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UCL Home  /  Geography  /  People  /  Academic Staff  /  Neil Rose

Professor Neil Rose

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

Tel: +44 (0)20 7679 0543

From 01/01/2021 my working days are Mondays to Thursdays. e-mail replies outside these days may be delayed

Student academic feedback and support:
If you wish to arrange a Teams meeting for Academic Support and Feedback (ASF), please send me an e-mail.



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

Career History
2011 - present: 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.

2018 - 2019. National Geographic Explorer

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.

International Paleolimnological Association
International Association of Geochemistry

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


Research publications
For a list of research publications click here.



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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 major grants:

  • 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.
  • Western Airborne Contaminants Assessment Project (WACAP). 2003 - 2006. Project designed and implemented by the United States National Park Service (Air Resource Division) in cooperation with US Geological Survey and USDA Forest Service. Project involves sampling (lake sediments; vegetation; snow; fish; water) along latitudinal and coastal/interior gradients in seven National Parks for the impacts of atmospherically deposited pollutants.
  • Lake sediment toxicity in the UK: The role of trace metals and persistent organic pollutants. 2002 - 2003. Funded by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. Investigation into the role of pollutants in the toxicity of sediments to two freshwater invertebrates Chironomus riparius and Daphnia magna across a pollutant gradient at lake sites across the UK.
  • Using spheroidal carbonaceous particles (SCPs) to establish a reliable recent lake sediment chronology for the future. 2000 - 2002. Funded by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC).
  • Fly-ash particles and heavy metals in lake sediments in Europe: Implications for human and environmental health. (FLAME). 1994 - 1996. Funded under the EU COPERNICUS programme for Cooperation in Science and Technology with Central and Eastern European countries. FLAME developed a characterisation for the particulate emissions from the major fossil-fuels used industrially throughout Europe and applied this to particulates extracted from 200 contemporary lake sediments across the four countries to determine the distribution and sources of these and associated pollutants. The project also determined heavy metal concentrations in the lakes and their catchment mosses.

opal event

Open Air Laboratories (OPAL)
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.


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.



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

Damian Oyarzun Valenzuela
Damian is analysing the relationship between climate and air quality in the Atacama Desert, Chile

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

Past students:
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.