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Environmental Systems, Change and Protection

We seek to understand human-kinds influence on earth’s landscapes, ecosystems and environments in the past, present and future, and to understand the sustainability of practices and the resilience of ecosystems and society.

We are second in Scotland and 18th in the UK on Research Intensity in the 'Geography, Environmental Studies and Archaeology' unit of assessment of the 2014 Research Excellence Framework (REF).

  • Environmental Protection

    Human population growth continues to put increased demands on natural resources and coincides with increasing stresses on environmental systems due to climate and land use change. An integrated understanding of terrestrial, atmospheric and aquatic systems is essential for the protection of the natural capital associated with our surrounding environment. Research undertaken in BES in the area of 'Environmental Protection' brings together interdisciplinary expertise and novel research methods to explore issues of environmental protection in its broadest sense. For example, our laboratory and field-based science contributes mechanistic process-based understanding of contaminant fate and impact on ecosystem and human health while our catchment, regional, national and global scale research is linked to the development of predictive models and decision support tools designed for a range of academic and policy stakeholders. Our vision is to deliver science that underpins the sustainable management of the environment in order to ensure the long-term protection of ecosystem biodiversity and support the health and wellbeing of society.

    Prof David Copplestone (Professor in Environmental Radioactivity)
    Understanding how ecological systems adapt to environmental stresses caused by exposure to ionising radiation, modeling the transfer and behaviour of radionuclides in the environment, and developing approaches to determine the risk of radiation exposure to wildlife.

    Dr Peter Hunter (Senior Lecturer)
    The development and application of Earth observation science for monitoring ecosystem responses to environmental change at global to local scales

    Dr David Oliver (Senior Lecturer)
    Catchment management from source to sea: understanding the fate, transfer, impact and mitigation of diffuse pollutants in agricultural systems.

    Dr Richard Quilliam (Lecturer)
    Research at the interface of agriculture and the environment focussing on a number of sustainability and disease-related topics

    Dr Evangelos Spyrakos (Lecturer)
    Remote sensing and aquatic sciences, focusing on the retrieval of quality parameters from remote sensing data in optically complex waters, the development of detection/monitoring/early warning and prediction systems for harmful algal events and their toxins, the production of biodiesel from microalgae and applying remote sensing to fisheries.

    Prof Andrew Tyler (Professor in Environmental Science)

    Operating with Earth Observation technology through to the development of in-situ techniques, research focuses on the impact and fate of pollutants in a changing environment.

    Dr Nigel Willby (Professor)
    Ecology, conservation, management and assessment of freshwater ecosystems, including landscape scale approaches to conservation of freshwater biodiversity, impacts of invasive species and beaver ecology.

  • Environmental Change and Landscape history

    Members of this research group adopt a long-term perspective on the environment, this allows changes in climate and changes in landscapes to be considered in relation to human impacts. This long-term view is essential for developing evidence to support the conservation needs for built and cultural heritage, the conservation of plant and animal biodiversity, and when building models of past and future sustainable societies.   A range of scientific approaches are used both in the field and in the laboratory with excellent facilities and technical support provided for both. Such studies include the examination of soils and sediments through soil micromorphology and plant macro-fossil records to consider the nature of changes to past-environments; experimentation with materials found in cultural heritage contexts to model the fate of these structures in predicted future climate scenarios; and by combining understandings of the scientific mechanisms of environmental change with evidence of human impacts in changing or managing landscapes from soils-based and historical evidences, the nature of the interactive role of humans in the landscape - or human eco-dynamics - can be understood.

    Dr Paul Adderley (Lecturer)

    Long-term societal-climatic interactions including the rise and fall of empires such as Aksum and the D'MT in the Horn of Africa, early Hausa states in West Africa, and changes in land management in response to climate during the early Norse polity with the North Atlantic, as well as the conservation of earth-built heritage.

    Prof Alex Bayliss (Professor)
    The construction of precise chronologies for archaeological sites, environmental records, and aspects of material culture bringing the histories of people in the past into focus and setting them within their contemporary contexts.

    Prof Ian Simpson (Professor of Environmental Geography)

    ‘Reading’ of soils and sediments as historical narratives of the Anthropocene, with application to questions of human adaptation to environmental change including sustainability and resilience, and to heritage conservation and rural development.‌

    Dr Bob McCulloch (Senior Lecturer)

    The reconstruction of late Quaternary environments, particularly Late-glacial / Holocene ice sheet fluctuations and vegetation responses to climate change and human–environment interactions (environmental archaeology) in southern South America, Scotland and the North Atlantic.

    Dr Elieen Tisdall (Lecturer)

    The application of palaeoenvironmental techniques to reconstruct Holocene climate change in Scotland and the North Atlantic with the view to better understand the interactions between the environment, climate and human activity.

    Dr Clare Wilson (Senior Lecturer)

    The application of soil science techniques, particularly soil micro morphology and soil geochemistry, to address archaeological questions concerning site formation processes and space use.

  • Biogeochemical Cycling

    Global environmental change directly impacts on the natural biogeochemical cycles in terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems. Increases in temperature, or changes in precipitation patterns, for example, alter the rates of nutrient flux and carbon exchange between ecosystems and the atmosphere. There are multiple complex interactions, with many changes affecting a range of ecosystem services that are critical for nature and society alike. Research carried out in BES seeks to improve our detailed understanding of how changes in the biotic and abiotic environment ‌impact on the way in which elements are exchanged between different elements of ecosystems. For example, peatlands located either in arctic, temperate or tropical regions store su‌bstantial amounts of carbon, and the loss of only a fraction of this global C pool would exacerbate on-going anthropogenic increases in global atmospheric CO2concentrations. Pools and lakes in particular have been recognised as important ‘reactors’ in the carbon cycle, where soil-derived C is deposited, and climate-relevant gases such as CO2 or methane (CH4) are produced. Changes in climate or through altered land management leads to direct impacts on ecosystem services such as carbon storage or an ecosystem’s greenhouse gas balance, and it is critical to understand the mechanism underlying these changes.

    Dr Christian Schröder (Senior Lecturer)

    Iron (bio)geochemistry at the interface of environmental science and planetary exploration.

    Dr Jens-Arne Subke (Associate Professor)

    Response of biogeochemical cycles in terrestrial ecosystems to changes in environmental conditions, with particular interest on below ground processes and interactions between plants and the soil biota.

    Dr Michael Wyman (Senior Lecturer)

    Molecular biology and microbial ecology of marine systems, biogeochemical cycling of carbon and nitrogen.

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