NERC Training Advisory Board (TAB)

NERC is adapting its governance and advisory structures to provide increased agility and broader expertise in light of new opportunities within UK Research & Innovation.

To complete the governance transition, TAB will formally end after their final meeting in May 2019.

The work of the TAB has helped NERC improve the way in which we fund and manage support for skills and training across the environmental sciences. In recent years, the board has made important contributions to the strategic planning of NERC's high profile doctoral training partnership (DTP) mid-term evaluation, the findings of which were used to inform decision-making regarding the commissioning of DTP2. TAB provided further important advice concerning the scope of this flagship investment and the balance of funding across the postgraduate training budget.

In 2017, TAB worked closely with the Science Board to inform a vital first step for NERC in gaining a better understanding of the issues affecting early career researchers (ECRs) in the environmental sciences through the ECR evaluation.

From September 2019, a new NERC Advisory Network (NAN) will provide a retained, agile and flexible pool of expertise that can be drawn on for strategic or policy advice on specific issues.

As of January 2019, the Training Advisory Board was composed of:

Professor Nigel Brown is currently in active retirement. Nigel has worked in the fields of molecular genetics and microbiology for over 30 years and has published more than 150 scientific papers.

Nigel is former Director of Science & Technology at the Biotechnology & Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) and is Meritus Professor of Molecular Microbiology at the University of Edinburgh, where he was Head of the College of Science & Engineering 2008 - 2011 and Senior Vice-Principal 2011 - 2012. He is a member of council of the Royal Society of Biology and a member of the Welsh Government Sêr Cymru Panel. He holds honorary chairs at the University of Nottingham and Swansea University.

Liz is currently the chair of food & environmental security at the University of Edinburgh, and prior to this she held the established chair of soil science and is head of the School of Biological Sciences at the University of Aberdeen. Following her PhD in soil science she took up a lectureship at Wye College, University of London, and a Wain research fellowship at Imperial College London. She then moved to the University of Aberdeen on a NERC advanced fellowship. She is currently president elect of the British Society of Soil Science, a fellow of the Society of Biology, and is on the editorial board of several journals.

Liz's research interests cover plant-soil interactions, soil biogeochemistry and soil fertility. Much of her research focus is on greenhouse gas production in soils, developing and applying stable isotope approaches to link process measurements with characterisation of the underpinning microbiology and biochemistry. She has pioneered the development of isotope enrichment approaches for quantifying and distinguishing between different nitrous oxide producing processes in soil. Her current interest is in plant regulation of rhizosphere processes.

Nigel was originally an industrial electrical engineer, but he has since moved on to the field of environmental and geotechnical geophysics. He is professor of geotechnical infrastructure engineering at the University of Birmingham and his research involves the application of engineering and geophysical methods for the characterisation, investigation and remediation of environmental, geological, hydrological and geotechnical problems. He spends most of his research time on the development of practical, non-invasive site investigation and numerical modelling tools for industry and academia.

Nigel has been a director of postgraduate research & research training coordinator and is an experienced Royal Society Industrial Fellow, as well as being an expert in near surface geophysics, ground penetrating radar and other technologies. He also has extensive experience of knowledge exchange.

Richard is currently an exploration manager with BP based in the UK. Richard has worked in the fields of tectonics, basin analysis and petroleum geoscience for over 20 years. Current research interests are related to the structural and stratigraphic evolution of continental margins, dynamic topography through space and time and their implications for hydrocarbon exploration.

Richard also has extensive experience with the recruitment and development of early career geoscientists within the hydrocarbon exploration business and within postgraduate education.

Other affiliations that may conflict with NERC business:

  • Fellow of the Geological Society of London

Alistair is a senior geologist/palaeontologist at the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) where his principal research interests lie in a multi-disciplinary approach to the evolutionary history of the polar regions. He recently completed a major, NERC-funded project to investigate the mass extinction event at the Cretaceous - Paleogene boundary in Antarctica, and its aftermath, and investigations are continuing into evolutionary events in the Early Cenozoic greenhouse world.

Alistair is a member of the BAS Science Strategy Team and also serves as manager of the Postgraduate Research Programme. He is an active editor of the Journal of Biogeography, and new member of the Antarctic Place Names Committee (run by the Foreign & Commonwealth Office).

