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Kirk Semple supervises 11 postgraduate research students. If these students have produced research profiles, these are listed below:

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Professor Kirk Semple


Kirk Semple

Lancaster University

LEC Building



Tel: +44 1524 510554

PhD supervision

Biodegradation of contaminants in soils
Risk assessment and remediation of contaminated soils
Bioaccessibility of contaminants in soils


Research profile:

I am a Professor of Environmental Microbiology with over 20 years of research experience. I was first appointed as a Lecturer in Environmental Microbiology and Ecotoxicology into the Department of Environmental Science in 1995, promoted to Senior Lecturer in 2002 and Reader in 2004. In March 2008, I was appointed as Associate Director of the Lancaster Environment Centre and administratively responsible for all postgraduate activities. In 2010, I was promoted to Professor of Environmental Microbiology, following the awarded of a personal chair.

Since my appointment, I have strategically developed and managed an active research team, supported by excellent analytical (LC-MS, GC-MS, HPLC-14C detector, sample oxidisation, liquid scintillation counting) and microbiological facilities (incubation, handling, 12C- and 14C-respirometry).

My main fields of research interest include understanding fundamental processes affecting organic contaminant-biota interactions in soils; availability of pesticide residues in soils, and risk assessment and bioremediation of contaminated land and, most recently, the use of anaerobic digestion for energy generation in wastewater treatment and the use of resulting by-products as soil amendments. A particular area of expertise lies in organic contaminant bioavailability in soil, and it is in this area where my reputation is best known internationally. Funding has come from NERC, BBSRC and EPSRC; Government agencies, including the DTI and Pesticide Safety Directorate; environmental consultancies, such as Remedios and Stopford Energy & Environment, and industry, including National Grid and Syngenta.

Output from these areas has led to the publication of over 160 peer-reviewed journal and international conference papers and I have a H-index of 36. I am the Editor in Chief for Environmental Technology and Innovation; in addition, I sit/have sat on the editorial boards of Journal of Applied Soil Ecology, Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry, Soil Biology and Biochemistry, Journal of Soil and Sediment, Soil & Sediment Contamination, Journal of Applied Microbiology and Letters in Applied Microbiology, and I have also been invited to act as guest editor for special issues of Environmental Pollution, Journal of Environmental Quality and Journal of Applied Microbiology.

I have specific responsibility for Lancaster’s MSc in Contaminated Land and Remediation and MSc in Environmental Science and Technology, and I also teach on several Masters level modules in the area of environmental microbiology, pollution science and contaminated land.


Current research group:

  • Ihuoma Anyanwu (PhD, 2010-2014). Bioavailability of organic contaminants in soil and sediments: implication for biodegradation and toxicity.
  • Michael Fagbohungbe (PhD, 2012-2015). Anaerobic digestion process regimes for energy recovery from waste
  • Khasifah Muhamad (PhD, 2012-2015). Soil biochar interactions in temperate and tropical soils
  • Gabriela Vazquez Cuevas (PhD, 2013-2016). Investigations into enhancing the removal of organioc pollutants from soil.
  • Naley Alobari (PhD, 2013-2016). Investigations into the degradation and ecotoxicity of petroleum hydrocarbons in soil.
  • Obinna Madufor (PhD, 2014-2017). Impact of organic wastes on the biodegradation of organic contaminants in Nigerian soils.
  • Joseph Ibelema (2014-2017). Evaluating the effects of biogenic metal-assisted remediation of crude oil contaminated soil using bioassay, chemical analysis and food chain transfer studies. 
  • Victor Omoni (2014-2017). The biocatalytic potential of extracellular ligninolytic enzymes from selected white-rot fungi in the biodegradation of organorecalcitrants in Niger Delta. 


University awards:

Commercialisation and Industry Award for work on land, water and air contamination and soil remediation (Lancaster University, 2006).


Editorial activities:

Editor in Chief, Environmental Technology and Innovation (2014-)

Editorial Advisor, International Journal of Renewable Energy and Environment (2013-)

Subject editor, Journal of Soils and Sediments (2006-)

Editorial board, Soil & Sediment Contamination (2005-)

Editorial board, Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry (2007-09; 2011-13)

Subject editor, Soil Biology and Biochemistry (2003-2010)

Editorial board, Journal of Applied Microbiology (2001-2010)

Editorial board, Letters in Applied Microbiology (2001-2010)


Career Details

2010 to present: Professor of Environmental Microbiology, Lancaster Environment Centre, Lancaster University.

2008 to 2011: Associate Director for Postgraduate Studies, Lancaster Environment Centre, Lancaster University.

2004 to 2010: Reader of Environmental Microbiology, Lancaster University.

2002 to 2004: Senior Lecturer of Environmental Microbiology and Ecotoxicology, Lancaster University.

1995 to 2002: Lecturer of Environmental Microbiology and Ecotoxicology, Lancaster University.

1993 to 1995: Postdoctoral Research Associate, Horticulture Research International,     Wellesbourne, Warwickshire, UK.


Research Grants


NERC (2014-17). Developing a suite of novel land conditioners and plant fertilisers from waste streams of biomass energy generation, £856,484.


