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2018 Present – Research Fellow in Dryland Carbon Dynamics in the University of Exeter‘s School of Geography. Research Co-Investigator on the NERC-funded project: ‘Do dryland ecosystems control variability and recent trends in the land CO2 sink?’ with Richard Brazier, Stephen Sitch, Karen Anderson and Tim Hill (NE/R00062X/1).

2016 2017 – Post-Doctoral Research Assistant in Tundra Drone Ecology in the University of Edinburgh’s School of GeoSciences. Working on the NERC-funded ‘Climate as a driver of shrub expansion and tundra greening’ (NE/M016323/1) with Isla Myers-Smith in Team Shrub.

2004 2011 – Outdoor Education Instructor at Albany Park Canoe and Sailing Centre. Working part-time for eight years to accumulate over 8000 contact hours with a diverse range of clients. Progressed from a trainee to a leadership role, supervising a team of ten staff to deliver safe, enjoyable and educational activity programmes.

Academic Qualifications
  • PhD in Physical Geography, University of Exeter (2012 – 2016)
  • MSc Catchment Dynamics and Management, University of Leeds (2011 – 2012) Distriction summa cum laude
  • BSc (Hons) Physical Geography, University of Exeter (2008 – 2011) 1st Class summa cum laude
Professional Development

Remotely Piloted Aircraft

I have comprehensive experience using remotely-sensed data from a range of sensors in a wide range of ecosystems. This includes extensive experience in fine grain remote sensing of ecosystems with unoccupied aircraft systems, including piloting 1200 flights of 16 models of multirotor and fixed-wing aircraft in a range of challenging environments (drylands, Arctic tundra and tropical rainforest), working in the UK, USA, Canada and Brazil. In support of this I have obtained the following qualifications: Remote Pilot Certificate for Small Unmanned Aircraft System awarded by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (2018, 2020); Special Flight Operations Certificate awarded by Transport Canada (2016 and 2017); Night Operations Training Certificate awarded by Rupprecht Drones (2018); Basic National Unmanned Aircraft System Certificate awarded by the European UAV Systems Centre (2016); and Permission for Commercial Operations (PfCO) granted by the UK Civil Aviation Authority to the University of Exeter’s DroneLab (2016-present).


  • Learning and Teaching in Higher Education – Stage 2, University of Exeter (2013)
  • Advanced First Aid (Outdoor First Aid, 2016; Expedition First Aid, 2017; Mental Health First Aid, 2019)
  • Kayak Instructor (Level 2, British Canoe Union, 2007)
  • Advanced White Water Safety and Rescue (British Canoe Union, 2012)
  • 5* Advanced White Water Kayaking Leader (British Canoe Union, 2014)
  • Powerboat Certificate (Level 2, RYA, 2007)
Honours and Awards:
  • 2017 Prize for Best Presentation at the RSPSoc Wavelength Conference
  • 2012 Emma Walton Prize for best academic performance on MSc Program, University of Leeds
  • 2011 Jonathan Ratnage Prize for best dissertation in Geography, University of Exeter
  • 2011 William Ravenhill Prize for best academic performance in Geography, University of Exeter


A.G. Leventis Foundation funding for ‘Tropical Forest Protection and Restoration: Understanding carbon storage within degraded and recovering forest ecosystems’, awarded to T. Lenton, T. Powell, T. Feldpausch and A. Cunliffe


Funding from Permian Global to advance remote sensing of tropical forest degradation and regeneration, awarded to A. Cunliffe, T. Feldpausch and T. Powell


Agisoft sponsorship for Metashape educational licences awarded to A. Cunliffe, L. Akanyang and R. Sebego (for the University of Botswana and the Botswana University of Agriculture and Natural Resources)


Funding by Devon Wildlife Trust for geomorphic surveys of coastal realignment, awarded to A. Cunliffe, N. Ellis, A. Puttock, P. Benaud, R. Brazier and K. Anderson


NERC Discovery Science grant ‘Do dryland ecosystems control variability and recent trends in the land CO2 sink?’ awarded to R. Brazier, A. Cunliffe, S. Sitch, K. Anderson and T. Hill (NE/R00062X/1)


NERC BAS bursary awarded to I. Myers-Smith, A. Cunliffe, T. Lantz, R. Fraser, and J. Kerby ‘Quantifying the drivers of rapid tundra vegetation change: Knowledge transfer between UEdinburgh and UVictoria for enhanced drone-­based ecological monitoring in the western Canadian Arctic’

NERC Geophysical Equipment Facility loan of GNSS instrument (#1069) to I. Myers-Smith and A. Cunliffe


NERC BAS bursary awarded to I. Myers-Smith and A. Cunliffe to support attendance at the ArcticChange2017 conference, Quebec, Canada

NERC Geophysical Equipment Facility loan of GNSS instrument (#1063) to I. Myers-Smith and A. Cunliffe


Conference grant awarded by the British Sedimentological Research Group


Research fellowship, awarded by the Sevilleta LTER (NSF DEB-1232294)


Conference grant, awarded by the British Society for Geomorphology


Conference grant, awarded by the British Hydrological Society


Research fellowship, awarded by the Sevilleta LTER (NSF DEB-1232294)


Sport development grant to increase training opportunities for young people, awarded by Sport England


Merit scholarship for postgraduate study, awarded by Santander Bank


Sport development grant for powerboat training, awarded by Canbury And Riverside Association
academic citizenship
  • Peer-reviews of > 24 manuscripts for > 12 journals; see verified record at Publons
  • Proposal reviewer for the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada
  • Co-convened the session ‘Issues, limits and solutions for using drone data in the Geosciences’ at EGU2019
Professional Memberships
  • Remote Sensing and Photogrammetry Society (since 2013)
  • British Ecological Society (since 2016)     
  • European Geosciences Union (since 2014)
  • American Geophysical Union (since 2020)
Press Coverage

Drones help bridge the gaps in assessing global change, EOS, 2020

Beautiful yet unnerving photos of the Arctic getting greener, Wired, 2020

New footage shows just how alarmingly fast an Arctic island is crumbling into the sea, Gizmodo, 2019

Rapid retreat of Arctic coastline revealed in images from the air, HNGN, 2019

Drone surveys reveal the extent of Arctic coast erosion, DIGIT, 2019

New cheap method of surveying landscapes can capture environmental change, Science News, 2016

Modified drones are keeping an eye on the world’s wildlife, Quartz, 2016

Scrublands and carbon fluxes: an unexpected result?, EGU GeoQ, 2014