Science Committee - Membership

Graham Underwood is a Professor in the School of Life Sciences at the University of Essex. Trained as a zoologist (University of Reading), and with a PhD in freshwater ecology (University of Sussex), he moved to Essex in 1992, after a period of post-doctoral work at the University of Bristol. His research covers freshwater, estuarine, coastal and shallow sea, and sea ice biology and ecology, with a major focus on microbial ecology, dissolved organic matter and biogeochemical cycling, and ecosystem functioning. Though based primarily in the UK., he has also carried out research in the Baltic, Mediterranean and South African environments, tropical systems in the Indo-pacific and the Bahamas, in Antarctic and Arctic sea ice, and high latitude lakes (Greenland).

Professor Underwood has extensive experience working with NERC since 2002; on the peer review college, a member of the Panel of Chairs from 2009 to 2014, a member of Science and Innovation Strategy Board (SISB) from 2011 to 2014, and Chair of the Strategic Programmes Advisory Group (SPAG) from 2014-2019. He is a member of the Research Councils' IMP Individual Merit Promotion Scheme panel. He was a member of the DEFRA science advisory panel on marine conservation zones (2009-2012), and on various Environment Agency statutory committees. Three of his recent projects were funded via NERC research programme funding (BESS, MC and SSB), which all have broad societal challenge elements, and he works with the Environment Agency on numerous policy-related research projects. He has recently completed a six year term as Executive Dean of the Faculty of Science and Health at the University of Essex.

Adrian Baker is a Fellow of the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl). Following completion of a PhD in hydrogeology, and a post-doc investigating the properties of sea floor sediments, he worked for 10 years as a consultant, principally to the UK nuclear industry, investigating and remediating radioactively and chemically contaminated land. He joined Dstl in 2003, working to understand the environmental and health effects of the use of depleted uranium weapons. He became Chief Scientist in 2007, with responsibility for leading on scientific quality and technical capability. In 2015, Dr Baker became a fellow of Dstl, and changed scientific and technical direction to focus on the use of marine autonomous vehicles to measure oceanographic properties. He also currently leads on assessing the future direction of science and technology relating to remote, automated and autonomous vehicles in all environments.

Adrian was a member of the NERC Science and Innovation Advisory Board from 2011 to 2015, the Joint Capital Advisory Group from 2013 to 2015, and the Innovation Advisory Board from 2016 to 2018. He was also a member of the Science and Technology Facilities Council ethics committee from 2015 to 2018 and is currently a member of the Marine Facilities Advisory Board of the National Oceanography Centre.

Professor Nicola Beaumont leads the Sea and Society team at the Plymouth Marine Laboratory and is an internationally established expert in the assessment and valuation of biodiversity and ecosystem services. She has honorary professorships at the School of Environmental Sciences, University of East Anglia, and the College of Life & Environmental Sciences, University of Exeter. Her research spans scales from local to global, including international development and a variety of environmental challenges, for example: renewable energy, plastics, flood and erosion management, climate change, ocean acidification, and marine planning and policy. She has extensive people and project management experience, with a particular focus on interdisciplinary projects. Nicola has secured and managed >£3.8million of research funding as PI, including leading two large (£1.2million+) multi-institute collaborative projects. Nicola has a sustained publication record and has contributed to a number of high- level reports, including acting as the lead economist for marine and coastal margins for the UK National Ecosystem Assessment (NEA).

Nicola’s research has recorded impact in the policy sphere, including underpinning the designation of marine conservation zones and shaping government policy such as the Marine Bill and the Natural Environment White Paper, The Natural Choice: securing the value of nature. Nicola is skilled in research communication including working with academics, policy makers, managers, and research user groups. She embraces outreach and media communication, including festival-related STEM activities, YouTube, and interviews with radio, newspaper and television. Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) is of paramount importance to Nicola and she is experienced in the development and implementation of EDI strategies. As a senior academic Nicola draws on her people management skills to support and guide numerous teams, colleagues, and students, including formal and informal mentoring.

