UCL Department of Geography


Description Photo Here

Personal tools
Log in
This is SunRain Plone Theme
UCL Home  /  Geography  /  People  /  Academic Staff  /  Neil Rose

Professor Neil Rose

NR new

Professor of Environmental Pollution and Palaeolimnology

Environmental Change Research Centre
Department of Geography,
University College London,
North-West Wing (Room 205),
Gower Street,

Tel: +44 (0)20 7679 0543

Please note: My working days are Mondays to Thursdays. e-mail replies outside these days may be delayed

Student academic feedback and support:
For in-person or on-line Academic Support and Feedback (ASF) meetings during Term 3, please send me an e-mail.



Career History
2021 -           Visiting Professor, Department of Geography, Environmental Management & Energy Studies, University of Johannesburg, South Africa
2018 - 2019: National Geographic Explorer
2011 -         : Professor of Environmental Pollution and Palaeolimnology, Department of Geography, UCL
2008 - 2011: Professorial Research Associate - Environmental Change Research Centre, UCL
2001 - 2008: Principal Research Fellow III - Environmental Change Research Centre, UCL
1995 - 2001: Senior Research Fellow - Environmental Change Research Centre, UCL
1991 - 1995: Research Fellow - Environmental Change Research Centre, UCL
1987 - 1991: Associate Research Assistant. Palaeoecology Research Unit, Dept. Geography, UCL
1984 - 1987: British Antarctic Survey - Limnological Field Assistant, Signy Island, South Orkneys.

UCL Environmental Radiometric Facility

Neil also manages the UCL Environmental Radiometric Facility which is housed within the Department of Geography. This facility uses low-background hyper-pure germanium gamma spectrometers capable of measuring low-level environmental radioactivity. Its main work involves producing chronologies for lake sediment cores.

2018 -           Member of the Anthropocene Working Group
International Paleolimnological Association
International Association of Geochemistry

Editorial Positions
2009 - 2013: Associate Editor, Journal of Paleolimnology
2013 -         : Editorial Advisory Board, The Anthropocene Review
2015 -         : Editorial Board, Bulletin of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology

1991: University College London. PhD. "Fly-ash particles in lake sediments: Extraction, characterisation and distribution"
1984: University of Leicester. BSc (Hons.) Chemistry with Geochemistry


Research publications
For a list of research publications click here.



navajo long

Research interests:
Neil Rose's research has focussed on the use natural archives as records of atmospherically deposited pollutants, particularly in remote areas and the use of fly-ash particles (especially spheroidal carbonaceous particles - SCPs) as a direct measure of pollutant deposition, as a dating tool for lake sediments and as a surrogate for other deposited pollutants. His research has been undertaken in many areas of the world including Greenland, Svalbard, China, Tibet, Alaska, Uganda, South Africa and many areas of Europe.

  • Impacts of atmospheric pollutants such as heavy metals, persistent organics and especially particulates from the combustion of fossil-fuels on the environment (freshwater, terrestrial and marine systems) on a UK, European and global scale.
  • Spatial and temporal distributions of fly-ash particles using natural archives and the use of the fly-ash particle record as a chronological tool.
  • Relationships of fly-ash particle records with those of other deposited pollutants (e.g. trace metals, persistent organic pollutants) and their use as surrogates.
  • Movement of pollutants to remote areas.
  • Role of climate change on the remobilisation of deposited pollutants and their transfer to surface waters
  • Lake sediments as an indicator of toxicity risk to aquatic biota
  • Microplastics in lake sediments


Selected recent research grants:

    Determining the Anthropocene GSSP. 2020-2022. This project, in conjunction with the Anthropocene Working Group, aims to define the Global Stratigraphic Section and Point (GSSP) for the proposed Anthropocene Epoch. A series of candidate sections including lake and marine sediments, peat sequences, ice cores and coral records are being assessed for a wide range of chemical and biological determinands to decide what marker should constitute the epochal boundary and where it should be placed. Funded by the Haus der Kulturen der Welt (HKW), Berlin.

    The pollution of threatened freshwaters in southern African biodiversity hotspots. 2018 – 19. A pilot study assessing the contamination of lakes in South Africa and Lesotho from trace metals and fly-ash particles. The project also aims to assess the potential for contamination risk to biota at two sites, Chrissiemeer in South Africa and Lake Letsie in Lesotho. Funded by the National Geographic Society.

  • Hydroscape: Connectivity x Stressor Interactions 2015 - 2020. Hydroscape is a 4-year NERC funded project which aims to determine how stressors and connectivity interact to influence biodiversity and freshwater ecosystems across Britain. A series of multi-disciplinary studies at landscape-national scales will provide the first general understanding of how UK freshwaters are connected across the landscape and how stressors including eutrophication; acidification; trace metals; invasive organisms and disease interact with connectivity to influence ecosystem structure and function.
  • LTLS: Analysis and simulation of the long term / large-scale interactions of C, N and P in UK land, freshwater and atmosphere. 2012 – 2015. This NERC funded project aims to account for observable terrestrial and aquatic pools, concentrations and fluxes of C,N and P on the basis of past inputs, biotic and abiotic interactions and transport processes to assess responses to catchment nutrient enrichment over the last 200 years; determine the effects on transfer from land to atmosphere, freshwaters and estuaries and assess the effects of these on biodiversity.
  • OPAL (Open Air Laboratories) 2007 - 2013. Funding from the National Lottery via the Big Lottery Fund. OPAL aims to (i) Change lifestyles to get people to spend more time outdoors; (ii) develop innovative educational programmes that can be accessed by all ages and abilities; (iii) enthuse a new generation of 'environmentalists'; (iv) develop a greater understanding of the state of the natural environment especially in more impoverished areas; (v) develop partnerships between the community, voluntary and statutory sectors. 31 projects comprise the OPAL 'portfolio' to attain these aims. Our role is to run the OPAL Water Centre. This involves not only coordinating the projects related to the national OPAL Water Survey (development and distribution of 40,000 survey packs and associated educational materials) but also undertaking original research including establishing a biomonitoring programme and assessing the impact of toxic pollutants on freshwaters.
  • Lake sediment evidence for long-range air pollution on the Tibetan Plateau. 2006 – 2009. Funding by The Leverhulme Trust. Project to assess the historical records of atmospherically deposited pollutants using the sediments of lakes taken along a transect across the Tibetan Plateau. The project collaborates closely with the Institute of Tibetan Plateau Research (ITP) and additionally provides background data for ITP monitoring activities and a base-line for monitoring the role of future impacts.

