Dr Rick Thomas BSc (hons), PhD

Dr Rick Thomas

School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences
Research Fellow

Contact details

School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences
University of Birmingham
B15 2TT

Dr Rick Thomas is a measurement scientist specializing in the use of novel instrumentation for climate and air quality research. At Scripps Institution of Oceanography, he developed a turbulent flux measurement package to resolve ambient 3D wind vectors from an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) and successfully used it alongside aerosol, cloud and water probes to investigate aerosol-cloud interactions. He has also developed a gas sampling device for a UAV helicopter platform used to sample methane from 9,000ft above the southern Atlantic Ocean. He is currently developing and testing lightweight sensors to be comfortably carried by pigeons to help understand air pollution and heat transport through cities. Rick also is heavily involved with the scientific aspects of the world-class BIFoR FACE experiment studying carbon uptake of a mature woodland under elevated carbon dioxide conditions.


BsC (hons) Environmental Geoscience
PhD Atmospheric Science


After gaining his Bachelor’s degree from Edinburgh University Dr Rick Thomas worked for two years in the contaminated land/air quality section of an environmental consultancy. His PhD was in the use of novel instrumentation (Aerosol mass spectrometer/ Wet Chemistry techniques) to measure land-atmosphere exchange of chemically speciated particles. Rick then spent several years at Scripps Institution of Oceanography working for professor Ramanathan before joining Rob MacKenzie’s group at the University Birmingham.


Thomas, Rick M., A. Rob MacKenzie, S. James Reynolds, Jonathan P. Sadler, Ford Cropley, Simon Bell, Stephen J. Dugdale, Lee Chapman, Andrew Quinn, and Xiaoming Cai. "Avian Sensor Packages for Meteorological Measurements." Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society 99, no. 3 (2018): 499-511.

Blaen, Phillip J., Kieran Khamis, Charlotte Lloyd, Sophie Comer‐Warner, Francesco Ciocca, Rick M. Thomas, A. Rob MacKenzie, and Stefan Krause. "High‐frequency monitoring of catchment nutrient exports reveals highly variable storm event responses and dynamic source zone activation." Journal of Geophysical Research: Biogeosciences 122, no. 9 (2017): 2265-2281.

Greatwood, C., T. Richardson, J. Freer, R. Thomas, A. MacKenzie, R. Brownlow, D. Lowry, R. Fisher and E. Nisbet (2017). "Atmospheric Sampling on Ascension Island Using Multirotor UAVs." Sensors 17(6): 1189.

Wilcox, E. M., R. M. Thomas, P. S. Praveen, K. Pistone, F. A. M. Bender and V. Ramanathan (2016). "Black carbon solar absorption suppresses turbulence in the atmospheric boundary layer." Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 113(42): 11794-11799.

Brownlow, R., D. Lowry, R. M. Thomas, R. E. Fisher, J. L. France, M. Cain, T. S. Richardson, C. Greatwood, J. Freer, J. A. Pyle, A. R. MacKenzie and E. G. Nisbet (2016). "Methane mole fraction and δ13C above and below the trade wind inversion at Ascension Island in air sampled by aerial robotics." Geophysical Research Letters 43(22): 11,893-811,902.

Langford, B., J. Cash, W. J. F. Acton, A. C. Valach, C. N. Hewitt, S. Fares, I. Goded, C. Gruening, E. House, A. C. Kalogridis, V. Gros, R. Schafers, R. Thomas, M. Broadmeadow and E. Nemitz (2017). "Isoprene emission potentials from European oak forests derived from canopy flux measurements: An assessment of uncertainties and inter-algorithm variability." Biogeosciences Discuss.  1-33.

Pistone, K., P. S. Praveen, R. M. Thomas, V. Ramanathan, E. M. Wilcox and F. A. M. Bender (2016). "Observed correlations between aerosol and cloud properties in an Indian Ocean trade cumulus regime." Atmos. Chem. Phys. 16(8): 5203-5227.

Norby, R. J., M. G. De Kauwe, T. F. Domingues, R. A. Duursma, D. S. Ellsworth, D. S. Goll, D. M. Lapola, K. A. Luus, A. R. MacKenzie, B. E. Medlyn, R. Pavlick, A. Rammig, B. Smith, R. Thomas, K. Thonicke, A. P. Walker, X. Yang and S. Zaehle (2016). "Model–data synthesis for the next generation of forest free-air CO2 enrichment (FACE) experiments." (2016). New Phytologist 209(1): 17-28.