NERC (2013). Developing a suite of novel land conditioners and plant fertilisers from waste streams of biomass energy generation, £77,496.

Technology Strategy Board (2011-2014). Knowledge Transfer Partnership with United Utilities, developing novel sludge granules (BIOSORBENT) capable of sequestering the organic fraction in sewage, £218,636.

IAA funding (Faculty of Science and Technology, Lancaster University - 2013). The viability of using micro-anaerobic digestion technology to enable safe waste disposal and the generation of energy for military and disaster relief applications, £5,000.

Binley, A.M. and Semple, K.T. FP7 – Environmental Technologies (2008-2011). Model driven Soil Probing, Site Assessment and Evaluation (ModelProbe, No 213161), £312,000.

Semple, K.T. and Guttierez, T. Marie Curie - FP7-PEOPLE-2007-4-1-IOF (2008-2011).Marine Micro-Algae as Global Reservoir of Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbon Degraders (MARPAH), £234,000.


PhD Supervisions Completed

David Johnson (MAFF PhD 1994-99), now a PDRA at IACR Rothamsted. Ageing and availability of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in sludge-amended soils.

Brian J. Reid (NERC CASE PhD 1996-2000, with HRI). Bioavailability of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in soils: mechanisms, consequences and means of assessment.

Christopher (Kit) J.A. Macleod (NERC CASE PhD 1997-2001, with CEH Merlewood). The fate and behaviour of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in soils – implications for microbial function.

Caroline Langdon (NERC CASE PhD 1998-2001, with CEH Monkswood). Relationships between lumbricid earthworms and arsenic-rich mine spoil wastes.

Alistair W.J. Morriss (NERC Industrial CASE PhD 1998-2001, with National Grid Transco plc). Temporal changes in the behaviour of cable insulating oil in the soil environment.

Joanna D. Stokes (NERC CASE PhD 1999-2003, with CEH Monkswood). Temporal changes in the availability of organic contaminant mixtures in soil.

Tatiana Boucard (self-funded PhD 1999-2004). Impact and behaviour of bioactive chemicals in soil – implications for microbial function.

Philip H. Lee (NERC Industrial CASE PhD 1999-2003, with National Grid Transco plc). Interactions between cable insulating oil and biota in soil.

Paula Clasper (NERC Industrial CASE PhD 2000-04, with Bridgewater Paper Co). The effects of paper mill sludge on earthworms and soil microorganisms.

Kieron J. Doick (NERC Industrial CASE PhD 2001- 2004, with National Grid Transco plc). The fate and behaviour of hydrophobic organic contaminants in soil.

Lee Burbery (NERC PhD 2000-04). Single-well tracer tests for determination of in situ natural attenuation rates.

Apostolos Papodopoulos (self-funded PhD 2003-07). Linking cyclodextrin extraction and microbial degradation of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in soil.

Jackie Stroud (NERC Industrial CASE PhD 2003-07, with Remedios). Bioavailability of hydrocarbons in soils.

Angela Rhodes (NERC CASE PhD 2003 -07, with Daresbury). Linking cyclodextrin extraction to organic contaminant biodegradation in soil.

Kate Fenlon (DEFRA funded PhD 2004-2007). Fate, behaviour and bioavailability of pesticides in soils.

Kostas Andreou (DEFRA funded PhD 2004-2008). Assessment and significance of the availability of pesticide non-extractable residues in soil.

Helen Clegg (BBSRC Industrial CASE PhD 2004-2008, with Syngenta). The fate and behaviour of pesticides in soil: implications for regulatory testing.

Akan Odon (self-funded PhD, 2004-2008). Impact of pesticides on non-target organisms in soil.

Chris Howell (BBSRC studentship 2007-2011), based at HRI-Warwick with Dr Gary Bending. Impact of pesticides on microbial activity in soil.

Uche Okere (self-funded PhD, 2008-2012). Impact of nanoparticles on the bioaccessibility of petroleum oil in Nigerian soils.

Aniefiok Ite (self-funded PhD, 2008-2012).Biodegradation and toxicity of petroleum-derived chemical wastes.

Ifeyinwa Obuekwe (Petroleum Technology Development Fund (Nigeria) PhD, 2008-2012). Biodegradation of organic contaminants in soil.

Marcie Towell (EPSRC Industrial CASE PhD 2005-2009), shared with University of Aberdeen and National Grid. Development of predictive ‘tool-kit’ for the assessment of toxicity and biodegradation potential of insulating oils in soil.

Uchenna Ogbonnaya (self-funded PhD, 2009-2013). Impact of biochar on the accessibility of organic chemicals in soil.

Ayodeji Oyelami (self-funded PhD, 2009-2013). Impact of nano- and micro-particulate black carbon on organic contaminant bioaccessibility in soil.

 Bilqees Adedigba (Commonwealth Scholarship-funded PhD, 2009-2013). Determining bioremediation endpoints in contaminated soil.

Olusoji Olusegun (self funded PhD, 2010-2014). Bioremediation of hydrocarbon contaminated land.

Matt Riding (self-funded PhD, 2009-2013). Impact of nanoparticles on the bioaccessibility of organic contaminants.

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