Shona Thomson

GIS Specialist

Faculty of Science and Engineering

01482 466750

Shona provides specialist skills in the use of GIS in relation to the marine and coastal environment.

Her extensive experience in this field includes the use of GIS for habitat and biotope mapping and monitoring, predictive modelling, feasibility and constraints mapping, niche modelling, marine spatial planning and various components of Environmental Impact Assessments.

Shona is currently undertaking a PhD in Physical geography. The research uses the CAESAR-Lisflood modeling software to investigate how the magnitude, frequency and sequencing of flow regimes affect the morphology of rivers and how riparian vegetation affects channel response to flood events.


Research Interests

  • Spatial analysis and modelling of environmental data

  • Hydrological modelling using CAESAR-Lisflood

  • Processing and analysis of satelite data

Research groups

  • Institute of Estuarine and Coastal Studies

Professional highlights

Academic qualifications

  • PhD Physical Geography (in progress)

  • BSc Hons Geography, University of Plymouth.

  • Diploma Global Aquatic Biodiversity, University of Hull.

  • CPD Model Calibration, Validation & Evaluation (CIWEM)

  • CPD Introduction to Flood Modelling (CIWEM)

  • C&G Level 3 Award in 2D Computer Aided Design, Engineering, Hull College

External roles


GIS & Modelling Consultancy

  • Spatial models of Essential Fish Habitat (South Coast Inshore and Offshore Marine Plan Areas).

Improving spatial resolution of essential fish habitat (EFH) maps for key species in the South Coast Inshore and Offshore Marine Plan Areas. Calibration of statistical models on fish survey data and environmental variables and spatial implementation, with production of EFH maps and associated confidence assessment. Client: Marine Management Organisation, 2013 and 2015.

  • Fish Ecology Predictive Modelling:

As part of the work required for the European Water Framework Directive (WFD) a predictive system was devised to assess the ecological status of lakes and large rivers in the UK, based on the fish species present in each water body. The data used varied in suitability and a great deal of work was required to extract that fit for purpose eg. 10km grid data was applied to specific rivers and lakes. Clients: Hull International Fisheries Institute (HIFI) & Environment Agency.

  • Prioritising Pressures for Benthic Habitats in UK Marine Regions.

 The aim of this project was to develop and test a methodology/tool for identifying the most significant human pressures for each of a given series of benthic habitats. This required significant data collation, extraction and manipulation in order to inform the modelling process. Client: JNCC

  • Habitat and Biotope Mapping

Many projects have been undertaken to create intertidal and subtidal habitat or biotope maps for Environmental Statements, impact monitoring or as part of SAC condition monitoring. Mapping is based on biological, physical and chemical parameters sampled in the field and supplemented with topographical information and aerial photographs where required. Projects include: Dee Estuary, Flamborough Head, Berwickshire and North Northumberland Morecambe Bay, Solway Firth (NE & SNH), Carmarthen Bay & Estuaries (CCW), Hinkley and Bradwell Power Station Monitoring (CEFAS), Cleethorpes Saltmarsh (NE Lincs Council).

  • Multiple -Use-Zoning in UK & Manx Waters of the Irish Sea

Spatial information relating to the national legislative controls and local byelaws which regulate human activity was collated from a variety of sources. All constraints were categorised in terms of protection or exclusion and respective spatial zones attributed to the study area. Client: Scottish Natural Heritage, Natural England and Countryside Council for Wales (CCW).

  • Offshore Avifaunal and Marine Mammal Surveys – boat and aircraft platforms

Work has involved offshore surveys for much of the Yorkshire and Lincolnshire coasts, and the east and west coasts of Scotland as part of Environmental Statements for Windfarm developments. Data was analysed to provide accurate snapshots of abundance, distribution and activity for each survey, season and year. GIS maps were produced and spatial analysis of bird and marine mammal distribution was undertaken. Projects include: Humber Gateway and Westermost Rough (Total and Humber Wind Ltd), Aberdeen (AMEC), Islay, (SSE), Kintyre & Beatrice (SSE & Airtricity), Rhyl Flats (FERA/RWE Npower), Greater Wash (E.ON, Total & UK Marine Ltd), Cromer, Norfolk (Posford Royal Haskoning).

Remote Sensing Analysis

  • Temporal & Spatial Changes in Habitat and Waterfowl Assemblage, Humber estuary, UK

This study involved the digitisation of key habitat including mudflat, sandflat, saltmarsh, reedbed, grassland and agricultural crop for the years 1961, 1988, 2003 and 2008. This was achieved through the use of aerial photographs, admiralty charts, LiDAR and local knowledge. Historical aerial photographs from a variety of sources were georeferenced for earlier years. Area values were then calculated for each key habitat on a WeBS sector basis for each of the years and used to undertake a comparison between bird numbers and/or diversity and changes in habitat type. Client: Natural England.

  • Saltmarsh Change Mapping Using Aerial Photographs– Essex & Suffolk SSSIs

Work was undertaken to assess change in saltmarsh extent and creek network over a ten year period for SSSI’s in Essex and Suffolk. Saltmarsh was digitised from orthorectified aerial photographs for a baseline year and a comparison year and GIS was used to quantify areas of saltmarsh gained, lost and those areas which remained stable. Client: Natural England

  • Tees Macroalgal Mat Studies

A scientific review of the Tees Estuary to determine the cause of macroalgal mats at Seal Sands. Project involved the analysis of aerial photographs to determine change over time. Client: Environment Agency / Northumbrian Water. 

Topographic Studies

  • Expansion of Richards Bay Harbour, South Africa

Review of Ecosystem Loss and Offset Development Potential. Habitat, land use and topographical data were provided by SiVEST. GIS was then used to assess the quality and quantity of habitat to be lost, and how these should be replaced with respect to relative habitat value and offset ideals/targets. The areas with potential for replacement habitat creation (with and without engineering) were then identified. Engineering was particularly relevant for the creation of estuarine and brackish habitats where topography and elevation above chart datum was of particular importance. All geographical and socio-economic factors were considered in addition to the ecological value of habitats already existing in potential offset areas. Client: Transnet National Port Authority, Richards Bay, through Ilifa Africa Engineers Pty (Ltd).

  • Realignment Site Development Monitoring

GIS support for the monitoring of physical and biological development of several realignment sites on the Humber estuary, UK. This has involved the spatial and temporal analysis of topographical data, biological community data, avifaunal use and habitat development. Clients include: Halcrow, Environment Agency & North Lincolnshire Council, Associated British Ports (ABP).

  • TIDE (Tidal River Development)

As part of this project historical change of the Humber estuary was modelled using known or estimated topographic/ bathymetric levels from admiralty charts dating back to the year 1910. Client: EU.

  • Saltend Topographical Monitoring

Monitoring programme to assess the activities associated with the constructions of the Hull Waste Water Treatment Plant with particular reference to the effects of the sewage outfall on the topography of the Saltend mudflat. Topographical data analysis and subsequent map production was carried out to visualise trends in spatial information.