Contact Dr Nick Girkin

Areas of expertise

  • Soil
  • Soil Resources
  • Sustainable Land Systems

Background

I am an ecologist interested in the interactions between plants and soils, and the impacts of environmental change.

My work focuses on opportunities for mitigating greenhouse gas emissions, and improving carbon sequestration, soil health, and yields in natural and managed systems. This is important in helping countries and industry in meeting greenhouse gas reduction targets, and improving long-term sustainability.

I work across a range of spatial scales, from studying large scale-ecosystem processes to novel laboratory techniques to understand underlying pathways and mechanisms. I use a range of new and novel techniques including stable isotope labelling (13C and 15N) and novel organic matter characterisations (e.g. Rock-Eval pyrolysis and FTIR).

After studying biology at the University of Durham, I completed my Master's in Ecology and Environmental Management at the University of York, and my PhD at the University of Nottingham. I conducted my post-doctoral research at Teagasc, working on the mitigation of agricultural nitrous oxide emissions. Following this, I was a Research Fellow at the University of Nottingham, where I led the first ever on-the-ground measurements of greenhouse gas fluxes from the Central African peatland complex. I am a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society, a Member of the British Ecological Society, and an Associate Editor of Soil Use and Management.

Research opportunities

Currently, there are no fully-funded postdoc or PhD studentships available. I am keen to support self-funded researchers, or support applications for funding across a range of topics including:

  • Greenhouse gas measurement and mitigation
  • Management to enhance plant and soil carbon sequestration 
  • Assessing and improving ecosystem climate resilience

Please get in touch to discuss further.

Current activities

I am interested in understanding how plants regulate carbon and nutrient cycles, including the emissions of greenhouse gases and carbon sequestration. A recent focus has been on establishing a framework that can underpin low emission crop varieties. This framework focusses on assessing how crop traits regulate the soils around them, and subsequent greenhouse gas emissions. By understanding these interactions, we can ultimately identify targets for selective breeding programmes to develop low emission agriculture.

Alongside this work, I also have wide-ranging research interests in wetlands, including natural and constructed wetlands in the UK, and in the tropics, including Central America, Central Africa, and Southeast Asia. This includes research into paludiculture, carbon sequestration, and assessing the spatial and temporal variability of greenhouse gas emissions. I also take a leading role in working with industry partners on sustainable management in plantation and orchard crop ecosystems.

Current and recent projects include:

Regenerative agriculture for climate resilient plantation systems (HEIF, 2021-2022, PI)

Nature-based solutions for wastewater treatment (EPSRC & water utilities, 2021-2024, PI)

Central American Blue Carbon: quantifying carbon cycling in Central American mangroves (Royal Society, 2021-2022, PI)

Enhancing climate resilience through sustainable plantation management (HEIF, 2020-2021, PI)

Mapping the extent and vulnerability of Central American peatland carbon stocks (Royal Geographical Society, Ralph Brown Expedition Award, 2020-2022, PI)

HotPeat: Temperature sensitivity of tropical peatland greenhouse gas production (Royal Geographical Society, 2019-2021, PI)

CongoPeat: Past, Present and Future of the Peatlands of the Central Congo Basin (NERC, 2018 - 2023, Associate Researcher)


Clients

Natural Environment Research Council (NERC)

Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC)

Global Challenges Research Fund (QR GCRF)

Higher Education Innovation Fund (HEIF)

The Wildlife Trusts

Royal Geographical Society

The Royal Society

Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute

Publications

Articles In Journals