School of Natural and Environmental Sciences

Staff Profile

Dr Elisa Lopez-Capel

Lecturer in Soil Science



I am a lecturer in soil science, with extensive experience in biogeochemistry, renewable energy, carbon sequestration and climate change.

My research focuses on urban agriculture, soil carbon, thermal analysis and biochar. I work on a variety of projects towards sustainable use of natural resources for the production of food and renewable energy from land, and a better understanding of carbon sequestration, climate change, and soil organic matter characterisation. I have extensive experience of working with chars (charcoal from fires and biochar from bioenergy production), plant materials and soils under various land managements (including artificial growing medias).

 I'm currently working on the development of urban agrifood systems, and artificial growing medias.


Roles and Responsibilities

Research is soil sciences and urban agriculture

Teaching in environmental sciences

Supervision of MSc and PhD students



2015-Fellowship of the Higher Education Academy and Certificate in Advanced Studies in Academic Practice (CASAP)

2014-Newcastle Teaching Award (NTA) toward the Certificate in Advanced Studies in Academic Practice (CASAP)

2008-ITLHE Teaching certificate'Introduction to teaching and learning at higher education'

2003-PhD “Dissipation of pesticides in soils from greenhouses and open fields" supervised by Dr R. Wilkins. Faculty Science, Agriculture, and Engineering, Newcastle University.

1998-BSc (Hons) Agricultural and Environmental Science, Newcastle University. Through this I acquired an understanding of conservation and insect control methods, as well as the role of pesticides in agriculture, and the human impact on the environment.


Previous Positions

July 2011 to 2019, Research Associate in urban soil science, School of Natural and Environmental Science Agriculture SNES (previously School of Agriculture, Food and Rural Development AFRD, and School of Civil Engineering and Geosciences, Newcastle Univ.

September 2013 to 2019, Teaching Fellow in Environmental Science, School of Agriculture, Food and Rural Development (PT).

July 2012 to August 2013, Research Programme Local Manager, Faculty of Science Agriculture and Engineering and School of Civil Engineering and Geosciences (PT). CESSAF Research Programme (Centre of Excellence in Science for Sustainability in Africa-CESSAF) in Newcastle,

Nov 2008 to July 2012, Research Associate in Energy Biosciences, Sir Joseph Swan Centre for Energy Research, Newcastle Institute for Research on Sustainability, Newcastle Uni.

Feb 2011 to May 2011, CASAP (intensive) programme Administrator, Staff Development Unit

Oct 2007 to Jan 2010.Visiting lecturer at School of Agriculture, Food and Rural Development, Newcastle University.

Oct 2008 to January 2009. Visiting lecturer at Department of Geography. Northumbria University in ‘soil degradation and rehabilitation (GE0156)’.

Jan 2002 to Oct 2008, Research Associate in Soil Sciences, School of Civil Engineering and Geosciences, Newcastle Univ. Research on the characterisation of carbon and nitrogen species in soil, towards a better understanding of biogeochemical cycles, carbon sequestration and climate change. I worked on a variety of projects, where my innovative analytical technique (thermal analysis coupled to isotope and quadrupole mass spectrometry) can be applied.


International Biochar Initiative (IBI)
European Association of Organic and Geochemists
European Geosciences Union (EGU)
British Society of Soil Science (BSSS)


English, Spanish, and Catalan.


Research Interests

My expertise is in biogeochemistry, soil sciences, and analytical method development, and I am interested in urban agriculture, carbon abatement technologies, and energy biosciences.

Other Expertise

I studied Agricultural and Environmental Science, and specialised in pesticide behaviour in soils during my PhD. I developed and validated extraction (SPE, SFE, ASE) and analytical methodologies (GC-FID/NPD, HPLC-DAD) to assess sorption and degradation of pesticides in soil.
During my postdoctoral research, I have developed a novel mass spectrometer-thermal balance system (TA-IRMS) for the simultaneous determination of C and O stable isotope, gas analysis, mass balance and energy change for volatile minerals and soil carbon materials. The novel characterisation of Carbon pools by TG-DSC-QMS-IRMS provides fundamental information to model C turnover in soils and sediments. The development of the TA-IRMS system meant the need of well characterised samples to test the system. This enabled us to establish collaborations nationally and internationally.
I have also used a range of analytical techniques (analytical flash pyrolysis with combined gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (Py-GC/MS), 13C-NMR, and TG-DSC-QMS) to characterise and quantify refractory organic matter such as black carbon and charcoal in soil.

Current Work

My current research focus on ‘Urban Agrifood systems: developing guidelines for future research’ and investigating potential of artificial urban soils to storage and capture carbon.

In this and similar projects we use a multidisciplinary approach to fully understand biofuel production from biomass (including organic waste), and biogeochemical processes taking place in the environment and their implications to C and N cycles, carbon sequestration, CO2 mitigation, soil erosion, and ultimately, climate change.


