Dr Nicholas Tate

Dr Nicholas TateAssociate Professor in Geographic Information Science

Contact Details

  • Tel: 0116 223 1320
  • Email:
  • Office: Bennett Building, F60
  • ORCID ID: orcid.org/0000-0002-3085-9049


I arrived at Leicester in January 1999, prior to which I was a lecturer in the School of Geography, Queen's University, Belfast (1994-1998), a NERC-funded PhD student at the School of Environmental Sciences, University of East Anglia (1991-1994; PhD defended 1995) and a undergraduate student in the Department of Geography, Durham University (1983-1986; First Class Honours awarded 1986; Robin Mills Prize, 1986).  Between 2005 and 2010, I was Director of the HEFCE funded £4.1million SPLINT (Spatial Literacy IN Teaching) Centre for Excellence in Teaching and Learning (CETL) in the context of GIS and geospatial technologies. Between 2013 and 2016  I was Director of Postgraduate Research, College of Science and Engineering. I am the current Director of the Leicester LiDAR Research Unit, and Chair of the Student Experience Committee in the Department of Geography.  I have served On the editorial board of Applied Geography and as section editor of Geography Compass. I am currently on the editorial boards of the International Journal of Geographical Information Science, and Transactions in GIS.  I am a Fellow of the RGS and a Member of RSPSoc.

Research Interests

My research interests have a GIScience focus and span the range of quantitative physical and social science including concerns with pedagogic and philosophic contexts.

1. Surface characterisation and modelling of scale

This is a long term research interest, which started off through collaboration with Mike Goodchild. Central to this are issues to do with scale and scaling - in particular the application of fractal, geostatistical and wavelet methods -  in the characterisation of topography.  The use of active methods of remote sensing to construct digital surface models has been a recent focus, in particular the use of various types of LiDAR. Research projects have been funded by NERC and the EU and has involved colleagues from universities in Loughborough, Kingston, Karlsruhe and London as well as the British Museum and Leics Museum.

Example publications:

Atkinson, P.M. and Tate, N.J., (2000) Spatial scale problems and geostatistical solutions, Professional Geographer. 52(4): 607-623.

Mount N.J., Tate N.J., Sarker M.H., and Thorne C.R. (2012) Evolutionary, multi-scale analysis of river bank line retreat using continuous wavelet transforms. Geomorphology. 183: 82-95.

Tate, N.J. (1998) MEM spectral analysis for the analysis of topography and calculation of fractal dimension, Earth Surface Processes and Landforms 23:1197-1127.

Tate, N.J. and Atkinson, P.M. (eds) (2001) Modelling Scale in Geographical Information Science, John Wiley and Sons, Chichester.  292p.

Tate, N.J. Fisher, P.E. and Martin, D. (2007). GIS and Surfaces, In: Wilson, J. and Fotheringham, S. (eds) Handbook to GIS, Blackwell Companions to Geography, Blackwell Press. pp. 239-258.

2. Spatial data uncertainty and error

Uncertainty in relation to representations of topography is an interest that was shared between myself and the late Pete Fisher.  We extended this work using fuzzy sets in the context of socioeconomic data and area classifications as employed in geodemographics. More recently the use of higher order fuzzy sets is ongoing in collaboration with colleagues at DMU and Nottingham.

Example publications:

Arrell, K. Fisher, P.F. Tate, N.J and Bastin, L. (2007) A fuzzy c-means classification of elevation derivatives to extract the morphometric classification of landforms in Snowdonia, Wales. Computers and Geosciences 33(10):1366-1381.

Fisher, P.F., and Tate, N.J. (2015) Modelling class uncertainty in the geodemographic Output Area Classification. Environment and Planning B: Planning and Design 42(3):541-563.  10.1068/b130176p

Fisher, P.F. and Tate, N.J. (2006) Causes and consequences of error in digital elevation models. Progress in Physical Geography 30(4): 467-489.

Tate, N.J. and Fisher, P.F. (eds) (2010) Accuracy 2010: Proceedings of the Ninth Symposium on Spatial Accuracy Assessment in Natural resources and Environmental Sciences, University of Leicester, July 20-23 2010.  436p.

3.  Pedagogic applications in GIS and data science

In 2004 I led the bid to HEFCE to fund a Centre of Excellence in Teaching and Learning (CETL) in collaboration with UCL and Nottingham University with a focus on Spatial thinking and GIS. The centre (SPLINT) operated from 2005 to 2010. Various pedagogic projects and outputs have resulted from this including a variety of work with David Unwin and more recent activity, including a major book, project work funded by ESRC with colleagues at universities of Bristol, Liverpool and Sheffield.

