Dr Murray Collins


I’m Chancellor’s Fellow in Data Driven Innovation, Space and Satellite Analysis in the School of GeoSciences. I’m also the Space Lead at the Bayes Centre. You can listen to our work in Space and Satellites across the University with  this a podcast series that I’m making about our Space Sector with journalist Kim McAllister. 
My academic research has focused largely on tropical forests. These interest me mainly due their biological diversity, and their role in regulating the climate. As such I have been heavily involved in the development of technology to monitor and map forests: I spent a couple of years develop computational algorithms to process and analyse satellite Radar data in order to measure deforestation, using scripts written in Python. This work combined with increasing awareness of the application of the technology in practice culminated in being awarded a Royal Society of Edinburgh Enterprise Fellowship 2017-2018, supported by NERC. Under thisI co-founded Space Intelligence Ltd, a company that provides advanced satellite data analysis for commercial clients.

This is my core contribution to the Entrepreneurship expected of DDI Fellows.  However,  in addition to this, I co-founded Picture Zero Ltd, a production company established to tell positive stories about climate change action.


Aside from technical and commercial work, I have always loved doing fieldwork. I have undertaken much of this  in Asia and Africa, measuring thousands of trees in Gabon (see Mitchard et al. 2012); and using forest plot and satellite radar data to monitor biomass and deforestation on Sumatra (Collins and Mitchard, 2015). More recently I have looked at the climate impacts of forest loss in protected forests (Collins and Mitchard, 2017).

I am also interested in environmental economics, and particularly the valuation of nature and how this relates to payments for ecosystem services. In 2010, I joined the economics team of the UK National Ecosystem Assessment. I worked alongside Professor Susana Mourato on the valuation of the UK’s natural capital with respect to health and cultural services (Bateman et al.,2011).

I have also undertaken research into how natural and social science findings translate into policies, and the impact of these policies. For instance I have investigated the institutional aspects of forest conservation and REDD+ in Indonesia (Collins et al., 2011; MacDonald et al., 2011). More recently I co-authored the 3rd and 4th GLOBE climate change legislation studies (results summarised in Townshend et al., 2013) and presented the findings on forest legislation to the governments of over sixty forest-rich countries at a summit at the World Bank in 2014. Following this, I have continued to work with colleagues at the LSE to examine policy and legislative diffusion in the context of climate change (Fankhauser et al., 2015).

I joined the University of Edinburgh in 2014 following a PhD on the measurement of forest carbon using satellite Radar data, and quantifying the impact of forest protection policy. This was an interdisciplinary PhD, co-hosted at the London School of Economics and Political Science; The Institute of Zoology, ZSL; and with additional supervision from Ed Mitchard here at the School of GeoSciences. Previously I studied for an MSc in Conservation Science (passed with Distinction) from Imperial College London, and BSc from University College London, with some time at the Sorbonne under the ERASMUS scheme.


    • Workshops for Edinburgh school pupils on introductinto remote sensing at GIS with Dr David Milodowski, Paula Nieto, Sam Bowers, and Hemant Tripathi.
    • A stand at Science Night at the Zoo, with Dr David Milodowski, Paula Nieto, and Sam Bowers
  • February 2017: Careers Hive / Science Festival
  • In February I ran a Rainforest Explorers stand at Dynamic Earth, with Dr David Milodowski, Paula Nieto, and Terry Huang from the Royal Botanical Gardens Edinburgh:



  • Back in the day I went on an adventure looking for the Orang Pendek, and made a film about it (Banyak Productions/National Geographic)

Photograph Copyright Jeremy Holden 2004.

Contact me: murray.collins@ed.ac.uk

Skype: m.b.collins


(Please use this link to Google Scholar citations for an up-to-date list of publications.)

  • Bateman, Ian J. et al. (2011) Economic values from ecosystems. In: The UK National Ecosystem Assessment, (corp. ed.) Uk National Ecosystem Assessment: Understanding Nature’s Value to Society: Technical Report. United Nations Environment Programme World Conservation Monitoring Cent re (UNEP -WCMC), Cambridge, UK, pp. 1067-1152. ISBN 9789280731644.
  • Collins, M. B., and Edward TA Mitchard. “A small subset of protected areas are a highly significant source of carbon emissions.” Scientific Reports 7 (2017): 41902.
  • Collins, M,B. and E.T. A. Mitchard. “Integrated radar and lidar analysis reveals extensive loss of remaining intact forest on Sumatra 2007–2010.” Biogeosciences 12.22 (2015): 6637-6653.
  • Collins, M,B., Ewan A. Macdonald, Lynn Clayton, Iswan Dunggio, David W. Macdonald, E .J. Milner-Gulland, Wildlife conservation and reduced emissions from deforest at ion in a case study of Nantu Wildlife Reserve, Sulawesi: 2. An institutional framework for REDD implementat ion, Environment al Science & Policy, Volume 14, Issue 6, October 2011, Pages 709-718, ISSN 1462-9011, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.envsci.2011.03.002
  • Collins, M. B., et al. “Pleiotropy and charisma determine winners and losers in the REDD+ game: all biodiversity is not equal.” Tropical Conservation Science 4.3 (2011): 261-266.
  • Fankhauser, S.,Gennaioli, C., & Collins, M. (2015). The political economy of passing climate change legislation: Evidence from a survey. Global Environmental Change, 35, 52-61.
  • Macdonald, E. A., Collins, M., Johnson, P. J., Clayton, L. M., Malhi, Y., Fisher, J. B.,… & Macdonald, D. W. (2011). Wildlife conservation and reduced emissions from deforestation in a case study of Nantu National Park,
    Sulawesi: 1. The effectiveness of forest protection—many measures, one goal. Environmental Science & Policy, 14(6), 697-708.
  • Joshi, N., Mitchard, E.T., Woo, N., Torres, J., Moll-Rocek, J., Ehammer,A., Collins, M., Jepsen, M.R. and Fensholt, R., 2015. Mapping dynamics of deforestation and forest degradation in tropical forests using radar
    satellite data. Environmental Research Letters, 10(3), p.034014.
  • Mitchard, E.T., Saatchi, S.S., White, L., Abernethy, K., Jeffery, K.J.,Lewis, S.L., Collins, M., Lefsky, M.A., Leal, M.E., Woodhouse, I.H. and Meir, P., 2012. Mapping tropical forest biomass with radar and spaceborne LiDAR in Lopé National Park, Gabon: overcoming problems of high biomass and persistent cloud. Biogeosciences, 9(1), pp.179-191..
  • Townshend, T., Fankhauser, S., Aybar, R., Collins, M., Landesman, T., Nachmany, M., & Pavese, C. (2013). How national legislation can help to solve climate change. Nature Climate Change, 3(5), 430-432.

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