Contact Dr Sarah De Baets

Areas of expertise


I am a physical geographer (M.Sc) and obtained a PhD degree at the University of Leuven (Belgium). After my PhD I obtained a personal post-doctoral grant from the KU Leuven for 1 year, followed by a 3 year personal post-doctoral fellowship from the National Scientific Research Foundation to work at the University of Louvain (UCL, Belgium). From 01/09/2011 onwards I worked at Exeter University as research fellow. My research projects focussed on the effects of plant roots on the resistance of soils to concentrated flow erosion and the selection of suitable species for erosion control (PhD), on the vulnerability and recovery of soils following disturbances (post docs) and on the fundamentals of root-soil cohesion (latest Leverhulme project with University of Bristol).

I study interactions between vegetation (with special focus on plant roots!) and related soil quality properties (e.g. soil cohesion, soil fertility) in relation to soil degradation processes and disturbances (e.g. erosion, fire, compaction).

Current activities

Whereas the effects of the aboveground biomass on soil erosion processes are quite well understood, the effects of plant roots on the vulnerability and recovery of soils following disturbances are much less understood. My research tries to contribute to better understanding the fundamentals of root-soil cohesion and its implications for restoration and sustainable land management.

Current projects:

- BBSRC New Investigator grant BB/R003440/1, £532.5k, Feb 2018-Jan 2021: `Using roots to bio-engineer soil` (PI).

- BBSRC ISCF Catalyst - Integrating above and below ground sensors to predict soil and crop health, £47k, Oct 2017-Feb 2018 (co-I).

- STARS PhD student project ` Resilience of novel grass species and mixtures for erosion control in grassed waterways designs`, Sep 2017- Feb 2021.

- AHDB-Cranfield Industrial Partnership PhD studentship, FV450: Sustainable soil management for stand longevity and yield optimization in asparagus £48.5, March 2018-Feb 2021.

- Royal Society Early Career Grant, `Measuring root growth effects on soil carbon turnover in the rhizosphere`, £15k, August 2017-August 2018 (PI)

- NIAB- Felix Cobbold and Chadacre Agricultrual Trust - Cranfield Industrial Partnership PhD student project: `Quantifying and alleviating deep seated compaction in arable soils`, £54.75





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