    Member of the Anthropocene Working Group (2018 - present)
    The 'Anthropocene' is not yet a formally defined geological unit within the Geological Time Scale. Evidence regarding whether it should be formally included, as well as a consideration of potential stratigraphic markers is being gathered by the Anthropocene Working Group (AWG), a working group within the Subcommission on Quaternary Stratigraphy (SQS).  The AWG aims to make a recommendation on the Anthropocene for consideration by the SQS and then the International Commission on Stratigraphy in the next year or so. Neil's involvement within the AWG revolves around the stratigraphy of fly-ash particles and other pollutants within natural archives.

    Unearthing the Present / Earth Indices

    HKW May 2022

    The Anthropocene Curriculum, hosted and funded by the Haus de Kulturen der Welt (HKW) in Berlin, is a decade long initiative that “explores frameworks for critical knowledge and education” as we move into the human dominated epoch known as the Anthropocene. As well as contributing to a series of on-line essays on a selection of drivers and markers for the new epoch such as the products of combustion and Critical Environments, Neil's involvement included participation in two culminating events in 2022.

    Unearthing the Present was a series of discussions held in the HKW in May 2022 related to the work of the Anthropocene Working Group and the collation of stratigraphic evidence prior to the proposal for a new Epoch. The event involved presentations, conversations and collaborative ‘core readings’ by scientists, artists and activists to discuss the evidence within the 12 selected sequences and their broader implications. The work undertaken at UCL was an integral part of this event, with participation in the readings and conversations.

    Earth Indices is an exhibition (May – October 2022) at HKW by artists Giulia Bruno and Armin Linke which portrays the landscapes from which the 12 archives were collected as well as the processes involved to transform these into data and evidence. UCL data and images related to our Anthropocene research are included throughout. This work also features in HKW’s Anthropocene Curriculum


    Open Air Laboratories (OPAL)

    opal event

    OPAL is a consortium of projects funded by the Big Lottery Fund and aims to bring scientists and the public closer together in a community-led study of local environments by organising activities which anyone of any age, background or ability can get involved with. As PI of the OPAL Water Centre, Neil led the development and management of an innovative educational national water survey programme accessible to people of all ages and abilities, promoted especially within disadvantaged communities. The Survey encouraged greater understanding of the aquatic environment through public participation in water quality and aquatic biodiversity assessment and used high quality research to link the community, voluntary and statutory sectors. Find out more about the OPAL Water Survey here and the research of the OPAL Water Centre here. OPAL is now part of the British Ecological Society.

    The OPAL Water Centre particularly encouraged young people to participate in water science and develop an interest in the natural world via school visits, demonstrations and events. These activities have led, in some cases, to the development of sustainable long-term initiatives supporting children’s ongoing engagement with freshwater monitoring and conservation. Furthermore, the Cub Scouts adopted a version of the OPAL Water Survey as part of their newly revised ‘Naturalist’ badge in May 2012.

    Download the OPAL Community Environment Report
    Download the OPAL Water Monitoring Report 2008 - 2012
    OPAL: Public engagement in Research website


    Upland Waters Monitoring Network (UWMN) (1988 - present)
    Neil has been part of the UWMN (formerly the Acid Waters Monitoring Network - AWMN) since 1988. The Network was established to monitor the chemical and biological recovery of sensitive lakes and streams following reductions in sulphur dioxide emissions beginning in the mid-1980s. Despite funding challenges the UWMN persists and over 30 years later is one of the world's premier aquatic monitoring programmes. It continues to provide evidence to policy makers on the rate of recovery as well as the impact of confounding factors such as climate change.



    3rd Year courses:
    GEOG0038: Managing freshwaters in the 21st century
    GEOG0042: Independent study
    GEOG0170: Environmental consequences of human activities

    1st Year courses:
    GEOG0151: Thinking Geographically I
    GEOG0012: Thinking Geographically II
    GEOG0013: Geography in the Field I
    GEOG0014: Geography in the Field II

      GEOGG095: MSc module: Aquatic Monitoring module (convenor)
      GEOG0123: MSc module: Climate proxies


        Beth Wilks
        Beth is applying micro-geoforensic techniques to identify geographical locations of internationally operating illegal supply chains.

        Chiara Bancone
        Chiara is looking at the spatial and temporal distributions of microplastics using lake sediments in the UK

        Past students:
        Damian Oyarzun Valenzuela
        The relationship between climate and air quality in the Atacama Desert, Chile

        Jennifer Adams
        The impacts of contamination in the Selenga River delta in Lake Baikal, Siberia

        Charlotte Hall
        Trace metal contamination of lakes and ponds in London.

        Alison Berry.
        Spatial and temporal trends of power station derived pollutants in London.

        Handong Yang.
        Trace metal storage in lake systems and its relationship with atmospheric deposition with particular reference to Lochnagar, Scotland.

        Xuezhu Long.
        Particulate air pollution in central London: characterisation, temporal patterns and source apportionment.