At Lancaster we have always been pioneers, pushing the boundaries of research and teaching on the environment.

We were one of the first universities in the world to establish a Department of Environmental Science and to offer Ecology as a full degree subject.  In 2007 we brought together Geography, Environmental Sciences and Biological Sciences to create the Lancaster Environment Centre, knowing that together we would be more than the sum of our parts. Our vision is to work across disciplines, and societal and national boundaries, to address the major environmental challenges facing the world.

As one of the world’s largest centres for environmental research, our academic expertise spans the natural and social sciences, offering balanced perspectives on what are complex societal challenges. Our teaching programmes and research reflect this diversity, operating at the crucial interface between the environment and society.

Our teaching continues to win high praise. Our Geography and Environmental Science courses were rated 5th in the UK in the 2018 Guardian University Guide, beating all other universities in the North West, whilst Biological Sciences and Ecology programmes were ranked 16th in the Complete University Guide.

A global department

We are the largest department in Lancaster University, which is globally recognised for our quality of teaching and research. Our staff, students and visitors come from around the globe.   Through university and strategic partnerships, we are working in Africa, Asia and the Americas, offering opportunities to our students and researchers to be based abroad and to influence the major environmental debates of the future. 

Our teaching approach is both theoretical and practical, in the lecture room, laboratory and the field. All our students get the opportunity to carry out fieldwork, either on our doorstep in the beautiful North West of England, with its national parks and contrasting terrestrial and aquatic habitats, or in Europe, Amazonia, the Himalayas, North America, Asia and Iceland. So when our students graduate they have excellent job prospects across a wide range of careers globally.

While we are recognised for the quality of our fundamental research, our ambition is to use that research to provide holistic solutions for today’s big issues, such as living with environmental change, species loss, pollution, energy and water management and providing enough food for the world. So we work in partnership with governments, businesses and communities to put our expertise to good use. 

Making connections

We share our facilities (laboratories and offices) with the Environment Agency and 26 businesses in our purpose-built Gordon Manley Building, a facility to encourage commercial sector partnerships. We are also home to one of the Government’s top environmental research laboratories, run by the Natural Environment Research Council’s Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, and that partnership feeds into our own research, providing additional expertise and facilities.

We are still pioneers. We have recently established a sister institution in China, with the Chinese Academy of Sciences. The International Research and Innovation Centre for the Environment uses our model of drawing together specialists from different disciplines and organisations to address some of Asia’s major environmental issues. 

Professor Phil Barker, Director, Lancaster Environment Centre

Our Vision

A powerful and distinctive centre that addresses emerging global environmental challenges through its world leading research, teaching, collegiate environment and multi-disciplinary collaborations.

Our Mission

  • To work together with governments, civil society, business, the third sector, the international research community and the public to analyse, understand and solve global and environmental challenges
  • To define and lead the global research agenda
  • To make a difference by increasing the sustainable impact of our research


Sustainability is at the heart of what we do at the Lancaster Environment Centre (LEC).  As with the rest of Lancaster University, sustainability is central to our governance, estate strategy and day-to-day management. For example, we have invested £150,000 to enhance the efficiency our glasshouse facilities.

But for us sustainability is also central to our mission, running through our teaching and research. Our research might be described as “Sustainability Science”, integrating natural science, social science and interdisciplinary research to contribute to the search for solutions to global environmental challenges. This approach is embedded in all our research but is especially evident in our three crosscutting research challenges.

We have now made a major investment in this area, by creating several posts in Sustainability Science, which provide an additional focus for our contributions to this vital element in environmental research and teaching.

We have also created a Sustainability Group: a diverse team of researchers and non-academic staff who are working together to enhance the environmental sustainability of the department and its community of staff, students and partners.