Professor Keith Davidson is associate director for education and a professor of marine microbial ecology at the Scottish Association for Marine Science (SAMS). After completing his PhD at Strathclyde University he undertook postdoctoral work at Swansea University and a NERC Fellowship at Plymouth Marine Laboratory before being appointed to a lectureship at SAMS in 1998, with promotion to professor occurring in 2012. He is a past member of NERC Peer Review College, and is currently a fellow of the Society of Biology, a member of the council of the International Society for the Study of Harmful Algae and sits on the editorial board of the journal Harmful Algae. He is also a member of the University of the Highlands & Islands' Academic Council and Academic Titles Review Board.

Keith is marine microbial biogeochemist with particular interest in phytoplankton and harmful algal blooms. Much of his research seeks to understand the interaction between physical and chemical environmental forcing and phytoplankton bloom formation/microbial community composition. He is the senior scientist on the Food Standards Agency's regulatory monitoring programme for biotoxin producing phytoplankton in Scottish waters, and works extensively with the shellfish aquaculture industry to develop methods of early warning of shellfish toxicity.

Marie is a reader in volcanology and geochemistry at the University of Cambridge.

Biography to follow.

Other affiliations that may conflict with NERC business:

  • Fellow and Trustee of Queens' College, Cambridge
  • Member Council and trustee of Geological Society of London
  • Chair Synthesis Group 2019, Deep Carbon Observatory, funded by the Sloan Foundation
  • Member International Association Volcanology & Chemistry of the Earth's Interior, American Geophysical Union, Geochemical Society
  • Chair NERC ion probe facility, member ESSFAG

Liz is head of the Postdoc Development Centre at Imperial College London.

Biography to follow.

Other affiliations that may conflict with NERC business:

  • BBSRC - member of the BSC and chair of the postdoc advisory group
  • Newton fund, Daphne Jackson and Athena SWAN assessor
  • Memberships: fellow of the RSA, fellow of the HEA, Chartered member of the CIPD.

Ewan is a behavioural ecologist at Cefas, where he has led research into spatial dynamics of commercially exploited and vulnerable marine fish and shellfish since joining in 2001. Progressing novel techniques for measuring population characteristics and connectivity, his work considers the complex relationships between fish behaviour, environmental change and fishing, and the implications for the sustainable exploitation of fish stocks into the future.

Ewan is currently chair of science development at Cefas, and directly responsible for Cefas' graduate programme (80 PhD students, many NERC funded) and Science Excellence KPIs (publications and strategic self-investment). He was awarded an honorary readership at the School of Environmental Sciences, University of East Anglia in August 2015, where he leads the 'Life in the Seas' Theme in the Collaborative Centre for Sustainable Use of the Seas.

Other affiliations that may conflict with NERC business:

  • Honorary Reader, University of East Anglia
  • 'Life in the Seas' theme leader, Collaborative Centre for Sustainable Use of the Seas, University of East Anglia
  • School of Biological Sciences Advisory Board, University of Essex

Rachel is dean of the Faculty of Natural & Environmental Sciences at the University of Southampton. Rachel's research interests lie primarily in marine geochemistry although she also works in the broader biogeochemical context. Her research includes biogeochemical processes at the sediment- seawater interface, hydrothermal deposit formation and alteration, and the interactions between microbial and macrobiotic communities and sea floor mineral deposits.

Rachel has oversight of the Graduate Schools in the faculty, including the Graduate School of the National Oceanography Centre (NOC) which has significant numbers of NERC funded students. She has expertise in postgraduate training and skills development in the broad field of Natural and Environmental Science. She has wide-ranging experience of developing and implementing postgraduate strategy (including training) within a NERC collaborative centre (NOC) and across the university (Southampton) and beyond. She also has experience of working with other research council studentship schemes.

Alexander Milner is professor of river ecosystems in the School of Geography, Earth & Environmental Sciences at the University of Birmingham. His research involves river ecosystems in alpine and Arctic environments and has long term studies in Glacier Bay National Park and Denali National Park in Alaska. The study in Glacier Bay represents the longest continual study of stream succession and development within a primary successional framework following glacial recession. Other studies include understanding the effects of extreme events on river ecosystems using mesocosms and how water sources are changing in river systems with climate change and impacts on ecological structure and function.

