In keeping with our world-class reputation, the work conducted by the Environmental Science Research Division is of global significance.
By improving understanding of how the environment works, as well as responds to and recovers from change, we are addressing questions of sustainability and informing international policy and practice relating to food and water security, extreme weather events and pollution.
Our research focuses on the evolution, dynamics and interactions of the environment’s components and on the interplay between people and the environment, in the past, present and future.
We conduct Environmental Science in the widest sense – from analysing important properties off the soil beneath our feet, to glaciers and oceans. Core areas of research include soil science, hydrology, biogeochemistry, terrestrial and marine ecology, remote sensing, meteorology and climate science, as well as landscapes and landforms.
A key aspect of our work is expanding knowledge of the critical zone (parent material-soil-vegetation) and its interactions with the atmosphere, groundwater and surface water.
For specific enquiries, please contact:
Professor Liz Shaw
Research Division Lead
Telephone: +44 (0)118 378 6971
Priming aid agencies to act before floods strike
A day before Cyclone Idai hit the coast of Mozambique in April 2019, humanitarian aid – clean water, blankets, emergency shelter – had already been put in place. Aid agencies were able to take early action because of an innovative humanitarian system known as ‘Forecast-based Action’. This allows early action plans – supported by evidence from academics - to be triggered when a specific forecast of a natural hazard is made. Leverhulme Early Career Fellow Dr Liz Stephens' research involving the Global Flood Awareness System has contributed to early pilot research projects in Uganda and Peru, while ongoing research under NERC / DfID’s Science for Humanitarian Emergencies and Resilience programme is providing the tools and evidence to scale up these pilot projects to systematic international financing mechanisms. This will allow early action to be approved and funded on the basis of a forecast. Find out more on our blog about this research, which won Dr Rebecca Emerton and Dr Andrea Ficchi a 2019 Research Engagement and Impact Award (see feature on this page).
Supporting sustainable societies
The Loddon Observatory is an environmental initiative to support sustainable societies, led by Professor Jo Clarke, currently addressing the challenges of flooding, water quality and sustainable agriculture. The initiative works to find sustainable solutions to these challenges within the Loddon Catchment of the Thames Basin – an area which covers 680 square kilometres across the counties of Berkshire, Hampshire and Surrey. Hosted at the University, it brings together researchers with charities, public sector, business and other research organisations. The observatory's overall aim is to find ways to build capability and capacity to meet 21st Century challenges and to inform policy and practice. Professor Clarke won a Research Engagement and Impact Award 2019 for the undergraduate research aspects of the project. Find out more about some of the Observatory's research projects.
The 5-year NERC-funded Flooding From Intense Rainfall (FFIR) programme, led by Professor Hannah Cloke, aims to reduce the risks of damage and loss of life caused by surface water and flash floods. It works to improve the identification, characterisation and prediction of interacting meteorological, hydrological and hydro-morphological processes that contribute to flooding associated with high-intensity rainfall events. There are three projects within the FFIR programme, directed by the University of Reading: Project FRANC, Project SINATRA and project TENDERLY. To find out more, see the video about FFIR on this page.
Productive and sustainable pastures
Professor Anne Verhoef is leading research into the monitoring and prediction of pasture quality and productivity using data from satellites. The research employs existing remote sensing capabilities to monitor and predict pasture quality and productivity. This gives almost real-time information to assist with pasture management decision-making. The overall aim is to sustainably increase pasture productivity and forage quality by better management of resources, while minimising negative impacts on the environment. The work brings together the latest advances in mechanistic soil-plant-atmosphere modelling and data-assimilation with existing high-resolution satellite remote sensing data. It also links with ongoing research coordinated by Reading's Centre for Dairy Research that aims to increase the resilience of UK livestock production.
B. Balan Sarojini, P.A. Stott, E. Black. (June, 2016): Detection and attribution of human influence on regional precipitation. Nature Climate Change doi: 10.1038/NCLIMATE2976. A blog post has also been published on the article.
Pepin, N., Bradley, R. S., Diaz, H. F., Caceres, E. B., Forsythe, N., Fowler, H., Greenwood, G., Hashmi, M. Z., Liu, X. D., Miller, J. R., Ning, L., Ohmura, A., Palazzi, E., Rangwala, I., Schöner, W., Severskiy, I.,Shahgedanova, M., Wang, M. B., Williamson , S. N. and Yang , D. Q. (2015) Elevation-dependent warming in mountain regions of the world. Nature Climate Change, 5 (5). pp. 424-430. ISSN 1758-678X doi: 10.1038/NCLIMATE2563
Carson, J. F., Mayle, F. E., Whitney, B. S., Iriarte, J. and Soto, J. D. (2016) Pre-Columbian ring ditch construction and land use on a “chocolate forest island” in the Bolivian Amazon. Journal of Quaternary Science, 31 (4). pp. 337-347. ISSN 0267-8179 doi: 10.1002/jqs.2835
Sizmur, T., Godfrey, A. and O'Driscoll, N. J. (2016)Effects of coastal managed retreat on mercury biogeochemistry. Environmental Pollution, 209. pp. 99-106. ISSN 0269-7491 doi: 10.1016/j.envpol.2015.11.016
Punalekar, S., Verhoef, A., Tatarenko, I. V. , van der Tol, C., Macdonald, D. M. J. , Marchant, B., Gerard, F.,White, K. and Gowing, D. (2016) Characterization of a highly biodiverse floodplain meadow using hyperspectral remote sensing within a plant functional trait framework. Remote Sensing, 8 (2). 112. ISSN 2072-42922 doi: 10.3390/rs8020112
Fernández-Romero, M. L., Lozano-García, B., Parras-Alcántara, L., Collins, C. D. and Clark, J. M. (2016) Effects of land management on different forms of soil carbon in olive groves in Mediterranean areas. Land Degradation and Development, 27 (4). pp. 1186-1195. ISSN 1085-3278 doi: 10.1002/ldr.2327