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 am a recipient of a 75th Anniversary Research Fellowship at Cranfield University, leading fundamental and applied research 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. My research aims to understand the processes that occur across this interface, particularly in contexts with shallow and near-absent soils. This understanding will help us enhance the potential of saprolite to support soil functioning, in order to sustain the local delivery of ecosystem services, and to tackle global environmental challenges.

My research is underpinned by five guiding principles:

Health: How do the biological, chemical, and physical properties of saprolite differ from those of soil, and what implications does this have on the saprolite's ability to support soil functioning?
Restoration: What can we do to enhance the properties of saprolite in order to support soil functioning in degraded environments?
Sustainability: How fast, and through which mechanisms, does saprolite form soil, and how can we make these soil-forming processes more efficient?
Resilience: To what extent does saprolite respond to and recover from disturbance, and how does this impact the resilience of soil systems?
Mitigation: How can saprolite best support the delivery of soil ecosystem services and help tackle grand global challenges such as safeguarding food, water, and energy security, combating climate change, and protecting biodiversity.

Current activities

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

My principal Fellowship research programme that investigates 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.

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

A GCRF project, in collaboration with Agronomic Institute of Campinas, Brazil, and the National Institute for Space Research, that aims to develop, test, and validate the use of UAV-SfM to (1) measure saprolite erosion rates, and (2) map downslope colluviation in order to detect areas of heavy metal contamination.

My specialism in the soil–saprolite zone is part of a wider research vision that seeks to understand the interactions between soils and other terrestrial and marine systems, including urban environments, rivers, and coastlines. I welcome engagement and collaboration with research-, industry-, or policy-based programmes that explore these themes.

Rurban Revolution | May 2020 to present | Researcher

I am a collaborator on a two-year interdisciplinary project funded through the Global Food Security’s ‘Resilience of the UK Food System Programme’, focused on the transformative potential of urban greening and food growing.

Publications

Articles In Journals

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.