Dr Christopher Laing

Associate Fellow (AFHEA)

Multi-disciplinary learning

Name Dr Christopher Laing



Lecturer in Physical Geography

College College of Life and Environmental Sciences

Multi-disciplinary research and learning to tackle climate change

Chris Laing is lecturer in Physical Geography at the Penryn campus, and a member of the joint University of Exeter and MET office Carbon Group. He describes his work as multidisciplinary, teaching across courses in Geography and Environmental Science, and focusing on environmental biogeochemical cycling, within the context of climate change. The cross-over within his teaching is reflected in the student body, with students coming in from varied backgrounds, from Geography to Biology.

“Essentially, I try to bring together lots of different fields that I think the students might be interested in, and expose them to as much as I can. In Environmental Science, that includes the biosphere, the land, the terrestrial side of things; it includes freshwater eco-systems, oceans… I try and link it up with the private sector and how environment plays out in business. We go and visit people with stakes in the environment, who are earning a living farming… and how environmental science impacts that. I try and show the students how what we’re learning in the lecture follows through to the real world.” Chris believes that putting his own research into practice in his teaching “gives [students] an idea of how a problem, which is faced globally, translates into research in the laboratory and the field, and how we analyse that as geographers and environmental scientists”, providing a better application of knowledge in relation to life after university.

The joint initiative, the University of Exeter and the MET Office Carbon Group, allows university academics and external researchers to come together, discuss their own research on carbon cycling in the environment, give presentations and also build valuable links between Devon and Cornwall campuses, and the MET Office. “The MET Office do some of the most advanced modelling that feed into the climate models used for the projections going forward with the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change), as do lecturers and researchers at the University of Exeter. It’s a way of building collegiality between the two and focusing our research so that we talk to each other, and can collaborate on projects and develop project ideas... Essentially, we’re interested in studying how temperature and future changes to climates will affect carbon cycling on natural systems… we want to study them because we’re worried that there might be a positive feedback to the system, whereby humans changing the climate, influences the natural state of carbon cycling… reinforcing climate change again.”

Aim 6: Multi-disciplinary learning for global challenges 

To provide all students with the opportunity to explore the relevance of different disciplines to contemporary challenges facing the world

Multi-disciplinary research to tackle climate change

"It’s crucial to get this multi-disciplinary feeling across to the students…”