UoA 7 Earth Systems and Environmental Sciences

The quality of our research into some of the most significant challenges in world science is confirmed by our GPA score of 3.07 and a ranking of 20th in the UK. A distinctive feature of this unit is that 94% of our research outputs were deemed ‘world-leading’ or ‘internationally excellent’, ranking us 4th in the UK.

Quality level 4 3 2 1 UC
Overall 24.0% 60.0% 15.0% 1.0% 0.0%
Outputs 33.8% 60.0% 4.7% 1.5% 0.0%
Impact 10% 50.0% 40.0% 0.0% 0.0%
Environment 0.0% 75.0% 25.0% 0.0% 0.0%
About the REF

Our research in earth systems and environmental sciences is addressing some of the most significant challenges in world science, including global change, biosphere-hydrosphere-geosphere interactions, physical landscape and environmental dynamics, natural resource exploration, the long-term evolution of the Earth, the Anthropocene, and its future.

Collectively, our researchers have brought in over £12M of research income since 2008, publishing high-impact science in the world's best academic journals.

Committed to research projects with real societal impact, we're engaged in a number of large-scale, cross-institutional and interdisciplinary programmes, including the Climate Change Consortium of Wales (C3W), the Severn Estuary Gateway, the NERC Great Western Four (GW4+) Doctoral Training Partnership, and Cardiff's Sustainable Places Research Institute.

Our activity in this area is underpinned by specialist infrastructure and facilities including 3D Seismic, Palaeoclimate and Geomicrobiology Laboratories, an Element Fingerprinting Facility which permits analysis of liquids and solids for almost all elements of the Periodic Table and our £15M coastal research vessel RV Guiding Light with its inbuilt sonar and multi-coring capabilities.

Case studies

Finding the faults in caprocks

Our research has allowed oil and gas companies to understand how faulted caprocks behave under specific geological conditions.

Research themes

Three research themes organise our activities into distinct research groups:

Solid earthIncludes world-leading research in magmatic and hydrothermal processes, geodynamics, and the development and sedimentology of sedimentary basins.
Climate and lifeThe climate and life theme focuses on the Earth's surface – including in and under its oceans – where life has evolved and profoundly affected environments over billions of years.
Environmental science and policyIncludes a broad range of Earth-surface science research within the School: dynamics and processes of physical landscapes and biological environments; policy and governance structures of environmental management for sustainable use and ecosystem integrity; and applications of environmental monitoring.

Centres and groups

Magmatism & MetallogenesisConducts a wide range of studies aimed at understanding magmatic and hydrothermal processes and their products.
GeodynamicsInvestigates solid Earth dynamics, from planetary to microscales, relating to a diverse and significant range of topics incuding earthquakes, avalanches, sources of hydrocarbons and ores, and plate tectonics
Palaeoclimate & Climate Systems (PACS)Our objective is to better understand the response of the ocean-climate system to various types of forcing, such as changing greenhouse gas concentrations or ocean circulation patterns.
PalaeobiologyAs an established centre for palaeobotany, our group has continued to set benchmarks for studies on the origin and early evolution of land plants, pollen and spores and calcareous algae and bacteria.
Earth Surface Processess (ESP)Our work develops insight into the states, behaviours, and dynamics of the Earth's surface through a combination of field research, laboratory experimentation, and numerical modelling.
GeomicrobiologyResearch investigates environmental microbial (prokaryotic) activities particularly in near and subsurface sediments.

Overall ranking

Pos. Institution GPA
1University of Oxford3.36
2University of Cambridge3.34
2University of Bristol3.34

18Newcastle University3.09
19University of Lancaster3.08
20Cardiff University3.07
21University of Birmingham3.06
21University of Aberdeen3.06
21University of Leicester3.06

Table continues to 45