Accessibility statement

Colin McClean
Senior lecturer



Colin McClean is a geographer and spatial analyst with over 20 years experience of spatial modelling across a range of research areas from conservation ecology and biodiversity through land use modelling  and pollution impacts to biogeochemistry. His work involves the application of spatial analysis and GIS to environmental management.  This work has involved modelling the potential impacts of climate change on African and UK plant species using species distribution modelling, the application of a number of reserve modelling and selection algorithms to both marine and terrestrial conservation problems. This work has include the use of machine learning optimisation methods such as genetic algorithms and simulated annealing.  Other recent collaborative work has included looking at Sahelian “greening” using detailed hydrologically relevant terrain modelling and the climate change impact modelling for the Shea Tree in the Sudano-Sahelian zone.  Common to most of this diverse work is the use of large and readily available spatial data sets for novel applications. Results from the climate change impacts work for Africa are cited in both the Stern Review and 2007 IPCC impact report. Work sponsored by WWF has been cited in the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution’s marine fisheries report.  


BSc Edinburgh (1986) - Geography

PhD Durham (1991) - Geography

Post-doctoral research  -  Wales and South West Regional Research Laboratory, Cardiff (1989-1991)

Post-doctoral research  - Centre for Land Use and Water Resources Research, Newcastle (1991 -1995)

Lecturer/Senior lecturer - University of York (1996 - )



General research interests involve the application of spatial analysis and GIS to environmental management. Research efforts in geography, the environmental sciences, ecology and environmental economics are strongly linked by the spatial distributions of the phenomena they seek to study. Many working in the field of GIS aim to develop new manipulation and analysis tools, however, the potential applications of relatively simple GIS analysis, in all of the above areas of study, has only begun to be explored. The major limitation to the exploitation of the tools that have been developed has been the paucity and quality of existing spatial data sets. These datasets are increasingly available, providing opportunities to consider environmental problems at the landscape, regional and global scales, where before only field-level studies might have been possible.


2012-2013 Natrural England £33000 Climate Change Species Risk Assessment. With Colin Beale, Chris Thomas et al.
2009-2012  Defra Darwin Initiative  £218438 Developing tools for reducing biodiversity losses in tropical agricultural landscapes. With Jane Hill et al.
2009-2010  NERC/DFID  £97698 Transformation and shifts in production landscapes for livelihood improvements in the Sahel: building a partnership in research.  With Jennie Barron, Steve Cinderby, Jon Lovett et al.
2006-2010  EU  Eu167700 Innovative Tools and Techniques for Sustainable Use of the Shea Tree in Sudano-Sahelian zone. With Jon Lovett et al.
2004-2005 RELU £18,364 Integrating spatial data on the rural economy, land use and biodiversity. With Piran White, Dave Raffaelli, University of Bristol, Scottish Agricultural College. Description of Land Use Modelling Methods (PDF , 31kb)
2003-2005 NERC £10,2331 Modelling climate and land use influences on spatial patterns of UK plant biodiversity. With Chris Preston, CEH and Mette Termansen
2001-2003 Danish Social Science Research Council £62.2K Economic valuation of recreational benefits from afforestation projects and their optimal spatial location. With Mette Termansen
2001-2002 Conservation International US$50K Bioclimatic Modelling of the Eastern Arc Mountains, Tanzania. With Jon Lovett
2001-2002 Conservation International US$35,527 Continental scale mapping of African plants. With Jon Lovett


PhD Students

  • Shaheen Begum (Commonwealth scholarship, jointly with Malcolm Cresser) 'Using catchment characteristics to predict water chemistry'
  • Andrew Crowe (NERC, Jointly supervised with Malcolm Cresser) 'Quantification of land use/soil management effects on soil N storage pools'.
  • Amy Hall (jointly supervised with Piran White) 'Small mammal movement patterns in habitat mosaics'
  • Dongjin Kim (jointly with Malcolm Cresser) 'Estimating diffuse pollution loads in the Daechung watershed from GIS modelling'
  • Sravut Klorvuttimontara (Thai Govt., jointly with Jane Hill) Modelling the effectiveness of protected areas for conserving tropical species under future climate warming
  • Becky Ledger (NERC, jointly supervised with Chris Thomas, Biology Department) 'Modelling tree species distributions in North America and Europe'
  • Crispen Marunda (jointly supervised with Jon Lovett) 'The interactive effects of environmental and socio-economic factors on degradation in the Save-Runde Catchment Area of Zimbabwe.'
  • Koichiro Mori (jointly with Charles Perrings) 'Modelling Hydrological, Ecological and Economic Interactions in River Floodplains: Cases of River Ouse and River Derwent'
  • Phil Platts (EU, jointly with Rob Marchant) 'Spatial modelling, phytogeography and converstion in the eastern Arc Mountains of Tanzania and Kenya'
  • Mette Termansen (jointly supervised with Charles Perrings) 'A spatio-temporal approach to forest economics'



  • Tools and Techniques for Studying the Environment (Year 1)
  • The Earth (Year 1)
  • Geographical Information Systems (year 2)
  • Glaciology and Volcanism in Iceland - Field trip (Year 3)


  • Spatial Analysis
McClean, Colin

Contact details

Dr Colin McClean
Senior lecturer
Department of Environment and Geography
University of York
YO10 5NG

Tel: 01904 322995
Fax: 01904 322998