Scholarship

2015: Ruby and Will George Scholarship

2012: William Buchanan Bursary

2011-13: Keble College Academic Award

Current Research

My PhD is pioneering a new method to remotely measure tropical forest carbon absorption. Currently, tropical forests absorb around 18% of human C02 emissions, but it is unknown how this will change in a changing climate. Even a small deviation (±2-3%) in the tropical carbon sink would have profound climate implications. Satellites are an ideal method for monitoring carbon absorption in many parts of the world, but currently no reliable method exists for tropical forests.

My PhD uses hyperspectral cameras attached to drones to test the feasibility of using spectroscopy to measure tropical forest carbon absorption. Spectroscopy uses leaf reflectance to predict the amounts of nitrogen, phosphorus and other elements stored in a leaf, which are empirically linked to the plant’s carbon absorption rate. Research is being carried out at a number of study sites, including Ghana, Borneo, Brazil, Peru and Tahiti. If successful, I hope to scale up these results by applying the same method to satellite data. To this end, I am collaborating with the European Space Agency and Google Earth Engine. The ultimate aim of the PhD is to create a publicly available map of tropical forest carbon absorption in Google Earth Engine that can be used by scientists and policy makers.


Publications will be coming soon