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. 

Geography Admissions Tutor and Stage 1 Leader

PI of the ESRC funded project 'Watpop: understanding seasonal population change'


  • 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)
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
  • American Association of Geographers - Member

Roles on external bodies

Committee member for the Royal Geographical Society's Geographical Information Science Research Group (GIScRG) (2015 - present)
Committee member for the Royal Geographical Society's Southwest 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 and teach on the the following modules:

GGH1203 Culture, Society and Space
Within this module core GIS and statistical skills within the context of human geography are employed to help frame real world social and natural processes within the geographical context. 

ENVM1001 Environment and Society 
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. 

GGX2203 Geographic Information Systems
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.

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:
GGX2204 Fieldwork in Geography
Developer and leader of the Western Australia field course. 

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

GEES523 Quantitative Research in Human Geography



Research interests

My research interests 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 dynamics research
  • Big data applications
I am currently working on the development and application of methods to better understand seasonal population estimates and the PI of the ESRC SDAI project "WatPop: understanding seasonal population change". This project concerns developing and assessing methodologies for estimating seasonal populations using water meter billing data. Transient and seasonally varying populations (e.g. tourists) have traditionally been difficult to enumerate despite their numbers fluctuating considerably across space and time. This has important implications for planners and policy makers. 

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.

Previously, I have contributed to the development of SurfaceBuilder247 applications, a spatiotemporal population modelling tool. This encompasses the creation of a national open source population dataset for use with the spatiotemporal population modelling techniques currently being developed.

Research groups

Research degrees awarded to supervised students

PhD student(s)

  • Dr Kate Rawlings (2020), Geography and Environmental Science, University of Southampton 

Grants & contracts

  • ESRC SDAI "WatPop: estimating seasonal population change" (2019, £300,000 FEC, Principal Investigator)
  • 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

Key publications are highlighted

Newing A, Hibbert O, Van-Alwon J, Ellaway S & Smith A (2023) 'Smart water metering as a non-invasive tool to infer dwelling type and occupancy – Implications for the collection of neighbourhood-level housing and tourism statistics' Computers, Environment and Urban Systems 105, , DOI Open access
Smith A & Sheasby J (2023) 'Examining the Factors That Contribute to Pro-Environmental Behaviour between Rural and Urban Populations' Sustainability 15, (6179) 1-15 , DOI Open access
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
Conference Papers
Smith AD, Goff CA & Panzeri M (2014) 'Enhancements in reservoir flood risk mapping: Example application for Ulley' 295-306 , DOI


Reports & invited lectures

Smith (2019). Spatiotemporal population mapping using census and social media data. Geography and Planning Seminar, University of Western Australia, 8 May 2019. 

Other academic activities

Training courses delivered

Co-developed and deliver the NCRM training course "Understanding small areas: spatial analysis of population and neighborhood data"

GIS for Geography Teachers, University of Plymouth