A photo of a woman standing in front of a plain background.

Jenny Shepherd

Cranfield University


Using time series satellite imagery to monitor the response of forests to climate change


  • Dr Daniel Simms
  • Prof Ron Corstanje 

PhD Summary

Although the science is now clear and unequivocal about the unstoppable progression of climate change, there is less clarity on how to accurately monitor its impact (both short and long term) on nature, including forests and grasslands. Particularly critical is the identification of early warning signals of ‘tipping points’; signs of critical slowdown and irreversible change, which could result in species mortality.  

This study tests a new method of using time series satellite imagery combined with other data sets, including biophysical measurements, to identify and validate signals of critical slowdown (e.g. wilting point stress) amongst trees and grasses. This is important to enable timely management to mitigate the worst impacts of climate change and facilitate long term survival of our trees and grasslands in the UK landscape. 

Previous activity

After studying a BSc in Geography, including a dissertation using remote sensing to assess the health of vegetation in the Lower Swansea Valley regeneration project, I would have liked to pursue a PhD in this area. However, an opportunity did not become available, so I went on to complete a Masters by research (in Marketing). This was followed by 30+ years working in research and data analyst roles in various sectors including public health, transport and community safety, during which I developed my love of research. My most recent job was Research Manager at a charity working on various projects to robustly measure the benefits of canals and rivers for people and nature 

Why did you choose doctoral research?

During all those years of working, I was on the lookout for a PhD opportunity, and it finally appeared in the form of this CENTA project! The topic was a perfect combination of all the things I am interested in and has critical importance for the future of our beautiful forests. The challenge of creating new knowledge in a globally important topic area is just what I wanted as a new opportunity. I love the idea of planning my own time and tasks and having just one project to focus on after so many years of working on multiple things at once, for other people! 

Why did you choose CENTA?

The concept of the Doctoral Training Partnership (DTP) is a good one, creating a cohort of fellow students to share ideas and knowledge; plus the extra support and training provided by the CENTA team. This added value may not have been available through other PhD pathways and will generate benefits through the course of the study and beyond, with wider networking opportunities between the universities and organisations involved in CENTA. 

Future plans

There are many advantages of joining the CENTA programme to study for my PhD including networking with, and learning from, people from multiple key universities and organisations which could result in further research and/or job opportunities in the future. On completion of my PhD I would ideally like to continue this important research, perhaps through a post-doctoral fellowship.