Areas of expertise

  • Soil
  • Sustainable Land Systems

Background

Dan’s passion for soils research germinated in 2012 when he studied mobile debris lobes in Alaska during a Royal Geographical Society Scholarship. Following his return, he obtained a first class degree in Physical Geography at the Royal Holloway, with prize-winning research on root architecture and soil erodibility. During his PhD at Lancaster University, he conducted the first isotopic measurements of UK arable soil formation, and produced the first globally-relevant estimates of soil lifespans. His postdoctoral work on the Global Food Security programme's Rurban Revolution project investigated urban ecosystem services. Dan is Early Career Researcher (ECR) co-representative for the EGU’s Soils division, and National ECR Officer for the British Society of Soil Science. In 2019, he co-hosted HRH The Duke of Gloucester at the BSSS ECR conference. Dan’s also passionate about science communication. He was the inaugural speaker at the first Royal Holloway TEDx conference, and recently curated a sustainable urban soils exhibition at the UEA. His research has featured in The Conversation, on BBC Radio 4’s Farming Today, and Farmer’s Weekly. Following his PhD, Dan became the Legacy Fellow for the NERC and BBSRC-funded 'Soils Training and Research Studentship' (STARS) Centre for Doctoral Training (CDT).

Research opportunities

I hold a 75th Anniversary Research Fellowship as a Soil Scientist at Cranfield University's Soil and Agrifood Institute. I lead both fundamental and applied research, principally focusing on soil formation, and the parent materials from which soil is formed. The basis of this work takes place at the interface between soil and weathered bedrock called saprolite. This zone represents a ‘final frontier’ at the bottom of many soil profiles, and one which is likely to become more critical as soils around the world continue to erode to bedrock. However, I also study soil formation across a wide variety of environmental domains including natural ‘pristine’ ecosystems, agricultural landscapes, and urban spaces.

My research programme comprises three core components:

Interactions between parent materials and soils: How do the biological, chemical, and physical properties of parent materials differ from those of soil? What processes take place across the boundary between soils and underlying parent materials? To what extent can parent materials support the delivery of soil ecosystem services?

Threats to soil parent materials: To what extent is the stock, health, and functioning of soil parent material at threat from local perturbations and global grand challenges? How resilient are soil parent materials to these perturbations? How can we protect soil parent materials to safeguard tomorrow's soils?

Bioengineering soil parent materials to accelerate soil formation: Can we identify smart, efficient, and next-generation techniques to bioengineer soil parent materials to enhance rates of soil formation? Can plants be used to accelerate soil formation and thicken soil profiles? How can we form a functioning soil 'from scratch' in urban spaces?

Current activities

The role of saprolite in stabilizing soil organic carbon in critically shallow soils | October 2020 to September 2023 | P.I.

An investigation into the potential of weathered bedrock underlying rapidly eroding shallow soils to store and stabilize organic carbon. In particular, this project will explore (i) the factors that affect carbon storage and stabilization mechanisms at the soil-saprolite interface, (ii) the resilience of these mechanisms to perturbation, and (iii) solutions to boost ecosystem service delivery on bare saprolite.

Modelling, optimizing, and identifying novel sites for urban food production | September 2021 to June 2022 | P.I.

A STFC Food Network funded project that aims to develop a decision-making platform to identify the most effective vacant urban spaces for sustainable, resilient, nutritious food growing. As part of this research, soils in vacant urban spaces within Newcastle, UK, will be studied to analyze their suitability for crop growth.

Saprolite erosion and the fate of heavy metals: pioneering UAV-SfM as a community mapping tool | December 2020 to July 2021 | P.I.

A GCRF project, in collaboration with Agronomic Institute of Campinas, Brazil, and the National Institute for Space Research, that aimed to test the use of UAV-SfM to detect, map, and measure saprolite erosion in order to estimate the diffuse pollution of heavy metals.

Publications

Articles In Journals

Conference Papers

Books

  • Graham E, Evans DL & Lindsay D (2020) The waste of time. In: The Temporalities of Waste: Out of Sight, Out of Time, Routledge, p. 151-166.