The School of Geography, Politics and Sociology

Staff Profile

Dr Nick Cutler

Lecturer in Physical Geography



I'm a physical geographer interested in long-term ecological change, particularly in soil and plant communities, and the ecological impacts of volcanic processes. My recent work has focused on the development of soil microbial communities, and the impact of different vegetation types on the preservation of volcanic ash deposits. I conduct fieldwork in Iceland, NW USA and Patagonia.

Key words

Succession, tephra deposits


2011-2017: College Lecturer in Geography, Department of Geography, University of Cambridge

2009-2011: Postdoctoral Research Assistant, School of Geography & the Environment, University of Oxford

2008-2009: Postdoctoral Research Associate, Scottish Centre for Carbon Storage, University of Edinburgh


PhD Geography – University of Edinburgh

MA Geography – University of Cambridge

Google Scholar


I'm interested in the terrestrial biosphere and its influence on earth surface processes. My research falls into two related categories, namely long-term (decades to centuries) ecosystem development and biophysical feedbacks

My work on ecosystem development has focussed on multi-decadal changes in communities of plants and microbes. I have studied vegetation succession and soil formation on lava flows, the development of microbial communities on building stone and the recovery of boreal ecosystems from wildfires.

My research into biophysical feedbacks has focused on the role that vegetation plays in the preservation of volcanic ash deposits, and the ways in which these deposits can be used to a) infer ecological parameters (e.g. landscape resilience) and b) improve reconstructions of past eruptions.

My work is inherently multidisciplinary and I collaborate with researchers from a range of fields – including ecologists, microbiologists, and tephrochronologists – both in the UK and overseas. Most of my fieldwork has been conducted in Iceland, but I have also worked on projects based in Arctic Sweden and Washington State, USA.


I contribute to the following courses:


Stage 1

  • GEO1005: Environmental issues (Module Leader)

Stage 2

  • GEO2127: Doing physical geography research (Module Leader)
  • GEO2228: Biogeography
  • GEO2052: Iceland fieldtrip

Stage 3

  • GEO3128: Polar Environments