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Earth Systems and Environmental Sciences Research (UoA7)

Who we are

Our researchers sit within the School of Natural and Environmental Sciences, based in the Faculty of Science, Agriculture and Engineering.

Formed in 2017, our School is the third largest academic unit within the University. It boasts a diverse community of 135 academic staff and an annual turnover of £35million.

We encompass subjects from across the Natural Sciences, facilitating interdisciplinary research. Our submission represents contributions from 37 independent research active staff. This represents 33.2 full time equivalent (FTE) staff, an increase of 8.6 FTE since 2014.

We contribute to the Sustainable Development Goals of the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. We also feed into two United Nations initiatives. These include the Decade on Ecosystem Restoration 2021-2030 and the Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development 2021-2030.

Research themes

Global environmental change is one of humanity’s greatest challenges.

We address fundamental areas of environmental research, including:

  • rapid climate change
  • extreme environments
  • accelerating biodiversity declines
  • habitat loss

Our research portfolio reflects pressures on food, water, energy, raw materials and infrastructure. They have inherent links to human systems.

These inform our drive to develop mitigations and policy and meet these challenges. We understand the drivers of environmental and socio-economic interactions helping us to produce meaningful research outcomes.

Research groups

Modelling, Evidence and Policy

This group brings together conservation ecologists, modellers and policy experts. They study the health and function of complex biological and socio-ecological systems.

Earth, Ocean, and Planetary Sciences

This group focuses on earth system processes sustaining the environment. They cover fundamental biogeochemistry and energy and food production.

Marine Ecology

This group studies marine conservation and management and addresses the UN Ocean Decade. It develops key indicators of system changes and cost-effective monitoring of marine environments.


We have a 'one university, without walls' institutional philosophy.

We are founding members of the Centre of Research Excellence in Climate and Environmental Resilience. We bring together over 100 researchers from the university to support this work. 

Our Global Challenges Academy enables wider social benefits, and builds upon existing partnerships. Its remit is to meet global challenges such as climate change.

We will expand our engagement with policymakers through the University's Policy Academy. This will improve environmental governance structures and regulation.

Other highlights of our infrastructure include: 

  • geothermal research well on the Helix campus
  • complementing NERC's £31M Geoenergy Observatories project
  • upgrades to marine research capacity
  • Dove Marine Laboratory
  • £2M research space refurbishment
  • shared molecular diagnostics facility

Research impact

Societal and economic impact underpins our research strategy.

Strong external collaboration facilitated our second place impact ranking in REF2014.

Highlights of ongoing research with impact include:

  • invasive alien species
  • global species conservation
  • marine biofouling
  • marine protected areas
  • bacterial biofilms
  • rock dust for soil fertility

Our values

We align with the University's commitment, policies and processes. All research proposals are subject to initial ethics screening via an online procedure. This process identifies whether a proposal requires formal review by a Research Ethics Committee.

All researchers are aware of the University Code of Good Practice in Research. It clarifies expectations relating to:

  • integrity
  • research misconduct
  • leadership and cooperation
  • professional standards and advice

We tailor training to disciplinary needs. This is obligatory for those involved in projects requiring formal ethical approval.

Academic groups encourage open discussion of current research. This fosters values of integrity and ethical research practice from postgraduate research students.