skip to primary navigation skip to content

Dr Gareth Rees M.A., Ph.D.

Dr Gareth Rees M.A., Ph.D.

University Senior Lecturer with duties at the Scott Polar Research Institute and Fellow of Christ's College

Physicist with research interests predominantly in the development and application of spaceborne remote sensing techniques to monitoring the dynamics of Arctic glaciated and vegetated terrain.



  • 1983-1985: Postdoctoral research at Mullard Radio Astronomy Observatory, University of Cambridge. Research Fellow, Christ's College, Cambridge
  • 1985-1991: Senior Assistant in Research, Scott Polar Research Institute, University of Cambridge.
  • 1991-2001: Assistant Director of Research, Scott Polar Research Institute.
  • 2001-2001: University Lecturer, Department of Geography, University of Cambridge (with duties at the Scott Polar Research Institute)
  • 2001-present: University Senior Lecturer, Department of Geography, University of Cambridge (with duties at the Scott Polar Research Institute)


  • BA (Hons) in Natural Sciences, University of Cambridge, 1980.
  • MA, University of Cambridge, 1984.
  • PhD in Radio Astronomy, University of Cambridge, 1985.
  • Fellow of the Institute of Physics, 1996.


Major Research Interests

Dynamics of high-latitude vegetation

Long-term collaborative programme, with the Geography Faculty of Moscow State University, British Antarctic Survey, and the Russian Academy of Sciences, to develop and apply spaceborne monitoring techniques to tundra and forest change in the Russian Arctic and elsewhere as a consequence of climate change, airborne industrial pollutants and anthropogenic factors including reindeer husbandry.

Remote sensing of glaciers

Development of new spaceborne and airborne techniques for mapping surface properties of glaciers

Dynamics of snow cover

Including the development of new monitoring techniques and the analysis of regional and circumpolar datasets. Currently part of a collaboration with British Antarctic Survey.

PPS Arctic / Tundra-Taiga Initiative

International programmes to study the current status and climatological sensitivity of the tundra-taiga ecotone. More information is here.

Remote sensing of high-latitude fauna

This is a long-running research area which began with the study of reindeer in northern Russia. Currently it includes two collaborative projects with British Antarctic Survey, to study penguins and whales.

Reconstructing historical climate data from the Southern Ocean

The aim of this project is to use historical records from naval and commercial vessels operating at high southern latitudes to reconstruct ice and climate data from the southern ocean.

Current PhD students

  • Tim Reilly
  • Rebecca Vignols (jointly with BAS)
  • Wenkai Guo
  • Praveen Teleti
  • Hannah Cubaynes (jointly with BAS)
  • Prem Gill (jointly with BAS)



  • Rees, W.G. (2013). Physical principles of Remote Sensing (third edition). Cambridge University Press. (441 pp.)
  • Pellikka, P. and Rees, W.G. (2009). Remote Sensing of Glaciers. Boca Raton, Florida: CRC Press. (330 pp).
  • Rees, W.G. (2005) Remote Sensing of Snow and Ice. Boca Raton, Florida: CRC Press. (285 pp). Also published in Chinese.
  • Kapitsa, A.P. and Rees, W.G. (eds) (2003) Ekologiya severa: distantsionnye metody izuchenniya narushennykh ekosistem – na primere Kol'skogo Poluostrova [Ecology of the North: Remote Sensing of ecosystem disturbance – case study of Kola Peninsula]. Moscow: Scientific World (246 pp).
  • Rees, W.G. (2001) Physical Principles of Remote Sensing (Second edition). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press (343 pp). Also published in Japanese, Russian and Arabic.
  • Rees, W.G. (1999) The Remote Sensing Data Book. Cambridge University Press. (262 pp)
  • Landshoff, P.V., Metherell, A.J.F. and Rees, W.G. (1997). Essential Quantum Physics (second edition). Cambridge University Press. (204 pp)
  • Rees, W.G. (1994) Physics by Example. Cambridge University Press. (374 pp). Published in Spanish as La Física en 200 problemas (Alianza Universidad, Madrid, 1995)
  • Rees, W.G. (1990) Physical Principles of Remote Sensing. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. (247 pp)

