Geoscience, Resources and Environmental Risk

Geoscience, Resources and Environmental Risk

Why this Theme?

Hazardous events and processes are of broad concern to societies across the globe, but they rarely generate human adversity in isolation. Frequently, impacts are amplified by human choices around land use and regulation, or the occurrence of one hazard (or anthropogenic influences) can pre-condition the environment for response to a second event. These interactions and their cascades need better understanding, as do communication tools for reducing human responses to cascading environmental hazards.

ARIES is interested in the exciting possibilities to geo-engineer and bio-engineer soils to increase yields and carbon storage, regulate greenhouse gas emissions and water flows, and mitigate pollution. However, these manipulations generate trade-offs where improved provision of one service might be to the detriment of others. ARIES will nurture research and training concerned with the holistic understanding of soil and the ecosystem services it supports. The food-energy-water nexus that is underpinned by soil requires the next generation of environmental scientists to undertake discovery science to influence environmental regulation and policy, and to engage with agri-water industries to deliver societal impact.


ARIES has depth and breadth of expertise in Earth processes (past and present) and how they can dictate and contribute to the existence of environmental hazards. ARIES is particularly well-placed to address this priority topic with expertise and facilities across partners that enable cutting-edge research and high-level training that includes: volcanology, tectonics, paleoenvironmental change, meteorology, fluid flow, hydrodynamics, soil erosion, generation of energy, catchment science, geochemistry, social science, and science communication (UoP, RHUL, UEA, BAS, BGS).

Specific expertise can be found in crop science (JIC), biogeochemical cycling, carbon storage and pollution mitigation (UEA, UoE, UoP, RHUL, CEH, BGS), social sciences (UEA) and water flow / erosion (UoP, RHUL, UEA, AW, BGS).

PGR training and employability

PGRs will develop advanced skills in the analysis of physical processes and their effects, specifically considering how they may be coupled with multiple other processes and human activities, and in turn how this interaction may be modelled. Thus, they will receive advanced training in advanced geosciences techniques, statistics and modelling. Due to the frequently sparse nature of data emanating from hazards, PGRs will be trained in game theory and game technology. Importantly, PGRs will be trained so that they are conversant with psychological and socio-economic issues related to hazards, and they will learn how to communicate risk / hazard scenarios across scientific disciplines as well as to policy makers and the wider public. Coupled hazardous events are likely to increase in number and affect more lives due to population growth, urban development, deforestation, coastal squeeze, and extreme weather, and so skills developed by ARIES scientists trained under this priority topic will be highly sought after.

Wider engagement

This topic is of broad relevance to a range of ARIES partners, including the Defra group, especially the EA, as well as those involved in major engineering projects, notably Royal HaskoningDHV and Balfour Beatty. In addition to HEI hosting partners, the expertise within BAS and BGS will be particularly pertinent to this topic. International engagement will be facilitated through ARIES scientists’ connections with overseas universities, volcano observatories, national geological surveys and other institutions. The Sainsbury Laboratory has world-renowned expertise in plant-microbe interactions, and form a pivotal link between soil science and food security. ARIES partners have valuable collaborations with current CASE partners, such AB Vista (developing products for animal feed and nutrition) and ADC BioScientific Ltd. (developing soil / plant monitoring equipment). The involvement of the Defra Group ensures that ARIES research is informed by policy. Community support for interventions and long-term socio-economic gains is essential, and so projects in this priority topic will benefit from input from the social sciences (e.g. via the ESRC DTPs SeNNS and SWDTP).

Hot Topics in this Theme

❖ Physical models to improve understanding of sediment transport routes.

❖ Some dredged material can be used for beneficial purposes. MMO would like to better understand the barriers to the reuse of dredged materials and where it could be used.

❖ Fracking and associated monitoring: Legislation in relation to fracking is poor so it could become a big business, therefore a good research opportunity.

❖ The Oil & Gas sector needs research in order to undertake assessments of severity of climate change and its long-term business impacts. Can we as an industry continue to