Research Contracts and Grants

  1. Fertilecity. Agrourban sustainability through rooftop greenhouses. Ecoinnovation on residual flows of energy, water, and CO2 for food production. CTM2013-47067-C2-1-R and CTM2016-75772-C3-1-R

  2. Fell Sandstone. Environmental Agency, PI: Taylor,J; Co-I: Cooper, J; RA-Co-I Lopez-Capel, E. £9,7k

  3. Food security and urbanisation in South East Asia. Global Excellence Fund, PI: Lynn Frewer, Co-I E Lopez-Capel, £9.8k ( I wrote the grant)

  4. Bio-informing urban gardening community project. Institute for Sustainability funded, PI: Claire Walsh, Co-I: E Lopez-Capel, £50k

  5. CESSAF “Centre of Excellent of Science for Sustainability in Africa”, Partnership: University Agostinho Neto. Planet Earth Institute (PEI-BESA) funded £485k. PI: Amezaga, J ( project coordinated: Lopez-Capel, E)

  6. Capturing the impact of urban soil systems. EPSRC impact award, Prof D.A.C. Manning, named investigator, awarded £29.3 k

  7. SElf Conserving URban Environments-SECURE. EPSRC, PI: Prof Margaret Bell, awarded £2,224k

  8. Determining biogenic and non-biogenic mass components in MSW streams by thermal decomposition analysis. DEFRA-TSB. PI: Richard Mair-Graphite Resources, named investigator, £17.5k.

  9. Vegetation acclimatisation during Al-Andalus. Ministerio de Educación y Ciencia-MEC PI: Dr Helena Kirchner, £40k. (I wrote the Newcastle contribution).

  10. Impact of fires on carbon and nitrogen stabilization in Mediterranean forest systems “.Joint project Royal Society-CSIC.  PI: David Manning and FJ Gonzalez-Vila award £12k (named investigator, I wrote the grant)

  11. Engineering the soil carbon sink: a novel approach to carbon emission abatement. EPSRC EP/F02777X/1. Prof D.A.C. Manning, named investigator, awarded £240 k

  12. Nitrogen isotope heterogeneity in soil organic matter towards the characterisation of the N cycle in terrestrial system. BBSRC BB/E006663/1, Prof D.A.C. Manning, named investigator, awarded £115k

  13. Are biological cycles enhanced in organically managed soils? BBSRC 13/D19376.  PI: Tony O’Donnell, named investigator, awarded £380k

  14. Development of a novel mass spectrometer-thermal balance system (TAIRMS). EPSRC GR/R34332/01. PI: David Manning, awarded £220k


Projects Awarded as PI

  1. Development of sustainable hydroponic growing media for use under reduced irrigation conditions. N8 Agrifood Resilience Pump Priming Fund, PI: Lopez-Capel E; Co-I: Prashar A & Knight H. £6.1k

  2. Green cities. N8 AgriFood Resilience Research Pump Priming Fund, PI: Lopez-Capel E, Co-I: Frewer, L, £1.9k.

  3. Optimisation of food production, energy, water and waste management in buildings through integrated Rooftop greenhouses. Enviresearch fund, PI: Lopez-Capel, E,  £2.8k

  4. Urban Agriculture and Green Infrastructures Sandpit (UAGRIS, 6 & 7 July 2015) Science Central Strategy fund, PI: Lopez-Capel E, Co-I: Edwards, R, £29.8k

  5. Evaluate the potential and feasibility of urban food production at Science Central.  Developing guidelines for future research. Science Central Strategy fund, PI: E Lopez-Capel, Co-I: Edwards R, £9.9k

  6. NE Schools: Understanding Energy and Sustainability (2011-12), PI: Dr Elisa Lopez-Capel. £5k NE Beacon, £10K Newcastle Science City, £2.1K Newcastle City Council

  7. Biochar: climate saving soils Oct 2009-Sept 2013 EU InterregIVb project (€3 million and 17EU partners, Newcastle award £50k, Dr Lopez-Capel as Biochar expert consultant)

  8. Swan Primary Schools Energy project (2010-11), NE Beacon, PI: Lopez-Capel, E £4.6k

  9. Nuffield Foundation vacation scholarship, PI: Dr. Elisa Lopez-Capel, award £1400

  10. Biochar: a review for research. CSIRO contract, £6.7k PI: Newcastle PI: Lopez-Capel, E

  11. Conference travel grant. Royal Academy of Engineering.,2007. PI: Lopez-Capel, £800

  12. Conference travel grant. Royal Society May 2006. PI: Dr. Elisa Lopez-Capel, award £700




Undergraduate Teaching

Environment and Land Resources (ACE1008), Module leader

Environmental Impact Assessment (ACE3080), Module Leader

Sustainable Solutions (ACE2077), Module leader

Contribute to ACE1010, ACE1040, ACE1041, ACE1045; ACE1057, ACE2062/73, ACE3907  


Postgraduate teaching

 Project management appreciation (SPG8027), Module leader

 Contributions to  postgraduate modules ACE8101, ACE8121, NES8002, NES8007.


Postgraduate supervision

2 PhD students and various MSc projects in environmental science and urban agriculture