Dr Sarah Johnson

Sarah JohnsonEarth Observation ‘Lecturer in Practice’ and Research Fellow

Contact Details

Email: sj239@le.ac.uk

Office: G05

Personal Details

I joined the University of Leicester in 2014 after many years working in the commercial geospatial services industry, and have 20+ years’ experience working in the UK space sector. As a result, I have strong interests in building academic-industrial partnerships and applying research into industry and NGOs. I have a PhD in “High resolution polarimetric imaging of biophysical objects using synthetic aperture radar” from the University of Sheffield (available at http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/10223/)


My research is focused around the use of remotely sensed Earth Observation data for applications related to the land environment. Mostly this uses satellite imagery, but I also make use of aerial photography where needed. In particular, I am interested in:
  • Land cover/land use change mapping, especially with respect to long term multi-decadal change.
  • Water and hydrology, including flooding, soil moisture and wetlands.
  • Agricultural applications of remote sensing including livestock behaviour and impacts of climate change on agriculture.
  • Methods for establishing user requirements for remote sensing based services.
  • Interactions and scattering mechanisms between radar signals and natural targets on the Earth’s surface.


  • Principal Investigator Validation of Flood Models Using Earth Observation Data, SPRINT (Research England), 2020.
  • Co-Investigator Scientific Methods in Post-Conflict Cultural Heritage Management, University of Leicester, 2019-2020.
  • Co-Investigator Creating an Inventory of Land Use Information and Other Landscape Characteristics Available at Country Level, European Environment Agency, 2019.
  • Co-Investigator Scoping Study and Methods Review to Support Development of a Multivariate Index of Environmental Quality for Health, Centre for Environment Health and Sustainability, University of Leicester, 2018-2019.
  • Principal (sole) investigator Earth Observation (EO) for Wetlands Innovation Placement with the Leicestershire and Rutland Wildlife Trust, NERC, 2018-2019.
  • Co-Investigator (by novation) Synthesis of Remote Sensing and Novel Ground Truth Sensors to Develop High Resolution Soil Moisture Forecasts in China and the UK, STFC Newton, 2017-2019.
  • Co-Investigator, Resilient Pastoralism: Towards Sustainable Futures in Rangelands, NERC, 2016-2017.
  • Co-Investigator, DroneWatch, NERC, 2016.
  • Co-Investigator, Mapping Flood Risks with Future Flow and Precipitation, NERC, 2016.
  • Principal (sole) investigator, Satellite Applications Knowledge Exchange Fellowship, NERC, 2015-2017.

Key Projects

  • Forests 2020 (UKSA)
  • CORINE land cover map 2018-2019 (EEA)
  • Synthesis of Remote Sensing and Novel Ground Truth Sensors to Develop High Resolution Soil Moisture Forecasts in China and the UK (STFC)
  • Uplands N2O (NERC)
  • LURA (STFC Newton Fund)
  • Neptune (National Trust)

Recent Publications

  • Zhu, Y., Li, X., Pearson, S., Wu, D., Sun, R., Johnson, S., Wheeler, J., Fang, S., (2019), “Evaluation of Fengyun-3C Soil Moisture Products Using In-Situ Data from the Chinese Automatic Soil Moisture Observation Stations: A Case Study in Henan Province, China”, Water, 11(2), 248.
  • Rivas Casado, M., Irvine, T., Johnson, S., Palma, M., Leinster, P., (2018), “The use of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles to estimate direct tangible losses to residential properties from flood events: a case study of Cockermouth following the Desmond storm”, Remote Sensing, 10(10), 1548.
  • Bebe, B.O., Johnson, S.C.M., Recha, C., Ochieng, R., Riamit, S.K. and Upton, C., “Resilient pastoralism: towards sustainable futures in Kenyan rangelands”, Nature and Faune, 31(2), 36-38, 2017
  • Ningthoujam, R.K.; Balzter, H.; Tansey, K.; Morrison, K.; Johnson, S.C.; Gerard, F.; George, C.; Malhi, Y.; Burbidge, G.; Doody, S.; Veck, N.; Llewellyn, G.M.; Blythe, T.; Rodriguez-Veiga, P.; van Beijma, S.; Spies, B.; Barnes, C.; Padilla-Parellada, M.; Wheeler, J.E.; Louis, V.; Potter, T.; Edwards-Smith, A.; Bermejo, J.P. “Airborne S-Band SAR for Forest Biophysical Retrieval in Temperate Mixed Forests of the UK”. Remote Sensing, 8(7), 609, 2016.
  • Ningthoujam, R.K., Tansey, K., Balzter, H., Morrison, K., Johnson, S.C.M., Gerard, F., George, C., Burbidge, G., Doody, S., Veck, N., Llewellyn, G.M., Blythe, T. “Mapping Forest Cover and Forest Cover Change with Airborne S-Band Radar”. Remote Sensing, 8(7), 577, 2016
  • Comber, A., Balzter, H., Cole, B., Fisher, P., Johnson, S.C.M., Ogutu, B., “Methods to Quantify Regional Differences in Land Cover Change”, Remote Sensing, 8(3), 176, 2016.
  • Comber, A., Davies, H., Pinder, D., Whittow, J.B., Woodhall, A. and Johnson, S.C.M., “Mapping Coastal Land Use Changes 1965-2014: Methods for Handling Historical Thematic Data”, Transaction of the Institute of British Geographers, July 2016.

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