Research themes

The research we conduct aims to develop our understanding of the biogeochemistry of modern-day and ancient environments and the way that it is affected by natural processes and the actions of mankind.

Our work interfaces with a wide range of different fields but the majority of work that we do can be divided to the seven following areas:

The work carried out in the OGU is highly interdisciplinary which means that we are constantly interacting with other researchers from across the globe as well as collaborators in other departments within the University through joint research initiatives such as  the Bristol Biogeochemistry Research Centre (BBRC).

The Royal Tomb at Qatna

Archaeological chemistry

This field explores the chemistry of a wide range of artifacts such as ancient pottery sherds, Egyptian funerary items and skeletal remains.

Forest floor. Photo by blumblaum on Flickr - used under a Creative Commons licence

Chemical ecology

Previous work has provided new insights into the dietary choices of various invertebrate species and the functional roles that they play in the soil.

Discharge pipe. Photo by Wonderlane on Flickr - used under a Creative Commons licence

Environmental chemistry

Our interest in this field lies primarily in the detection and quantification of estrogenic and pesticide compounds in agricultural, sewage and river samples.

Bones. Photo by Random on Flickr - used under a Creative Commons licence

Forensic chemistry

We are interested in how soil organic geochemistry chemistry may be applied to criminal investigations in the detection of clandestine graves.

Champagne Pool, Wai-O-Tapu. Photo by macronix on Flickr - used under a Creative Commons licence


Molecular signatures of micro-organisms, particularly in extreme environments, can give insights into evolution and the search for extraterrestrial life.

Compost. Photo by suavehouse113 on Flickr - used under a Creative Commons licence

Organic matter cycling

Understanding how organic matter changes in the environment is key to understanding carbon storage and, ultimately, climate change.

Single-celled marine plants called coccolithophores colouring the water of the Atlantic Ocean bright blue. Photo: Jacques Descloitres, MODIS Rapid Response Team, NASA/GSFC


Molecules found in sediments can provide temperature records, spanning millions of years, helping us explain past climate and predict future events.