Mike Bentley is a Professor in the Department of Geography at the University of Durham. Trained in geology (Edinburgh) and with a PhD in glacial geology he spent a short time working for Scottish Natural Heritage before taking up a NERC Independent Research Fellowship. Following this, Mike joined the University of Durham as a Lecturer in 2000. His research covers ice sheet, sea level and environmental history with a primary focus in Antarctica for over 25 years. He applies a broad range of geological techniques to reconstruct past changes and to work with ice sheet and solid Earth modelling communities to develop improved models of past and future change. Mike also continues to work in Patagonia, Greenland and Iceland.

Mike has extensive project and people management experience, including numerous NERC and EU/ERC grants and as a Head of Department in Durham where he initiated and led a cultural review and also advocated for and led the implementation of enhanced EDI policies.

Mike also has wide-ranging experience working with NERC: he has been an active member of the peer review college for well over a decade, and was a member of the Panel of Chairs from 2017 to 2021. He sits on the NERC Polar Research and Operations Board, served on the Research Excellence panel for the evaluation of NERC Centres during 2019/20, and has been a member of panels advising NERC on development of funding programmes for ice sheet research, and individual merit promotions. Mike chairs the UK National Committee on Antarctic Research, and is a UK delegate to the international Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research.

Jane Hill is a Professor of Ecology in the Department of Biology, University of York. Jane’s research examines the impacts of climate change and habitat loss on biodiversity, and she explores the effectiveness of conservation actions as solutions to help species respond and adapt to changing climate. Jane studied for her BSc and MSc at the University of Manchester, and moved to Bangor University for her PhD studying insect migration. Following post-doctoral research at Liverpool John Moores, Birmingham, Leeds, and Durham, Jane joined the University of York in 2001. Much of Jane’s research is interdisciplinary, and she is a Research Theme leader for ‘Resilient Ecosystems’ in the York Environmental Sustainability Institute (YESI), and a member of York’s Leverhulme Centre for Anthropocene Biodiversity.

Jane’s main research interests are in understanding the interactions between climate change and habitat availability for biodiversity, and the benefits of landscape connectivity for species occupying patchy landscapes. Jane is a trustee of the SE Asia Rainforest Research Partnership (SEARRP), and her tropical research examines the environmental sustainability of oil palm cultivation. She is a trustee of the British Ecological Society and chairs their Publications Committee. Jane received a Marsh/ZSL Award for Conservation Biology in 2011 and she is an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Entomological Society. Jane is also involved in promoting women in science, leading the York Biology Department to an Athena SWAN Gold Award, and supporting its subsequent renewal.

Anna Jones is the Director of Science at the British Antarctic Survey (BAS). In this role she drives science strategic direction and delivery for the organisation. Her science expertise is in atmospheric chemistry, gained from over 30 years’ research experience. Her research interests are broad, and driven by the need to understand atmospheric composition in a changing world. Her polar (Antarctic and Arctic) research has focused around understanding atmospheric impacts of changing sea ice cover, furthering ability to interpret ice core records, and assessing natural sources of atmospheric aerosol. She initiated greenhouse gas research at BAS, which has led to projects measuring both natural and industrial emissions of methane. Her work is highly interdisciplinary, and she has published papers with ice core chemists, boundary layer and regional meteorologists, and chemical oceanographers.

Anna has worked within NERC for over 25 years, serving on diverse committees including Merit Promotion and the Doctoral Training Programme. She is a member of two international polar advisory boards (Germany and Denmark) and has served on international grant panels. She is an enthusiastic ambassador for environmental science, and engages frequently with non-specialists, including from industry and the general public, via talks and the media.

Christine Maggs is the first Chief Scientist of the UK’s Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC). JNCC is part of the Defra group which provides conservation advice to governments based on analyses of scientific evidence. After studying botany at Oxford, a work placement on seaweeds in the Natural History Museum in London and a scientific diving expedition to Brazil, led to Christine’s first job as a diving botanist in Wales and then to a PhD at NUI Galway. Her main research interests are evolution and systematics of seaweeds, biological conservation and sustainable seaweed exploitation, and invasion biology in aquatic habitats.

