Contact Dr Nick Girkin

Areas of expertise

  • Soil
  • Soil Resources
  • Sustainable Land Systems


I am a plant and soil ecologist and biogeochemist, interested in understanding controls over greenhouse gas emissions, and carbon and nutrient cycling across land use and management intensity gradients. I am also interested in understanding how the impacts of climate and land use change will affect these controls. I have a particular focus on understanding how plants regulate both soil properties and the production and emission of greenhouse gases. 

I work across a range of spatial scales, from studying large scale-ecosystem processes to novel laboratory techniques to understand underlying pathways and mechanisms. We have recently expanded our capacity for measuring various components of soil health and chemistry, biology, and greenhouse gas emissions. 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), integrated through modelling. 

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 emissions and soil carbon
  • Regenerative agriculture
  • Ecosystem climate resilience
  • Peatland, forest, and grassland carbon and nutrient cycling

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.

I also have wide-ranging research interests in wetlands and peatlands, including natural and constructed wetlands in the UK, and in the tropics, including Central America, Central Africa, and Southeast Asia. This includes research into distribution, carbon sequestration and storage, the impacts of management interventions, and assessing the spatial and temporal variability of greenhouse gas emissions. 

I lead the Sustainable Plantations and Orchard Crops working group, engaging farmers, businesses and NGOs in addressing environmental sustainability challenges in tropical agroecosystems, and how benefits can be translated to benefit smallholder farmers.

Current and recent projects include:

Regenerative agriculture for the plantation sector: identifying and delivering shared environmental solutions (NERC, 2022 - 2025, PI)

Measuring and modelling catchment scale carbon flows in cocoa plantations (Sue White Fund for Africa, 2023 - 2026, PI)

Developing low-cost monitoring for tropical forests and peatlands (NERC, 2022 - 2026, CoI)

Net Zero Crop Varieties: varietal controls over greenhouse gas emissions in linseed  (Premium Crops, 2022-2025, 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, 2021-2023, PI)

Mapping the extent and vulnerability of Central American peatland carbon stocks (Royal Geographical Society, Ralph Brown Expedition Award, 2020-2023, PI)

Assessing carbon storage in the Cambridgeshire Fens (Wildlife Trusts, 2021 - 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)


Natural Environment Research Council (NERC)

Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC)

Research England

Premium Crops

Water Utilities


The Wildlife Trusts

The Broads Authority

Royal Geographical Society

The Royal Society

Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF)

Higher Education Innovation Fund (HEIF)

Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute


Articles In Journals