Scene of the earth from space

Earth and environmental sciences research

Explore our work in crustal evolution, palaeontology and stratigraphy, engineering geology and natural hazards, and environmental processes and impacts

Earth and Environmental Sciences research is the study of our planet and the evolution of life, from its earliest beginnings to the present day. With the future of our planet under threat from environmental crises such as climate change, our research is exploring how the Earth has changed over time. We're using our findings to predict how it may change in the future and what we can do to protect it.

Our Earth and Environmental Sciences areas of expertise

Project highlights

  • Chernobyl

    Our work exploring the impacts of the 1986 nuclear disaster in Chernobyl has shown, for the first time, that wild mammals are thriving in the area abandoned after the accident. Our research proves that human habitation and exploitation is worse for the natural ecosystem than the radiation created by the world’s worst nuclear accident. We're also working with communities in contaminated areas to safely bring abandoned agricultural land back into use, to support economic recovery and development.

  • Simex Series

    We developed Simex Series, the world’s largest simulated disaster and emergency response exercise, in collaboration with Hampshire Fire and Rescue, RedR, an international organisation that helps NGOs respond to humanitarian crises, and L2S2, a company that develops technology to treat disaster victims. The exercise is reducing risk and improving communication during natural disasters, and improving rapid responses to events such as tsunamis, volcanic eruptions, floods, landslides and hurricanes.

  • Chemcatcher

    Our environmental monitoring research led to the development and production of Chemcatcher, a passive sampling device for monitoring pollutants in aquatic environments. Chemcatcher is used by many water companies, including Southern Water, to monitor water quality.


We use the following facilities:

  • Geochemical facilities, which include laser ablation and solution ICP-MS and ICP-MC-MS. These allow us to analyse a large range of materials and elements across the periodic table, measure isotope ratios for sourcing of materials and dating minerals
  • Imaging facilities, including scanning electron microscopy and near infrared spectroscopy, which allow us to image materials to extremely high magnification, measure the chemistry and crystallography of materials down to the nanometre scale, characterise the spectra of materials, and use remote sensing techniques to map their spatial distribution in the natural environment.
  • Rock and soil mechanics, including triaxial and uniaxial presses, acoustic emission sensors, and heating and cooling elements. These allow us to provide data on the physical properties and behaviour of materials under different loading conditions and over a range of conditions.
  • Our Hyperspectral Laboratory, which has an ASD Labspec4 (Vis-NIR) spectrometer and a range of spectral imaging systems including an infrared geotechnical core-scanner to examine rocks, soils, debris, environmental materials and archaeological artefacts for engineering and hazard characterisation.

Research groups

We're researching the investigation and management of natural and manmade hazards to help communities adapt to environmental change.

Interested in a PhD in Earth & Environmental Sciences?

Browse our postgraduate research degrees – including PhDs and MPhils – at our Earth & Environmental Sciences postgraduate research degrees page.