Prof Steve Banwart is an international leader in the study of reactive processes in soil and groundwater. He champions integrating research into Earth’s Critical Zone, the surface layer of the planet from bedrock to atmospheric boundary layer that provides humans with most of their life-sustaining resources. He is the academic lead for Theme 2 Resilient Food Supply Chains, and also for International Engagement, of the Northern 8 Universities Consortium (N8) AgriFood Research Programme. The N8 programme is a £16M, 5-year initiative to link the research strengths of 8 leading UK research universities to provide solutions to the global challenge of food security.
His core science expertise is basic chemistry that is also applied to the study of soil systems and natural waters. His achievements include combining laboratory experimentation, theoretical mathematical modelling, and data from field studies in order to describe water flow and mass transport and mechanism of chemical transformations that quantify:
- Soil functions that produce crops, store and filter infiltrating water, transform nutrients, store carbon and nitrogen from the atmosphere as organic matter, provide habitat and sustain biodiversity
- Weathering of rock and minerals to deliver solutes to drainage waters in catchments and river basins including dissolved carbon dioxide and the release of metals contamination from contaminated soil and mining sites
- Role of the geological barrier to contain civilian high level nuclear waste within underground repositories constructed in bedrock
- Biogeochemistry and natural biodegradation of hydrocarbon pollution in soil and groundwater aquifers
Prof Banwart has secured over £29M in research grants since 1995, with over £12M attributable as Principal Investigator. He chaired the SCOPE international Rapid Assessment Process project on Benefits of Soil Carbon, was principal investigator of the European Commission FP7 Large Integrating Project Soil Transformations in European Catchments (SoilTrEC) and was PI of the UK Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) Large Grant on Biological Weathering from Molecular- to Ecosystem- scale. He chairs the NERC Joint Capital Advisory Group, is a member of the NERC Strategic Programmes Advisory Group and is a NERC panel chair for evaluation of funding proposals.