Professor Kirk Semple

Professor of Environmental Microbiology


Research profile:

Kirk is a Professor of Environmental Microbiology with over 30 years of research experience and is Lancaster University's Director of International Research. His main fields of research interest include pollutant-microbe interactions in soil; biodegradation, bioavailability and bioaccessibility of pollutants in soils, and risk assessment and bioremediation of contaminated land and, most recently, the use of microorganisms for energy generation and the application of the resulting by-products as soil amendments or alternatives to conventional fertiliser. A particular area of expertise lies in organic contaminant bioavailability in soil, and it is in this area where his reputation is best known internationally.

As Director of International Engagement in the Lancaster Environment Centre and then the Assistant Dean International for the Faculty of Science and Technology, he became involved in international activities and partnerships for the University. Most of his international activities have been in Sub-Saharan Africa, where he has supported collaborations with universities and research institutes, private sector organisations and government/policy experts in Sierra Leone, Ghana, Nigeria, Cameroon, Kenya, Uganda, Malawi, Zambia, Botswana and Angola.

Research funding

Research funding has come from NERC, BBSRC, EPSRC and GCRF (ESRC); Government agencies, including the British Council, DTI and Pesticide Safety Directorate; environmental consultancies, such as Remedios and Stopford Energy & Environment; industry, including National Grid and Syngenta, and internationally from the European Union, the Spanish Ministry of Economy, Competitiveness and Industry and the Australian Government through the Cooperative Research Centre for Contamination Assessment and Remediation of the Environment (CRC CARE),equating more than £15 M, as well as ~£350,000 funding from Lancaster University. To date, I have also successfully supervised 55 PhD students, with 38 from overseas.

Recent and current projects include:

Accelerating the adoption of circular sanitation demonstration systems for improved health outcomes (ACTUATE; GCRF funded)

Driving Eco-Innovation in Africa: capacity building for a safe circular water economy (RECIRCULATE; GCRF funded)

WASHable: Participatory design and community engagement Network on WASH in Lusophone and Francophone African Countries (GCRF funded).

Partnership, research and capacity-building for youth unemployment solutions in Africa (led by University of Lagos, Nigeria; GCRF-funded).

Bioenergy waste residues as alternatives to conventional inorganic fertilisers for sustainable food production in sub-Saharan Africa (funded by NERC, International Opportunities Fund)

Resource Recoviery from Waste: Developng a suite of novel land conditioners and plant fertilisers from waste streams of biomass energy generation (funded by NERC/Defra)

Minimising Uncertainty in Human Health Risk Assessment Programme: Development of a fully integrated risk assessment system for contaminated land (based at CRC-Care, University of Newcastle, Australia)

From bioavailability science to soil remediation: Sustainable stimulation of biological networks for enhanced pollutant carbon turnover (led by Dr JJ Ortega Calvo: funded by Spanish Ministry of Economy, Competitiveness and Industry)

Published research

Kirk has published over 250 peer-reviewed journal, book chapters and international conference papers and has a H-index of 58 (WoS), 59 (Scopus) and 73 (Google Scholar).


Director of International Research, Vice Chancellor's Office, Lancaster University (1/12/23 -)

Director of the Lancaster Environment Centre (1/8/22 to 30/11/23)

Assistant Dean International for the Faculty of Science and Technology (1/4/19 to 31/7/22)

Director of International Engagement, LEC (1/9/15 to 31/7/22)

Interim Director of the Future Cities Research Institute (1/10/19 to 31/3/21)

Visting Professor in the Faculty of Life Sciences at the University of Benin in Nigeria (1/9/17 to present)

Visiting Professor, Igbinedion University Okada, Benin City, Nigeria (1/9/21 to present)


Kirk is currently responsible for the following postgraduate modules:

LEC 472: Contaminated Land and Remediation

Between 2005 and 2010, Kirk acted as external examiner for MSc programmes in Environmental Microbiology, Environmental Science, Forestry and Soil Science, School of Biological Sciences, University of Aberdeen. From September 2009-11, he acted as the external examiner for the MSc programme in Soils and Environmental Pollution, in the Department of Soil Science, School of Human and Environmental Sciences, University of Reading. Between 2013 and 2017, he was the external examiner for the MSc in Environmental Consultancy and the MSc in Environmental and Petroleum Geochemistry within the School of Civil Engineering and Geosciences at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne.


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

Awarded a CRC CARE Fellowship by Prof Ravi Naidu, Managing Director and CEO of CRC CARE, based at the University of Newcastle, NSW, Australia (September, 2015).

Presented with The Green Label Award by Prof Lawrence Ezemonye, the President of the Nigerian Environmental Society (NES) in recognition of my contribution in pioneering academia-industry linkages and eco-innovation in Nigeria (November 2017).

Lancaster University Staff Award for activities relating to International Impact (2020).


Deans’ Professorial Programme: Developing the Lancaster Professorial Community (2016-2017)

The Bonington Programme: Enhancing performance, developing potential (2016-17)

Advance HE - Strategic Leadership Programme: Development of strategic vision to make a meaningful impact in shaping the future direction of the higher education sector through influence and engagement (2022)

  • Centre for Global Eco-innovation
  • Innovation for a better environment
  • Soil Plant and Land Systems