Photo of Dr John Boyle

Dr John Boyle B.Sc. Ph.D.

Lecturer Geography and Planning


    Research Interest 1

    My research interests revolve around sediments: the particulate products of chemical reactions in the environment. I am interested in how the particles form, how they change after formation and become compositionally sorted, and what information they retain about the conditions under which they formed.

    My primary tool in studying lake sediments is stratigraphic variation in their elemental composition. This is because the apparently homogeneous organic silty clays typically comprising lake sediment often reveal subtle compositional variations. Quantitative mineralogical analysis (by XRD for example) can also reveal such patterns but is usually less precise. Mineral magnetic methods are sensitive and precise, but commonly difficult to interpret. Elemental analyis provides us with an accurate and sensitive tool for studying lake sediments.
    This may appear at odds with the current trend of increasing focus on specific sediment phases. However, this is somewhat misleading, as my modelling work is indeed founded on the chemistry of individual species. The problem is that lake sediments are highly convoluted mixtures of different particles, reflecting the nature of catchment/lake systems. While it is imperative that we advance our understanding of individual phases, it is nonetheless important to study directly the patterns of variation in bulk sediment, which reflect the emergent properties of this highly complex system. Furthermore, many of the key phases present in the active system are short-lived, and if any record of them is preserved at all, it is in the bulk composition of the lake sediment. As discussed below, the lake sediment record must be examined at bulk scale for most purposes in palaeoecology.

    Research Group Membership

    Research Grants

    Impact of urbanisation on river carbon emissions


    June 2021 - November 2022

    Cross-disciplinary research for Discovery Science


    January 2023 - March 2023

    Landscape P budgets and modelling for the Midlands Meres


    October 2016 - September 2019

    Testing the apatite depletion hypothesis for early Holocene ecosystem acidification using the lake sediment record at Krakenes, Norway


    November 2008 - November 2009

    Modelling soil magnetism for defence humanitarian and environmental purposes.


    March 2006 - February 2009

    Agricultural change in Britain: modelling past impacts to predict the future


    December 2014 - February 2017

    LTLS: Analysis and simulation of the Long-Term / Large-Scale interactions of C, N and P in UK land, freshwater and atmosphere


    November 2012 - October 2015

    Research Collaborations

    Richard Chiverrell


    Collaboration over soil and sediment modelling as part of a Leverhulme grant application

    Hugh Smith


    Collaboration over soil and sediment modelling as part of a Leverhulme grant application

    Prof John Quinton

    External: Lancaster University

    Development of long-term, large-scale modelling of nutrient fluxes in Britain. Specific cooperation about soil erosion modelling

    Ed Tipping

    External: Centre for Ecology and Hydrology

    Development of long-term, large-scale modelling of nutrient fluxes in Britain.

    Dan Hoare

    External: Broads Authority

    Impact of Cu pollution on continuing poor ecological status of the Norfolk and Suffolk broad

    Mags Cousins

    External: Natural England

    Collaboration over characterisation and management of nutrient pollution in Shropshire meres.

    Ian Snowball

    External: Lund University

    Collaborative research to test my apatite depletion hypothesis (Boyle, 2007b) for early Holocene lake acidification at Lilla Oresjon in southern Sweden.

    Dr Henry Lamb

    External: University of Wales, Aberystwyth

    Development of scanning XRF analysis of lake sediment records of environmental change

    Jan Bloemendal


    Chemical weathering and the development of soil magnetism in the Chinese loess deposits.

    John Dearing


    Sedimentary record of recent environmental change in Yunnan Province, China.

    Andy Plater


    Continuation of a long-standing programme of environmental research in California, focusing on the impact of Eurpean settlment.

    John Dearing


    NERC project to develop a predictive model of soil magnetism for use in de-mining. My role is to apply and develop a process model of soil weathering.

    Prof. Scott Anderson

    External: University of Northern Arizona at Flagstaff

    Lake sediment research at Swamp Lake in Yosemite National Park, California. My research focuses on sediment evidence for changing weathering intensity through the Holocene

    Helen Bennion

    External: University College London

    English Nature commissioned study of four Suffolk Broads, in order to guide restoration by dredging.

    Prof. Scott Anderson

    External: University of Northern Arizona at Flagstaff

    Late Quaternary record of climate change and human impact at Laguna de las Trancas, Central Coast, California. I am contributing the geochemical analysis to a broad multidisciplinary study of the unique and highly valuable site.

    Prof. Jerry Weber

    External: University of California at Santa Cruz

    Revision of cosmogenic Be-10 dating of the marine terrace sequence in the Santa Cruz Mountains, California.

    Carl Sayer

    External: University College London

    Heavy metal pollution of the Norfolk Broads- potential cause for the catastrophic eutrophication of the Broads.

    John Anderson

    External: Danish Geological Survey

    Determination of atmospheric lead pollution history in Greenland using lake sediment records

    Neil Rose

    External: University College London

    Current research continues with research into lake sediment records of nutrient pollution in the UK

    Prof. John Birks

    External: University of Bergen, Norway

    Determining human impacts and long transported atmospheric pollution in Svalbard.

    Dr Roger Flower

    External: University College London

    Determination of the historical trends in lead pollution in Lake Baikal, Siberia.