Example publications:

Jarvis, C.H., Tate, N.J., Dickie, J., and Brown, G. (2015) Mobile learning in a human geography field course. Journal of Geography. 10.1080/00221341.2015.1026373

LeGates, R. Kingston, R, and Tate, N.J. (2009) Spatial thinking and scientific urban planning Environment and Planning B: Planning and Design 36(5) 763 – 768.

Tate, N.J. and Unwin, D.J. (2009) Teaching GIS&T, Journal of Geography in Higher Education,  33 Supplement 1: S1-S6.

Unwin, D.J. Foote, K.E., Tate N.J. and  DiBiase, D. (2011) (eds) Teaching Geographical Teaching Geographic Information Science and Technology in Higher Education. Wiley-Blackwell, Chichester. 496 p.

4. Other research interests

The application of GIS to socioeconomic contexts particularly the modelling of population in surface form has been an interest, instigated by work early in my career with David Martin.  Exploring the development of intellectual thought in GIScience from various philosophical and theoretical perspectives is an ongoing interest

5. Recent Grants

  • CHORUS - Gravel bed LiDAR scanning and surface characterisation  (NERC; co-I;  2011-2014);
  • LiDARnet - Terrestrial Laser Scanning (NERC; PI; 2010-2012) as part of the Earth Observation Technology  Cluster, based at the University of Nottingham
  • DeInVader - Detecting and analysing the spread of exotic Acacias in west-Mediterranean biodiverse costal dunes with hyperspectral images and LiDAR (EUFAR; co-I; 2011-2014)
  • EAGLE (EU FP7; Leicester PI; 2011-2014).
  • CATH - Scanning the Hallaton horde (AHRC; co-I; 2013-2014).
  • Supporting undergraduate teaching in quantitative geography: making the connections between schools, universities and the workplace (ESRC; co-I; 2012-13).

Current External Activities

Editorial Positions

International/national working groups and steering committees

  • Chair, LiDAR-SIG, RSPSoc
  • ISPRS Commission V Working Group V5 - Close range measurements for bio and geosciences 2012-16


  • External Examiner, MSc GIS University of Manchester, 2011-2015
  • External Examiner, MSc GIS Kingston University, 2016-

PhD Supervision

Research Areas for PhD Supervision

GIS; spatial statistics; characterization and modelling of surfaces, applications of LiDAR

Enquiries: If you are interested in studying for a PhD in one of these research areas, please make informal enquiries via pgrgeog@le.ac.uk.

Find out more information about Geography PhDs including more research areas, how to apply, funding and entry requirements.

Current students


Thesis TitleOther Supervisor(s)
Jessica Papke Monitoring Landslides with radar interferometry Dr Tazio Strozzi (Gamma Remote Sensing)
Michael Perry Applications of remote sensing to urban energy balance studies Prof John Remedios (NCEO)
Andrew Tewkesbury Land use maps from high resolution land cover Dr Kevin Tansey


StudentThesis TitleLevel of AwardYear Awarded
Prem Pandey Synergistic use of hyper spectral and LiDAR data for sand dune vegetation mapping in Portugal PhD 2015
Idris Mohammed Estimating population surfaces in areas where actual distributions are unknown: dasymetric mapping and pycnophylactic interpolation across different spatial scales PhD 2015
Mustafa Kose Improving Population Estimation Models Using Remotely sensed and Ordnance Survey Datasets PhD 2015
Emeka Chukwusa The impact of alternative distance measures and temporal variations in demand on location-allocation decisions PhD 2015
Ibrahim Alshwesh Assigning the extent of the sufficiency of primary health care in the urban centre in Qassim Province by using GIS PhD 2013
Cici Alexander Vegetation extraction from LiDAR imagery for topographic mapping PhD 2010
Mohammed Al-Dakhil Classification of Tourism Potential in Al-Qassim area, Saudi Arabia using GIS PhD 2010
Stephen Robinson Modelling the distribution of population using Ordnance Survey vector data sets PhD 2004
William Gosling Characterization of neotropical forest and savannah ecosystems by their modern pollen spectra PhD 2004

GoogleScholar Citations


In addition I have also co-edited a total of three books: Advances in Remote Sensing and GIS Analysis (1999), Modelling Scale in Geographical Information Science (2001) both with Peter Atkinson, and Teaching Geographic Information Science and Technology in Higher Education (2011) with David Unwin, Ken Foote and David Dibiase. I have also written a research methods textbook Conducting Research in Human Geography (2000) with Rob Kitchin.


Current modules include:

GY1019 Working with Geographical Information

GY1025 Skills for Professional Geographers

GY1027 Skills for Professional Geographers (BA Human)

GY2256 Geographical Information Science

GY3251 Contemporary Digital Geographies

GY7022 Programming in R

GY7023 Spatial Information Science

GY7024 Research Methods in Human Geography

GY7050 GIS Research Methods in the Field



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