UoA 7 Earth Systems and Environmental Sciences

Our earth systems and environmental science research forms part of a broader strategy and investment in environment and sustainability research, spanning  the natural, social, and medical sciences, and the humanities and arts, with a shared focus on the core challenge of achieving a sustainable future for humanity on Earth.

Research in this area is associated with three of the University’s colleges, Life and Environmental Sciences; Engineering, Mathematics and Physical Sciences; and the Medical School.

Expansion of research in this area has been enabled by investment in:

Researchers in this area also had a high profile role in creating the world’s most comprehensive report on climate change. Three academics in this area were selected as lead authors for the 5th Assessment Report (AR5), among a total of nine IPCC authors based at the University. Exeter is represented on all three Working Groups of the IPCC as well as the AR5 Synthesis Report.

Key results

  • 89 per cent of research was ranked as world-leading (4*) or internationally excellent (3*).
  • This unit was ranked 13 out of 45 nationally.

Impact case studies

NameSummary
Bisphenol A and its potential human health effects Research by Professors Tamara Galloway, David Melzer, and Michael Depledge identified, for the first time, associations between exposure to the widespread environmental contaminant bisphenol A (BPA) and changing incidences of disease. The research showed higher exposures to BPA are associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease and hormonal changes. The research has influenced policy development worldwide, raised public awareness of environmental chemical health risks, stimulated public debate and critical media analysis, and is stimulating enhanced public, policy-maker and business interest in anthropogenic chemicals in the environment and their implications for human health.
Amazon rainforest and climate change Research on the links between the Amazon rainforest and climate change has influenced international climate policy, has directly assisted Brazilian environmental policymakers, and has received international media coverage. The underpinning research spans the vulnerability of the rainforest to human-caused climate change and the mechanisms behind the Amazonian droughts of 2005 and 2010. Impact has been achieved by stimulating public debate through the media, by contribution to science-into-policy documents produced by the World Bank and for the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), and by direct face-to-face interaction with UK and Brazilian policymakers.
Endocrine disrupting chemicals in aquatic ecosystems: Impacts on new policies and guidelines, and economic benefits for the UK Research led by Professor Charles Tyler provided critical data on the widespread adverse oestrogenic effects of endocrine disrupting chemicals in wild fish populations in the UK. This triggered the UK government to take action through investment in research and development of policies and guidelines. The research has led to world-wide recognition that endocrine disrupting chemicals are an emerging policy issue, a £40million demonstration project with the UK government and water industry, and multi-million pound benefits to the UK in terms of improved water quality and safeguarding freshwater wildlife.
Climate Tipping Points – impact on climate policy and risk assessment Research identifying potential climate tipping points and developing early warning methods for them has changed the framework for climate change discussion. Concepts introduced by Professor Tim Lenton and colleagues have infiltrated into climate change discussions among policy-makers, economists, business leaders, the media, and international social welfare organisations. Thorough analyses of abrupt, high impact, and uncertain probability events has informed government debate and influenced policy around the world. It has prompted the insurance and reinsurance industry to reconsider their risk portfolios and take into account tipping point events.

Research groups

GroupAbout the Group
Climate Dynamics This group focuses on modelling of the climate system, and quantifying and reducing uncertainties in climate projections. It has strong links with the Met Office through jointly-funded positions.
Earth System Science This group focuses on understanding, measuring, reconstructing, and modelling the interactions between climate and biogeochemical cycles, across a broad range of timescales and epochs.
Environmental Biology This group studies the effects of environmental contaminants and other anthropogenic activities on organisms and ecosystems, and includes studies on the role of fish in ocean ecology and biogeochemistry.
Ecosystems This group focuses on ecosystems, and understanding the impacts of environmental change on ecosystems and the goods and services they provide.

It is part of the interdisciplinary Environment and Sustainability Institute that uses a multifaceted approach, combining field, laboratory, and modelling studies, which integrate with the work of engineers, mathematicians and social scientists in the wider Institute.
Environment and Health This group carries out research into the interconnections between environmental change, human health and wellbeing. The group is based within a larger interdisciplinary research community at the European Centre for Environment and Human Health.

