Cambridge City Internship -Tree canopy analysis

26 November 2018


Internship brief: How important is a tree in your neighbourhood for your life quality? - evaluating the relationship between urban tree forest canopy and social and physical attributes in Cambridge City.


Trees in towns and cities provide pleasant, healthy and refreshing environment to live, work and play. The ecosystem services they provide replace a wide range of urban services therefore substantially improve individual and community wellbeing. Besides environmental benefits, more and more evidences are showing the effects of tree canopy on mental health, cognition and wellbeing in the city. Social factors like public health performance, house prices, crime themes, life expectancy and index of multiple deprivation have been studied and shown to be associated with tree canopy sizes in towns and cities. Though limited evidence shows that the tree canopy size has correlation with various social economic factors, we have limited understanding how trees have effects on multiple factors of social economics status and wellbeing. The study will investigate how the geo-spatial aggregate of social-economic, human health and wellbeing factors correlates with tree canopy and establish a systematic index system of tree canopy effects on social economic status and wellbeing for urban planning. We will apply geo-spatial analytics and statistical methods (including machine learning) to evaluate the effects of tree canopy on the factors identified. The correlation between them will place weight for each factor identified therefore will assist the index development. The index will enable policy makers to plan and manage stocks and location of urban trees in a long term.

The project will aim to

  1. Evaluating tree canopy cover in Cambridge city on a ward by ward basis using I-tree Canopy
  2. Compare historical change of tree canopy cover in the city
  3. Assess the correlation between tree canopy cover and the social economic factors, wellbeing and environmental attributes including
  • Index of Multiple Deprivation(IMD)
  • Specific public health Key performance indicators(e.g. obesity)
  • Air quality
  • Urban heat island
  • Surface water flooding
  • House prices


The project will last twelve weeks. It will cover the work of data collection and data analysis on information for tree canopy, social economics and wellbeing. Cambridge city council officers will provide students guidance and advices on data collection, tree canopy analysis and geo-spatial analysis through regular weekly meetings. The student will work towards an intermittent report and a final report during the internship and have the opportunity to understand how the outcomes from data driven methods can shape the policy for decision making and planning. The student is expected to have appropriate computer access for data analysis. If time allows, a research paper would be prepared based on the findings.

Candidate requirements

-Degrees in biological sciences, forestry and management, conservation and environmental sciences or geography. Preferably have some understanding of tree science and interested in translating scientific findings to policy making.

-Proficient in spatial data analytics and statistics. have keen interests in data science and the latest technology for data processing, familiar with software packages including ArcGIS(or QGIS) and R.

-Skills in project management and time management, fluent in translating technical concepts to non-technical audiences.

-Skills in report writing and scientific writing.

Contact details

Matthew Magrath, senior arboricultural officer (

‘Yan’ Weigang Yan, senior data scientist (

Banner image by TBIT CC0 Creative Commons