Professor Ralph Fyfe

Ralph Fyfe is Professor in Geospatial Information and Associate Dean of Research for Science and Engineering. His work in reconstructing past environmental change has led him to author more than 100 academic papers and book chapters. He is a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society, Higher Education Academy and Royal Society of Arts.

Understanding how our surroundings are shaped over time

A main area of Ralph’s research is the development of pollen-landscape calibration datasets for the quantification of past land cover and application to conservation and climate change. Co-ordinating data on European land cover change over the past 10,000 years, the research was used to trace human migrations across Europe and changes in vegetation following the onset of farming landscapes. This led to the discovery that human activity was already responsible for significant changes in the continent’s landscape by the Bronze Age, and that these began as the earliest farming communities as Neolithic populations spread across Europe.

Thought leadership

The tree-planting misconception: Conservation is not about rewinding the ecological clock
Communities and governments around the world have recognised the scale of environmental damage caused to ecosystems by human actions. Calls for climate action have resulted in government policies to try to mitigate the worst impacts and halt, or even reverse, the damage that has been caused.  

Seeking sustainable conservation

Looking at past ecological change, Ralph provides evidence to inform current and future conservation efforts in the UK. His work on peatland archaeology has been used to drive change in how cultural heritage is considered within peatland restoration programmes. Archaeological assessment and mitigation is now becoming routine, at least within the South West. He is now using the toolkit of environmental archaeology to assess the ecological consequences of moorland improvement schemes in the South West, particularly peatlands which are critical to preventing and mitigating the effects of climate change as the largest terrestrial carbon store.

The person behind the pioneer

Cultivating a passion for the historic environment

We are the first generation that has a clear understanding of both past environmental changes, and the current and future threats being posed to our ecosystems. As such, we are in a position to make informed choices. Charting past change can help us understand the potential effects of future predicted climate change.

Professor Ralph Fyfe

Gnarled hawthorn trees and boggy ground on Dartmoor
Research Festival 2022 visual ID - web header

Research Festival 2022

24 June – 1 July
The annual Research Festival returned to celebrate curiosity and collaboration, showcasing leading work across disciplines. The week invited fellow academics, industry, policymakers, students and the public to understand how we are responding to global challenges with a systems-thinking approach to achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
Evolving into an extended edition that now encompasses the popular Sustainable Earth conference, the Research Festival welcomed attendees to hear about cutting-edge research from leading experts and keynote speakers, learning how your research or business could achieve greater impact through co-creation and collaboration, locally and globally.

Voice of a sustainable earth

Our research addresses and responds to the global challenges facing communities as a result of climate change and unsustainable practices to improve our understanding of the environment, its changes and impacts. We continue to build innovative partnerships with industry and government, and use the University’s research expertise to engage with a range of challenges, from the low carbon agenda to water quality and food security in the developing world.
Our researchers have shown that future rainfall could outweigh current climate predictions and identified how to enhance manufactured soils to become more sustainable. We are working with communities around the world to respond to challenges around air, water, energy and food security, including Tanzania, South Africa, Peru, the European Alps and the Arctic.
full bleed desert plant