Areas of expertise

  • Biomass and Waste
  • Carbon, Climate and Risk
  • Environmental Impacts
  • Environmental Policy
  • Natural Capital
  • Soil
  • Soil Resources
  • Sustainable Land Systems
  • Waste Management and Resource Efficiency
  • Water Science and Engineering


Jim's first degree was in Applied Biology at North East London Polytechnic, specialising in plant biochemistry. This was followed by his doctoral work in the microbiology of stored topsoil on opencast mine sites.

Jim is best known for his work in ecological restoration and systems ecology, particularly in characterising the role of the soil microbial community to provide unambiguous signals of the state of ecosystems across the land use spectrum, and more broadly the role of complexity in ecological restoration and the resilience of ecosystems. This broad set of interests is a strength - often insights from one discipline or area can galvanise another (e.g. my work for Lloyd's Register on their seminal 'Engineering Resilience' Report). His work has informed the development of principles, guidance and standards locally, nationally, regionally and internationally, and bridged the gap between reporting what we know of the state of land systems to clear prescriptions for restoring ecosystem structure and function. His work has spanned academia, industry, government and the third sector, and is reflected in the roles and responsibilities I have held in a variety of programmes and organisations, such as the Society for Ecological Restoration, the British Society of Soil Science, the British Ecological Society and the Institution of Agricultural Engineers.

Jim was appointed Chair in Environmental Technology at Cranfield in January 2002.

Current activities

Professor Jim Harris' research is focused on microbial ecology and how the diversity of the microbiota and their spatio-temporal distribution affect ecosystem processes. He has applied this particularly in studying soil forming processes in disturbed landscapes and their role in organic matter dynamics; in the assessment and treatment of wastes such as landfill leachate and other wastewaters; restoration ecology and in the quantitative assessment of ecosystem goods and services.

This work has been funded by BBSRC, NERC and EPSRC, local and central government, and industry and has informed government policy, industrial practices and academic disciplines ranging from terrestrial ecology to engineered ecosystems in treatment processes.

Other research he is involved in focusses on how ecosystem principles can be used in managing modern society - from land restoration, through water treatment to the design of urban systems.


Clients include:

Research Councils





ACO ltd


British Coal

Cleanaway Ltd







Environment Agency

Natural England

Foriegn and Commenwealth Office

Parliamentary Office for Science and Technology

Local Authorities


European Union

Home Grown Cereals Authority

The Royal Society

Land Use Consultants


Articles In Journals

Conference Papers