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The University of Southampton
Geography and Environmental Science

Dr Robin Wilson BSc, PhD

EPSRC Doctoral Prize Research Fellow

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After completing a BSc in Geography at the University of Southampton (in which he gained the highest mark in the year), Dr Wilson completed a PhD, also at Southampton. His PhD focused on the development of a novel method to monitor Aerosol Optical Thickness (a measure of the haziness of the atmosphere) from satellite images at very high resolution (over 100,000 times the previous level of detail available). His work won the RSPSoc PhD Prize.

After finishing his PhD, Dr Wilson worked as a consultant to the Flowminder Foundation, leading a team producing estimates of displacement due to the 2015 Nepal earthquake from mobile phone data.

He is now a Post Doctoral Research Fellow (funded by EPSRC) at the University of Southampton, where he is focusing on extending the method developed during his PhD, to allow its operational use by researchers and governments across the world.

Dr Wilson is an accomplished programmer, and has released a number of pieces of research software including:

• Py6S – a Python interface making the 6S radiative transfer model significantly easier to use

• recipy – a tool for automated provenance capture

• PySpectra – a Python module for processing spectral data for use in remote sensing applications

For more information on his programming activites, see Dr Wilson’s academic website ( and blog (

Research interests

Dr Wilson’s research focuses on atmospheric remote sensing. His particular area of expertise is the development of methods to retrieve information about atmospheric aerosols from optical satellite images. This work has broad applications in monitoring particulate matter air pollution which is a major worldwide problem, killing millions of people prematurely each year.

As well as monitoring pollution, measurements of atmospheric aerosols can also be used for satellite image atmospheric correction: an area that Dr Wilson is also involved in.

Alongside his atmospheric remote sensing work, Dr Wilson is involved in broader applications of satellite data, and has significant experience of the use of mobile phone data to monitor human mobility.

PhD research

Developing a novel method to retrieve high spatial resolution Aerosol Optical Thickness (AOT) from satellite data

Awarded 2015

Supervised by Professor E.J. Milton and Dr J.M. Nield – both in Geography & Environment at the University of Southampton

Funded through the Institute for Complex Systems Simulation – with funding from EPSRC

Research group

Global Environmental Change and Earth Observation

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Dr Robin Wilson
Building 44 University of Southampton University Road Southampton SO17 1BJ

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