Professor Kirk Semple


Research profile:

I am a Professor of Environmental Microbiology with over 20 years of research experience. I was first appointed as a Lecturer in Environmental Microbiology and Ecotoxicology into the Department of Environmental Science in 1995, promoted to Senior Lecturer in 2002 and Reader in 2004. In March 2008, I was appointed as Associate Director of the Lancaster Environment Centre and administratively responsible for all postgraduate activities. In 2010, I was promoted to Professor of Environmental Microbiology, following the awarded of a personal chair.

Since my appointment, I have strategically developed and managed an active research team, supported by excellent analytical (LC-MS, GC-MS, HPLC-14C detector, sample oxidisation, liquid scintillation counting) and microbiological facilities (incubation, handling, 12C- and 14C-respirometry).

My main fields of research interest include understanding fundamental processes affecting organic contaminant-biota interactions in soils; availability of pesticide residues in soils, and risk assessment and bioremediation of contaminated land and, most recently, the use of anaerobic digestion for energy generation in wastewater treatment and the use of resulting by-products as soil amendments. A particular area of expertise lies in organic contaminant bioavailability in soil, and it is in this area where my reputation is best known internationally. Funding has come from NERC, BBSRC and EPSRC; Government agencies, including the DTI and Pesticide Safety Directorate; environmental consultancies, such as Remedios and Stopford Energy & Environment, and industry, including National Grid and Syngenta.

Output from these areas has led to the publication of over 160 peer-reviewed journal and international conference papers and I have a H-index of 36. I am the Editor in Chief for Environmental Technology and Innovation; in addition, I sit/have sat on the editorial boards of Journal of Applied Soil Ecology, Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry, Soil Biology and Biochemistry, Journal of Soil and Sediment, Soil & Sediment Contamination, Journal of Applied Microbiology and Letters in Applied Microbiology, and I have also been invited to act as guest editor for special issues of Environmental Pollution, Journal of Environmental Quality and Journal of Applied Microbiology.

I have specific responsibility for Lancaster’s MSc in Contaminated Land and Remediation and MSc in Environmental Science and Technology, and I also teach on several Masters level modules in the area of environmental microbiology, pollution science and contaminated land.


Current research group:

  • Ihuoma Anyanwu (PhD, 2010-2014). Bioavailability of organic contaminants in soil and sediments: implication for biodegradation and toxicity.
  • Michael Fagbohungbe (PhD, 2012-2015). Anaerobic digestion process regimes for energy recovery from waste
  • Khasifah Muhamad (PhD, 2012-2015). Soil biochar interactions in temperate and tropical soils
  • Gabriela Vazquez Cuevas (PhD, 2013-2016). Investigations into enhancing the removal of organioc pollutants from soil.
  • Naley Alobari (PhD, 2013-2016). Investigations into the degradation and ecotoxicity of petroleum hydrocarbons in soil.
  • Obinna Madufor (PhD, 2014-2017). Impact of organic wastes on the biodegradation of organic contaminants in Nigerian soils.
  • Joseph Ibelema (2014-2017). Evaluating the effects of biogenic metal-assisted remediation of crude oil contaminated soil using bioassay, chemical analysis and food chain transfer studies. 
  • Victor Omoni (2014-2017). The biocatalytic potential of extracellular ligninolytic enzymes from selected white-rot fungi in the biodegradation of organorecalcitrants in Niger Delta. 


University awards:

Commercialisation and Industry Award for work on land, water and air contamination and soil remediation (Lancaster University, 2006).


Editorial activities:

Editor in Chief, Environmental Technology and Innovation (2014-)

Editorial Advisor, International Journal of Renewable Energy and Environment (2013-)

Subject editor, Journal of Soils and Sediments (2006-)

Editorial board, Soil & Sediment Contamination (2005-)

Editorial board, Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry (2007-09; 2011-13)

Subject editor, Soil Biology and Biochemistry (2003-2010)

Editorial board, Journal of Applied Microbiology (2001-2010)

Editorial board, Letters in Applied Microbiology (2001-2010)