Following a postdoctoral fellowship in Canada and a NERC Advanced Research Fellowship at Queen’s University Belfast, Christine joined QUB’s School of Biological Sciences as a marine biologist, becoming Professor of Phycology and then Head of School. She was appointed as a Member of the Royal Irish Academy in 2013 and received the Award of Excellence of the Phycological Society of America. She was Dean of Science & Technology at Bournemouth University, and is now a visiting Professor there and Honorary Professor at QUB. Christine has served on grant evaluation panels in the UK, Ireland, Finland, Portugal, Norway and Sweden. Christine also promotes public understanding of seaweeds, having co-authored a popular Seasearch guide, and teaches a course to the public and agency staff in spring each year.

At QUB Christine worked to promote gender equality, leading the School’s successful 2009 submission for a Silver Athena SWAN award, and was closely involved in achieving the Gold award, which was recently renewed.

Daniel Parsons is a Professor in Process Sedimentology at the University of Hull. Parsons undertook his PhD at the University of Sheffield before being awarded a NERC Independent Research Fellowship, which was held at the University of Leeds. Prior to his position at Hull, Parsons spent two years at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Parsons’ research explores the response of fluvial, estuarine, coastal, and deep marine sedimentary environments to climate and environmental change particularly anthropogenic disturbance and the societal adaptations required to mitigate the impact, for example how to evolve flood risk management on large mega-deltas, what are the impact of plastics in fluvio-marine environments. He also has research interests in environmental scale modelling, innovative environmental measurement technologies, and offshore renewable energy.

As Director of the Energy and Environment Institute (EEI) at the University of Hull, Parsons has gathered together a multidisciplinary team of over 120 researchers to conduct impactful research on the global challenges presented by environmental change, anthropogenic impacts, and securing a zero-carbon future. Established three years ago, the EEI has a portfolio of active research grants and projects of over £28M, and hosts three taught Masters’ programmes, the EPSRC-NERC Aura Centre for Doctoral Training in Offshore Wind and Environment, and the NERC Panorama DTP.

Parsons is a Division President and Council Member at the European Geosciences Union (EGU) and is a member of the executive board of the Living with Water Partnership - pioneering the development of a City Water Resiliency Framework within the Global Resilient Cities Programme. Parsons is a member of a University-level Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) committee at Hull and a founding member of the EDI Working Group at the EGU, where he has also been working as part of a Governance Review on embedding EDI into the statues and practices of the Union. Finally, Parsons has also been supporting Lord Prescott with his EC Climate Committee work that developed a plan for net-zero transition based on estuarial clean growth, using the Humber Estuary as an exemplar, and which was recently presented and profiled at COP24 as a vehicle for the regional delivery of the Paris Agreement.

Professor Stefan Reis has a background in integrated assessment modelling of air pollution and its effects on human and ecosystem health, with 23 years of experience working at the interface of environmental and health disciplines. He is the science area head for Atmospheric Chemistry and Effects at the UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology. His work incorporates the development and application of conceptual models to link and integrate human and ecosystem health impact assessment. In 2016, he was awarded a fellowship by the International Society for Environmental Modelling & Software Systems (iEMSs) and is currently serving as the society’s president. In 2019, he was awarded a fellowship of the Modelling and Simulation Society of Australia and New Zealand (MSSANZ) and the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (RSA). He is an editor of Environmental Modelling & Software and a member of the editorial board of the journal Environmental Research Letters (ERL). Professor Reis has been a member of the NERC Peer Review College since 2012, and of the Research Excellence panel for the evaluation of NERC Centres during 2019/20. He regularly serves as a member of research funding panels in Norway, Germany and Belgium.

