Dr Alan Smith

Dr Alan Smith

Lecturer in Environmental Management

School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences (Faculty of Science and Engineering)


Dr Alan Smith BSc (Hons) MRes PhD PGCAP FHEA FRGS

I am a lecturer in Geography (GIS) in the School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences at the University of Plymouth. My research interests include GIS, spatial analysis, population geography, quantitative methods and natural hazard risk assessment. 

Admissions Tutor: BSc/BA Geography


  • PGCAP Postgraduate Certificate in Academic Practice, University of Southampton, UK (2016)
  • PhD Geography, University of Southampton, UK (2011-2014)
  • MRes Science of Natural Hazards, University of Bristol, UK (2010/11)
  • BSc (Hons) Geography, University of Wales, Aberystwyth, UK (2007-2010)
Other positions held
Visiting Researcher, Geography and Environment, University of Southampton (2016 - present)

Previous positions
  • Lecturer in Geographical Information Science, Geography and Environment, University of Southampton (2015-2016)
    • Director of the Graduate School (Semester 1, 2016/17)
    • Ethics, Research and Governance committee reviewer (2015-16)
    • Volunteer scientific dive team member, School of Ocean and Earth Science, National Oceanography Centre Southampton
  • Senior Research Assistant, Geography and Environment, University of Southampton

Professional membership

  • Royal Geographical Society (with IBG) - Fellow
  • Higher Education Academy - Fellow
  • Association of Americian Geographers - Member

Roles on external bodies

Associate Editor (Social Science), Journal of Maps
Committee member for the Royal Geographical Society's Geographical Information Science Research Group (GIScRG) (2015 - present)
Committee member for the Royal Geographical Society's Southern Region

Teaching interests

My teaching interests (undergraduate and postgraduate) are also informed by my active research and broadly fall within the following themes:
  • Spatial analytical skills
  • Applied geospatial skills (GIS) for independent projects and in the field
  • Natural hazard risk assessment, causes and consequences
  • Population geography
Current teaching contributions at Plymouth
I currently lead the following modules:

GGX1204 Practising Geography 2
Role: Module leader and lecturer. I teach GIS skills and practicals and how these help us understand real world social and natural processes within the geographical context.  

ENVM1001 Environment and Society 
Role: Module leader and lecturer. This module examines the role of human society, organisations and individuals in environmental management and sustainability, through case studies in the local area. It examines the concepts of environmental narratives, environmental consumption and behaviours, agency and change leadership and show that environmental management can be addressed on scales from the global to the local and from the present to the future. 

GGX3205 Advanced GIS and Big Data
Role: Module leader and lecturer. This module provides an overview of advanced geographical information system (GIS) concepts and facilitates further practice of analytical skills. The concept of ‘big data’ is explored within the geographical context. Themes and practice around the acquisition, processing, analysis and application of big data are introduced. Examples within geography are demonstrated across the natural and social sciences. 

And contribute to the following:
GGX2200 Fieldwork in Geography
Brittany field course

GGX2203 Geographic Information Systems
Role: Lecturer. This module provides a grounding in theory and practical techniques of GIS. Practical work covers stages of handling geospatial data, construction of GIS models and automation, provides exposure to a range of techniques in spatial analysis and visualisation, and gives context and experience to spatial literacy concepts. Knowledge and skills are developed in project work.

GGX3200 Dissertation in Geography
Role: BA/BSc dissertation supervisor. 

GGX3201 Advanced Fieldwork in Geography
Pacific Northwest of the USA field course

Research interests

My research interesets are broadly within the following themes:
  • Quantitative human geography
  • Geospatial data analysis and GIS
  • Spatiotemporal population modelling
  • Population vulnerability, risk and exposure to natural hazards
  • Population distribution dynamics
I am currently working on the development and application of SurfaceBuilder247, a spatiotemporal population model. This encompasses the creation of a national open source population dataset for use with the spatiotemporal population modelling techniques currently being developed. Current research interests also include the application of high resolution spatiotemporal population estimates for UK flood hazard scenarios. Traditionally static census estimates have been applied in such scenarios but are often not best suited to hazard analyses alone. The creation of time-specific population estimates can be used to create a more realistic assessment of the distribution of vulnerable populations.

Research degrees awarded to supervised students

Current PhD student(s)

  • Kate Rawlings (2016-2019), University of Southampton 

Grants & contracts

  • World University Network Research Mobility Partnership grant - University of Southampton/University of Western Australia, Perth (2016, £1700)
  • Strategic Interdisciplinary Research Development Fund, University of Southampton (2016, £10,000)
  • EPSRC Knowledge Transfer Internship (October - December 2013) at HR Wallingford (£19,620)
  • ESRC Advanced Quantitative Methods DTC studentship award (2011)

Key publications are highlighted

Smith A, Newing A, Quinn N, Martin D, Cockings S & Neal J 2015 'Assessing the Impact of Seasonal Population Fluctuation on Regional Flood Risk Management' ISPRS International Journal of Geo-Information 4, (3) 1118-1141 , DOI
Smith A, Martin D & Cockings S 2014 'Spatio-Temporal Population Modelling for Enhanced Assessment of Urban Exposure to Flood Risk' Applied Spatial Analysis and Policy 9, (2) 145-163 , DOI
Murray SJ, Smith AD & Phillips JC 2012 'A Modified Flood Severity Assessment for Enhanced Decision Support: Application to the Boscastle Flash Flood of 2004' Weather and Forecasting 27, (5) 1290-1297 , DOI


Twitter: @DrAlanSmith_