He is head of the Water Sciences Research Group and sits on the university's Research Progress & Awards Panel.

Gareth is a reader in plant ecology at the University of Sheffield. His research focuses on the interactions between plants and the environment, particularly in Arctic, northern boreal and upland ecosystems. This work includes the impacts of climate change (warming, extreme events, snow regime and precipitation change), UV-B radiation and pollution on ecosystem structure and function, impacts on biogeochemical cycling, and the consequences for feedback to climate. Gareth's work also seeks to understand how responses observed at the ecosystem scale are driven by individual plant, root and leaf responses.

Gareth is director of Postgraduate Studies and chair of the Graduate Committee in the Department of Animal & Plant Sciences at Sheffield. He coordinated the ACCE DTP proposal and subsequently lead its launch year (stepping down to join TAB). He has overseen incorporation of a number of doctoral centres from different funding bodies into his department's postgraduate training as well as leading a Marie Curie Early Stage Training Network on arctic ecosystem biogeochemistry.

Katrien was appointed to a lectureship at Bangor University in 2012, after completing an MSc in Ghent University, a PhD in University College Cork and Cardiff University and a post-doc project at The University of Liverpool. As a marine geologist, she studies the seabed as a dynamic interface to understand the nature of fundamental glacial, hydrodynamic and sediment transport processes in the past, present and future. To support her research on the transport of sand and gravel mixtures around seabed structures, Katrien was granted a fellowship by the Sêr Cymru NRN-LCEE on her recent return from maternity leave.

In her department, Katrien is employability contact, senior tutor and Athena SWAN Committee leader and she supervises two NERC ENVISION DTP PhD students. Katrien is associate member of the Offshore Site Investigation & Geotechnics Committee (OSIG) and sits on the Ocean Challenge Editorial Board in the Challenger Society for Marine Science.

Kathy holds the established chair of geophysics at the University of Edinburgh. Her expertise lies particularly in geomagnetism (core and crust, including the magnetic fields of other solar system bodies), electromagnetic induction and geophysical inverse theory. She is interested in satellite magnetic data, and is a member of the ESA Quality Working Group for the Swarm satellite constellation mission. She is currently vice-president of the International Union of Geodesy & Geophysics.

Kathy has extensive experience of NERC advisory boards and strategies (eg through membership of NERC's Science and Innovation Strategy Board, as well as having sat on several other boards, panels and committees). She has trained many postgraduate students, most with first degrees in physics or mathematics like herself. She has a good understanding of the current international research scene, for instance through membership of overseas research council programme reviews and international honours awards panels.

TAB terms of reference (PDF, 59KB)

TAB code of practice for members (PDF, 138KB)

Register of declared interests (PDF, 77KB)


NERC 16th Training Advisory Board Meeting Agenda (PDF, 105KB) - held 8 May 2019

NERC 15th Training Advisory Board Meeting Agenda (PDF, 86KB) - held 4 December 2018

NERC 14th Training Advisory Board Meeting Agenda (PDF, 171KB) - held 4 July 2018

NERC 13th Training Advisory Board Meeting Summary (PDF, 118KB) - held 29 November 2017

NERC 13th Training Advisory Board Meeting Agenda (PDF, 156KB) - held 29 November 2017

NERC 12th Training Advisory Board Meeting Summary (PDF, 64KB) - held 13-14 June 2017

NERC 12th Training Advisory Board Meeting Agenda (PDF, 50KB) - held 13-14 June 2017

NERC 11th Training Advisory Board Meeting Summary (PDF, 60KB) - held 1-2 December 2016

NERC 11th Training Advisory Board Meeting Agenda (PDF, 53KB) - held 1-2 December 2016

NERC 10th Training Advisory Board Meeting Agenda (PDF, 47KB) - held 6 June 2016

NERC 9th Training Advisory Group Meeting Agenda (PDF, 63KB) - held 1-2 December 2015

NERC 8th Training Advisory Group Meeting Agenda (PDF, 72KB) - held 9 June 2015

NERC 7th Training Advisory Group Meeting Summary (PDF, 108KB) - held 2 December 2014

NERC 6th Training Advisory Group Meeting Summary (PDF, 107KB) - held 15 July 2014