David Viner is a specialist practitioner in the response of organisations to climate risk. He is currently the Head of the Green Transitions Team at the Green Investment Group. Prior to this David was the Global Head of Climate Science at Mott MacDonald where he oversaw the technical leadership of their work across all its sectors and geographies that involve climate change. David holds a visiting Professorship at the University of East Anglia and is currently a Co-ordinating Lead Author for the IPCC Working Group 2 and was a lead author on the IPCC Special Report on Climate Change and Land. David is in a unique position in which he spans the private, policy and academic communities across a range of international climate change activities.

David has a degree in physical geography from the University of Sheffield and a PhD in Civil Engineering from the University of Salford. Following his PhD he moved into the climate change arena by taking up a position at the Climatic Research Unit where he directed the Climate Change Masters Course. He subsequently took up a position at Natural England to develop and lead their climate change work and then moved to the British Council to develop and direct a unique climate change strategy to support the UK’s profile and international climate change negotiations. In 2012 David joined Mott MacDonald where he developed the business case to grow their work in climate change. David is a fellow of the Institute of Environmental Science and is an honorary lifetime member of Friends of the Countryside in recognition of his work for the rural economy.

Simon Vosper is the Executive Director of Meteorological Science at the Met Office, which he joined in 2001. He obtained a PhD at the University of Leeds in atmospheric science and then worked as a postdoctoral research fellow at the universities of Leeds and Surrey, studying the effect of hills and mountains on atmospheric flow. His work has led to new predictive tools for operational forecasting of hazardous winds and turbulent rotors and to improvements in the models which underpin the UK’s weather and climate science capability.

Simon’s experience includes field measurement programmes, laboratory fluid dynamics, numerical model development and the pull-through of science to operational products and services. He leads a team of scientists and scientific software engineers who developed the Unified Model -a world-leading seamless modelling system for weather and climate science applications.

He has close links to NERC science through several collaborative programmes, including the Met Office-NERC Joint Weather and Climate Research Programme. He is a visiting Professor at the School of Earth and Environment, University of Leeds.

Helen Williams is presently a Professor of Geochemistry in the Department of Earth Sciences at the University of Cambridge, where she has been since 2016. She was previously a Reader at Durham University, and prior to that a NERC Advanced Fellow at the University of Oxford. Helen has also held research positions at ETH-Zurich and Macquarie University. She received a PhD in geochemistry from the Open University and an undergraduate degree in Natural Sciences from the University of Cambridge.

Her research interests are wide-ranging but largely focus on the use of non-traditional, high-atomic mass stable isotopes to study processes relating to Earth’s formation and the chemical evolution of its internal and surface reservoirs. Helen is an active member of the UK’s Geochemistry Group and the European Association of Geochemistry and she chaired the Goldschmidt International Geochemistry Conference in 2019, which gave her a platform to promote early-career scientists and to engage with issues relating to equality and diversity of representation in the geosciences . She has also been the recipient of two ERC grants, and her currently active ERC Advanced Grant (‘EarthMelt’) involves the study of magma ocean processes and their role in defining the physical and chemical evolution of our planet.

Doug Wilson is Director of Research, Analysis and Evaluation and Chief Scientist at the Environment Agency. He leads on scientific research, innovation for environmental monitoring, evaluating interventions and assessing the state of the environment. During major incidents he leads on providing scientific advice to Government.

Doug has a degree in human ecology and a PhD in river pollution incident modelling, with research interests in pollution dispersion, environmental water needs and the application of the precautionary principle in environmental management. He is an Honorary Professor at Nottingham Trent University.

Before joining the Environment Agency in 1999 he worked in the water industry for Southern Water and Thames Water, planning and managing water resources. He is Chair of the UK Environmental Observation Framework (UKEOF), which draws together public sector monitoring activities across the UK. Doug is chair of the Energy and Environment Programme Expert Group for the National Physical Laboratory. He also chairs UK Technical Advisory Group (UKTAG), which provides technical advice on implementation of the Water Framework Directive.

Register of declared interests, updated January 2022 (PDF, 114KB)