Selected recent publications

  • Rickaby, R.E.M., Bard, E., Sonzogni, C., Rostek, F., Beaufort, L., Barker, S. Rees, G. and Schrag, S.P. (2007) Coccolith chemistry reveals secular variations in the global ocean carbon cycle? Earth and Planetary Science Letters 253 83-95.
  • Rees, W.G. (2007) Characterisation of Arctic treelines by LiDAR and multispectral imagery. Polar Record 43 345-352.
  • Rees, W.G. and Arnold, N.S. (2007) Mass balance and dynamics of a valley glacier measured by high-resolution LiDAR. Polar Record 43 311-319.
  • Rees, W.G. and Danks, F.S. (2007) Derivation and assessment of vegetation maps for reindeer pasture analysis in Arctic European Russia. Polar Record 43 290-304.
  • Rees, W.G. (2008) Comparing the spatial content of thematic maps. International Journal of Remote Sensing 29 3833-3844.
  • Zöckler, C., Miles, L., Fish, L., Wolf, A., Rees, G. and Danks, F. (2008) Potential impact of climate change and reindeer density on tundra indicator species in the Barents Sea Region. Climatic Change 87 119-130.
  • Rees, W.G., Stammler, F.M., Danks, F.S. and Vitebksy, P. (2008) Vulnerability of European reindeer husbandry to global change. Climatic Change 87 199-217.
  • Curry, A.M., Porter, P.R., Irvine-Fynn, T.D.L., Rees, G., Sands, T.B. and Puttick, J. (2009). Quantitative particle size, microtextural and outline shape analyses of glacigenic sediment reworked by paraglacial debris flow. Earth Surface Processes and Landforms 34 (1) 48-62.
  • Arnold, N. and Rees, G. (2009). Effects of digital elevation model spatial resolution on distributed calculations of solar radiation loading on a High Arctic glacier. Journal of Glaciology 55 (194) 973-984.
  • Hofgaard, A., Rees, G., Tømmervik, H., Tutubalina, O., Golubeva, E., Lukina, N., Høgda, K.A., Karlsen, S.R., Isavea, L. and Kharuk, V. (2010) Role of disturbed vegetation in mapping the boreal zone in northern Eurasia. Applied vegetation science 13, 460-472.
  • Golubeva, E.I., Plyushkyavichyute, Y.A., Rees, W.G. and Tutubalina, O.V. (2010) Remote Sensing methods for phytomass estimation and mapping of tundra vegetation. Geography Environment Sustainability 3 4-13.
  • Bol'shakov, V.A., Kapitsa, A.P. and Rees, W.G. (2012) James Croll: a scientist ahead of his time. Polar Record 48 (2) 201-205.
  • Rees, W.G. (2012) Automated spaceborne detection of degraded vegetation around Monchegorsk, Kola Peninsula, Russia. Polar Record 48 107-112.
  • Shipigina E. and Rees W.G. (2012). Analysis of human impact on boreal vegetation around Monchegorsk, Kola Peninsula, using an automated remote sensing technique. Polar Record 48 94-106.
  • Rees, W.G. (2012) Assessment of ASTER global digital elevation model data for Arctic research. Polar Record 48 31-39.
  • Pope, A., Willis, I.C., Rees, W.G., Arnold, N.S., Pálsson, F. (2012). Combining airborne lidar and Landsat ETM+ data with photoclinometry to produce a digital elevation model for Langjökull, Iceland. Int. J. Remote Sensing 34 (4) 1005-1025.
  • Hofgaard, A., Tømmervik, H., Rees, G and Hanssen, F. (2013). Latitudinal forest advance in northernmost Norway since the early 20th century. J. Biogeography 40 938-949.
