3 October 2016

New Director aims to cement the Lancaster Environment Centre’s reputation as the UK’s leading school of the environment

Professor Phil Barker believes that the Lancaster Environment Centre (LEC) is uniquely placed to help tackle the big environmental challenges facing the world.

“We have a unique combination of skills,” explain Phil, who took up his role as Director this summer. “We’ve got people working on the full spectrum from the social sciences to the natural sciences, able to produce solutions to applied problems as well as engage in pure science and critical thought.”

“We have firmly established international partnerships, particularly in China, Brazil and West Africa and have staff from six continents. We are the UK’s top university working with business on knowledge exchange and commercialisation in the environmental arena.

“We are number three in the UK for the real world impact of our research, and have recently achieved 100% satisfaction for our Environmental Science and Physical Geography teaching.

“And we are ranked in the world top 50 for Geography and world top 100 for Environmental Sciences.

“So we are already one of the leading centres in the UK. By the end of my five year term I want us to be the leading environment school in the UK.”

Phil knows about the power of research to help solve the big issues of the day. He has spent his career using stable isotope methods and diatoms - the microscopic creatures found in all aquatic systems,  - to explore biogeochemical cycling, and changes in climate and water quality. He has even had a diatom named after him.

“Diatoms are incredibly important organisms that live in oceans and fresh water,” said Phil. “They contribute the same in terms of photosynthesising carbon as rainforests.”

These are exciting times for LEC, Phil believes, with the opening of the new Graduate School for the Environment in October. This expands LEC’s skills base even further, bringing together Lancaster’s expertise with top scientists at Rothamsted Research, the world’s oldest agricultural research station and the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology. These bring with them access to long term field sites, unparalleled in the UK, a broader range of opportunities and further employment possibilities for our graduates. 

Phil wants to encourage both staff and students toset their sights high, and to have the confidence to address globally significant issues to really make a difference, but also to have fun and to value each other’s contributions.