Dr Rebecca Bartlett PhD, MSc

Dr Rebecca Bartlett

School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences
Lecturer in Biogeochemistry

Contact details

School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences
University of Birmingham
B15 2TT

Rebecca is a biogeochemist, specialising in nutrient cycling and environmental change in modern and past environments. Her research focuses on the biogeochemistry of peats, soils and sediments during environmental disturbance; the subsurface microbial response to natural and anthropogenic changes in atmospheric sulphur deposition, temperature, storms and floods, mineral reactivity and chemical pollution. Using a combined field and laboratory approach, and stable isotopic techniques, Rebecca’s work examines the small-scale (local) consequences of long-term (global) changes to the environment, and subsequent impacts on pH, carbon dynamics, major nutrient cycles and water quality.


  • 2005 PhD in Biogeochemistry, School of Earth and Environment, University of Leeds
  • 2002 MSc in Environmental Geochemistry, School of Earth Sciences, University of Leeds
  • 1999 BSc Geological Sciences, School of Earth Sciences, University of Leeds


  • 2009-present Lecturer in Biogeochemistry, School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of Birmingham
  • 2008-2009 Temporary Lecturer in Geological Sciences and Geochemistry, School of Earth and Environment, University of Leeds
  • 2006-2008 Postdoctoral Research Fellow, School of Geography, University of Leeds
  • 2005-2006 Postdoctoral Research Assistant, Stable Isotope Laboratory, University of Leeds


Research groups

Research interests

  • Peat biogeochemistry - drought, acidification and sulphur diagenesis
  • Dissolved organic carbon dynamics in soils and surface waters
  • Buffering of pH by microbial metabolism in soils and sediments
  • Estuary/tidal sediment redox cycles (N, Mn, Fe, S)
  • New pathways in the nitrogen cycle (anoxic nitrification and annamox)
  • Mineral reactivity, redox changes and anoxic oxidation reactions
  • Stable isotope geochemistry

Current research

Controls on Soil Carbon Export revealed by Novel Tracers on multiple timescales (SCENT) (PI)

Across the UK and western Europe, levels of Dissolved Organic Carbon (DOC) are increasing, turning our rivers and streams darker, and suggesting a destabilisation of long-term soil carbon pools under a changing environment. Scientific debate as to the cause of this increase is ongoing, and it is thought that rising temperatures (generating enhanced soil decomposition) and decreasing acid rain (solubilising DOC under higher soil pH) may be key drivers in this change in DOC dynamics. The major challenge in resolving the DOC debate is the reliance on correlation analysis of surface water data (DOC and sulphate), from 1970s to present day, to infer a causative link between acid sulphate deposition and DOC solubility in soils. Our NERC funded research is multidisciplinary and includes a large soil experimental programme, river time series analysis, and novel speleothem analytical techniques to generate new records of DOC and sulphur which stretch beyond the 1970s and into the pre-industrial era. This research will establish the precise timing of DOC increases (whether coincident with industrial sulphur pollution and acid rain), and the nature of the change in DOC dynamics (whether the type of carbon released from soils has changed as well as the total flux). Together, data from sites across the globe with contrasting pollution histories (past acidified, un-acidified, modern acidifying) will allow us to identify historic and modern mechanisms of carbon release, the response of carbon cycling to anthropogenic pollution, and inform future modelling of the carbon cycle.


Klaar, M. J., Kidd, C., Malone, E., Bartlett, R., Pinay, G., Chapin, F. S., Milner, A., (2015) Vegetation succession in deglaciated landscapes: implications for sediment and landscape stability Earth Surface Processes and Landforms doi: 10.1002/esp.3691 

Chibuke, C., Batty, L., Bartlett, R., (2013) Interactions of copper and pyrene on phytoremediation potential of Brassica juncea in copper–pyrene co-contaminated soil Chemosphere 90, 2542-2548 

Li, Q., Wang, X., Kan, D., Bartlett, R., Pinay, G., Ding, Y., Ma, W., (2012) Enrichment of Phosphate on Ferrous Iron Phases during Bio-Reduction of Ferrihydrite International Journal of Geosciences 3, 314-320 

Li, Q., Wang, X., Bartlett, R., Pinay, G., Kan, D., Zhang, W., Sun, J., (2012) Ferrous iron−phosphorus in sediments: development of a quantification method through 2,2'−bipyridine extraction Water Environment Research 84, 2037-2044 

Clark, J. M., Bottrell, S. H., Evans, C. D., Monteith, D., Bartlett, R., Rose, R., Newton, R. J., Chapman, P. J. (2010) The importance of the relationship between scale and process in understanding long-term DOC dynamics. Science of the Total Environment doi:10.1016/j.scitotenv.2010.02.046 

Bartlett, R., Bottrell, S. H., Coulson, J. P., Lee, J., Carlton, G., Forbes, L., (2009) 34S tracer study of pollutant sulfate behaviour in a lowland peatland. Biogeochemistry 95, 261-275 

Bottrell, S. H., Bartlett, R., Margeson, K., Thornton, S., Fielding, I. D., Hatfield, W. D., (2009) Lithological controls on biological activity and groundwater chemistry in Quaternary sediments. Hydrological Processes doi: 10.1002/hyp.7514 

Bottrell, S. H., Hatfield, W. D., Bartlett, R., Spence, M. J., Bartle, K. D., Mortimer, R. J. G., (2009) Concentrations, sulfur isotopic compositions and origin of organosulfur compounds in pore waters of a highly polluted raised peatland. Organic Geochemistry doi:10.1016/j.orggeochem.2009.07.005 

Bottrell, S. H., and Bartlett, R., (2008) Stable isotope methods in environmental and groundwater engineering. Water Management 161, 357-365 

Bottrell, S., Tellam, J., