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
We're exploring the fundamental changes that created our planet and the long-term and large-scale processes that shaped the Earth's development through time.
Palaeontology and Stratigraphy
We're exploring how fossil records can help us understand past climates & environments and using this knowledge to effectively predict & model climate change and its impact on the Earth’s ecosystems. Explore our palaeontology and stratigraphy research.
Engineering Geology and Natural Hazards
We're researching the causes, impacts, preparation for and management of natural anthropogenic phenomena such as hurricanes, earthquakes, landslides, debris flows, volcanoes and floods.
Environmental processes and impacts
We're looking at the monitoring, movement and impacts of contaminants and pollutants in the environment, and identifying problems and potential solutions.
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.
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.
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.
Recent media coverage
Professor Jim Smith's work on the return of thriving mammals to Chernobyl, covered by Nature, Forbes, IFL Science and The Times
Dr Carmen Solana's research into volcanic hazards and risks, covered by Reuters, Yahoo and the Mail on Sunday
University of Portsmouth PhD student Emily Roberts discovers a remarkable new treasure – the first fossil plant gum on record
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.
Centre for Applied Geosciences
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.