UoA 7 Earth Systems and Environmental Sciences

Our earth systems and environmental science research forms part of a broader strategy and investment in environment and sustainability research, spanning  the natural, social, and medical sciences, and the humanities and arts, with a shared focus on the core challenge of achieving a sustainable future for humanity on Earth.

Research in this area is associated with three of the University’s colleges, Life and Environmental Sciences; Engineering, Mathematics and Physical Sciences; and the Medical School.

Expansion of research in this area has been enabled by investment in:

Researchers in this area also had a high profile role in creating the world’s most comprehensive report on climate change. Three academics in this area were selected as lead authors for the 5th Assessment Report (AR5), among a total of nine IPCC authors based at the University. Exeter is represented on all three Working Groups of the IPCC as well as the AR5 Synthesis Report.

Key results

  • 89 per cent of research was ranked as world-leading (4*) or internationally excellent (3*).
  • This unit was ranked 13 out of 45 nationally.

Impact case studies

NameSummary
Bisphenol A and its potential human health effects Research by Professors Tamara Galloway, David Melzer, and Michael Depledge identified, for the first time, associations between exposure to the widespread environmental contaminant bisphenol A (BPA) and changing incidences of disease. The research showed higher exposures to BPA are associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease and hormonal changes. The research has influenced policy development worldwide, raised public awareness of environmental chemical health risks, stimulated public debate and critical media analysis, and is stimulating enhanced public, policy-maker and business interest in anthropogenic chemicals in the environment and their implications for human health.
Amazon rainforest and climate change Research on the links between the Amazon rainforest and climate change has influenced international climate policy, has directly assisted Brazilian environmental policymakers, and has received international media coverage. The underpinning research spans the vulnerability of the rainforest to human-caused climate change and the mechanisms behind the Amazonian droughts of 2005 and 2010. Impact has been achieved by stimulating public debate through the media, by contribution to science-into-policy documents produced by the World Bank and for the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), and by direct face-to-face interaction with UK and Brazilian policymakers.
Endocrine disrupting chemicals in aquatic ecosystems: Impacts on new policies and guidelines, and economic benefits for the UK Research led by Professor Charles Tyler provided critical data on the widespread adverse oestrogenic effects of endocrine disrupting chemicals in wild fish populations in the UK. This triggered the UK government to take action through investment in research and development of policies and guidelines. The research has led to world-wide recognition that endocrine disrupting chemicals are an emerging policy issue, a £40million demonstration project with the UK government and water industry, and multi-million pound benefits to the UK in terms of improved water quality and safeguarding freshwater wildlife.
Climate Tipping Points – impact on climate policy and risk assessment Research identifying potential climate tipping points and developing early warning methods for them has changed the framework for climate change discussion. Concepts introduced by Professor Tim Lenton and colleagues have infiltrated into climate change discussions among policy-makers, economists, business leaders, the media, and international social welfare organisations. Thorough analyses of abrupt, high impact, and uncertain probability events has informed government debate and influenced policy around the world. It has prompted the insurance and reinsurance industry to reconsider their risk portfolios and take into account tipping point events.

Research groups

GroupAbout the Group
Climate Dynamics This group focuses on modelling of the climate system, and quantifying and reducing uncertainties in climate projections. It has strong links with the Met Office through jointly-funded positions.
Earth System Science This group focuses on understanding, measuring, reconstructing, and modelling the interactions between climate and biogeochemical cycles, across a broad range of timescales and epochs.
Environmental Biology This group studies the effects of environmental contaminants and other anthropogenic activities on organisms and ecosystems, and includes studies on the role of fish in ocean ecology and biogeochemistry.
Ecosystems This group focuses on ecosystems, and understanding the impacts of environmental change on ecosystems and the goods and services they provide.

It is part of the interdisciplinary Environment and Sustainability Institute that uses a multifaceted approach, combining field, laboratory, and modelling studies, which integrate with the work of engineers, mathematicians and social scientists in the wider Institute.
Environment and Health This group carries out research into the interconnections between environmental change, human health and wellbeing. The group is based within a larger interdisciplinary research community at the European Centre for Environment and Human Health.