News Release

New high risk, high reward studies will tackle key unanswered questions about our planet

NERC has invested £25 million in a host of high risk, high reward research projects to tackle critical environment challenges

Grant and Award Announcement

UK Research and Innovation

NERC has invested £25 million in a host of high risk, high reward research projects to tackle critical environment challenges.

The 44 projects cover the full spectrum of environmental science including geology, atmospheric science, biodiversity and ecology.

The research will, for example: 

  • improve our understanding of volcanic activity such as eruptions a lava flows
  • age the Earth’s solid inner core
  • investigate historic mass extinction events
  • predict future changes to carbon storage and biodiversity of the amazon rainforest
  • study new microbes capable of consuming the powerful methane greenhouse gas
  • Establish which species are the most and least resilient to environmental changes

Lasting 3 to 4 years, the projects have received up to £1.3 million to conduct the research, which is a key part of NERC’s investment portfolio.

Professor Sir Duncan Wingham, Executive Chair of NERC, said:

“This investment supports researchers’ curiosity and imagination to enable discoveries that unlock new knowledge. The studies will tackle some the most critical unanswered questions about our planet.

“By supporting high risk, high reward environmental science, we are harnessing the full power of the UK’s research and innovation system to tackle large-scale, complex challenges.”

Further information

The projects are:

Explosive-effusive volcanic eruption transitions caused by pyroclast sintering

Fabian Wadsworth, Durham University         


NERC-NSFGEO Community And Structural Collapse During Mass Extinctions (CASCaDE)

Alexander Dunhill, University of Leeds         


On the edge?

Ian Main, University of Edinburgh     


Hydrothermal controls on caldera explosivity

Isobel Yeo, National Oceanography Centre 


Tracing volatile cycling during progressive subduction in the Mariana Forearc

Catriona Menzies, Durham University


SCREED: Supergene enrichment of carbonatite REE deposits

Martin Smith, University of Brighton  


Palaeomagnetic field behaviour in the Palaeozoic and the hunt for inner core birth

Andrew Biggin, University of Liverpool          


Enabling CO2 mineralisation through pore to field-scale tracking of carbonate precipitation: INCLUSION

Stuart Gilfillan, University of Edinburgh         


DV3M: Deforming Volcanoes with Dynamic Magma-Mush Models

James Hickey, University of Exeter


Magmatic volatiles in the fourth dimension

Margaret Hartley, University of Manchester



Christopher Hughes, University of Liverpool and Daniel Jones, NERC British Antarctic Survey


FUTURE-FLOOD: New estimates of evolving UK flood risk for improved climate resilience

Elizabeth Kendon, University of Bristol         


Silicon CycLing IN Glaciated environments

Katharine Hendry, NERC British Antarctic Survey   


Greenland ice marginal lake evolution as a driver of ice sheet change - how important are rising lake temperatures?

David Rippin, University of York        


Humid heat extremes in the Global (sub)Tropics (H2X)

Cathryn Birch, University of Leeds and Christopher Taylor, UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology       


Enhanced carbon export driven by internal tides over the mid-Atlantic ridge (CarTRidge)

Jonathan Sharples, University of Liverpool,  Joanne Hopkins, National Oceanography Centre, Alberto Naveira Garabato, University of Southampton, Alex Poulton, Heriot-Watt University


A mising link between continental shelves and the deep sea: Addressing the overlooked role of land-detached submarine canyons

Mike Clare, National Oceanography Centre, Rob Hall, University of East Anglia


Waves, levees and impact pressures in snow avalanches

Nico Gray, The University of Manchester


Simulating UNder ice Shelf Extreme Topography (SUNSET)

John Taylor, University of Cambridge, Paul Holland, NERC British Antarctic Survey


Mobile Observations and quantification of Methane Emissions to inform National Targeting, Upscaling and Mitigation (MOMENTUM)

David Lowry, Royal Holloway, University of London


Investigating the potential for catastrophic collapse of Greenland's 'land'-terminating glacier margins

Peter Nienow, University of Edinburgh         


Towards Maximum Feasible Reduction in Aerosol Forcing Uncertainty (Aerosol-MFR)

Jill Johnson, University of Sheffield   


Next-Generation Modelling of Glacial Isostatic Adjustment

David Al-Attar, University of Cambridge        


RIFT-TIP: Rates of Ice Fracture and Timing of Tabular Iceberg Production

Oliver Marsh, NERC British Antarctic Survey           


Bridging theory to reality in projections of the Asian and West African monsoons (Bridge)

Ruth Geen, University of Birmingham           


The End of the Amazon Carbon Sink? (AMSINK)

Oliver Phillips, University of Leeds    


DMSP synthesis via a novel enzyme in cyanobacteria and diverse bacteria

David John Lea-Smith, University of East Anglia     


Integrating and predicting responses of natural systems to disturbances

Roberto Salguero-Gomez, University of Oxford       


Identifying novel microbial drivers to mitigate atmospheric methane emission

Laura Lehtovirta-Morley, University of East Anglia


Rainforest Fauna in the Anthropocene: an integrated approach to understanding impacts of climate and land use change (RAINFAUNA)

Jos Barlow, Lancaster University


Recovery pathways for lake ecosystems

Peter Langdon            University of Southampton    


Role Specialization and plasticity at the origin of eusociality

Jeremy Field, University of Exeter


Discovering The Molecular Basis For Carbon Storage In Soil For Food Security And Climate Change Mitigation

Ian Bull, University of Bristol  


Environmental and ecological drivers of tropical peatland methane dynamics across spatial scales

Nicholas Girkin, Cranfield University


Turbo-charging the mycorrhizosphere - Could more productive ecosystems threaten soil carbon stocks in boreal and sub-arctic zones of transition?

Philip Wookey, University of Stirling


A Novel Testing Paradigm to Identify and Manage Multiple Stressor Impacts on Wildlife

Frances Orton, University of the West of Scotland and Claus Svendsen, UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology


What happens to the green stuff? Applying a novel zoogeochemical lens to ecosystem nutrient cycling

Kate Parr, University of Liverpool


Mitigating Microbial Hazards - Eliminating HABs risks in salmon farms

Linda Lawton, The Robert Gordon University


When does a supershedder become a superspreader?: The impact of individual-level heterogeneities on population-level transmission and spread

Amy Pedersen            University of Edinburgh         



The evolution of Chalk Sea ecosystems: biodiversity, resilience and ecological function in a warming world

Richard Twitchett, The Natural History Museum and Paul Bown, University College London


Was A Cold-blooded Strategy Key To Crocodile Survival Across Mass Extinctions?

Philip Mannion, University College London


The role of structural variants in rapid adaptation

Laura Kelly, Royal Botanic Gardens Kew


A palaeontological solution to the origin of the vertebrate pectoral girdle

Martin Brazeau, Imperial College London


Why did we start Fermenting cereals? A molecular dissection of Ancient Bread and Beer making (FABB)

Mark Thomas, University College London




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