University of Reading

University of Reading

Soil Science

Research within the department investigates the role of soil in environmental sustainability. The work is carried out at a range of scales from molecular studies to global impact studies. Field research, laboratory experiments and modelling techniques are used to develop a thorough understanding of soil within the earth system. More specifically research is carried out in the following 3 areas. 1 is soil evaluation and monitoring, concerned with assessing the state of soil. How do soil properties vary both spatially and temporally, and do these properties provide benefits or pose threats? Research is conducted in the fields of precision agriculture, soil monitoring, contaminated land, remotely sensed data and aspects of soil and health. Bioavailability and toxicity of chemicals in soils are assessed through bioassays using earthworms, microbes and plants as well as chemical methods. We concentrate on determining controls on bioavailability and toxicity. Furthermore physical properties of the soil and key state variables such as moisture content, are measured. A 2nd is soil biogeochemistry where researchers characterise and quantify the various chemical, biological and physical processes that determine the behaviour of chemicals in the soil be they liquid or gas, nutrient or pollutant. Researchers are also involved in modelling and measuring transfer of these between soil, vegetations and the atmosphere. A number of projects focus on specific processes involved in the availability and movement of contaminants in soil and/or water (including metals, plant nutrients such as phosphorus, organic contaminants such as hydrocarbons and xenobiotics such as veterinary medicines and disinfection products). This work involves detailed studies of the interactions between pollutants and soil components. The impacts of organisms including microbes, earthworms and plants on contaminant uptake and degradation are also determined. Work also focuses on soil forming processes such as mineral weathering and the development of peat upland soils. The relevant processes are studied over a wide range of spatial scales (microbial-scale to catchment-scale). Soil technology is a 3rd key research area which investigates the use of different waste streams as possible sources of compost. A variety of methods for remediating both inorganic and organic contaminants in soils is being researched. These methods include addition of mineral amendments such as cements, ochres and phosphates to immobilise contaminants whilst maintaining soil functionality. The production of synthetic soild using waste organic and inorganic material is also researched as part of this topic.

Course modules

Assessment methods


Qualification Study mode Start month Fee Course duration
PhD Full-time October 2016 - 3 years
MPhil Full-time October 2016 - 2 years

Campus details

Campus name Town Postcode Region Main campus Campus Partner
University of Reading Reading RG6 6UR South East

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Key information

Postgraduate Admissions
Telephone number: 
0118 378 5289