  • Shepard, E.L.C., Wilson, R.P., Rees, W.G., Grundy, E., Lambertucci, S.A. And Vosper, S.B. (2013). Energy landscapes shape animal movement ecology. American Naturalist. Doi 10.1086/671257
  • Rees, G., Headland, R., Scambos, T. and Haran, T. (2013). Finding the Arctic pole of inaccessibility. Polar Record. Doi 10.1017/S003224741300051X
  • Trofaier, AM, Bartsch, A., Rees, W.G. and Leibman, M.O. (2013) Assessment of spring floods and surface water extent over the Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous District. Environmental Research Letters 8 045026 (9 pp)
  • Pope, A. and Rees, W.G. (2014). Impact of spatial, spectral and radiometric properties of multispectral imagers on glacier surface classification. Remote Sensing of Environment 141 1-13.
  • Pope, A., Rees, W.G., Fox, A.J. and Fleming, A. (2014) Open access data in cryospheric remote sensing. Remote Sensing 6 6183-6220.
  • Swirad, Z.M. and Rees, W.G. (2015) Geomorphometric analysis of a rocky coastline: an example from Hornsund, Svalbard. International Journal of Remote Sensing doi 10.1080/13658816.2015.1061131 (24 pp)
  • Twongyirwe, R., Bithell, M., Richards, K.S. and Rees, W.G. (2015) Three decades of forest cover change in Uganda's Northern Albertine Rift landscape. Land Use Policy 49 236-251.
  • Trofaier, A M and Rees, W.G. (2015) The suitability of using ASTER GDEM2 for terrain-based extraction of stream channel networks in a lowland Arctic permafrost catchment. Fennia 193 66-73.
  • Pope, E.L., Willis, I.C., Pope, A., Miles, E.S., Arnold, N.S. and Rees, W.G. (2016) Contrasting snow and ice albedos derived from MODIS, Landsat ETM+ and airborne data from Langjökull, Iceland. Remote Sensing of Environment 175 183-195.
  • Pope, A., Willis, I.C., Pálsson, F., Arnold, N.S., Rees, W.G., Björnsson, H. and Grey, L. (2016) Elevation change, mass balance, dynamics and surging of Langjökull, Iceland from 1997 to 2007. J. Glaciol. Doi 10.1017/jog.2016.55, pages 1-15.
  • Marshall, G.J., Vignols, R.M. and Rees, W.G. (2016). Climate Change in the Kola Peninsula, Arctic Russia, during the last 50 years from meteorological observations. J. Climate 18 6823-6840
  • Twongyirwe, R., Bithell, M., Richard, K.S. and Rees, W.G. (2017). Do livelihood typologies influence local perceptions of forest cover change? Evidence from a tropical forested and non-forested rural landscape in western Uganda. J. Rural Studies 50 12-29.
  • Rees, W.G., Brown, J.A., Fretwell, P.T. and Trathan, P.N. (2017). What colour is penguin guano? Antarctic Science 29 (5), 417-425.

  • Marshall, G.J., Kivinen, S., Jylhä, K., Vignols, R.M. and Rees, W.G. (2018). The accuracy of climate variability and trends across Arctic Fennoscandia in four reanalyses. Int. J. Climatology. Doi 10.1002/joc.5541, pp 1-18.

  1. Teleti, P.R., Rees, W.G., Dowdeswell, J.A. and Wilkinson, C. (2019) A historical Southern Ocean climate dataset from whaling ships' logbooks. Geoscience Data Journal 00:1-11

External activities

  • Member of the Advisory Group for the International Science Initiative for the Russian Arctic (ISIRA), from 1998.
  • Member of IASC steering committee for the Taiga-Tundra Interface, from 2000.
  • Co-director of the International Polar Year core programme PPS Arctic
  • Member of steering committee, International Circumpolar Remote Sensing Symposium (since 2010).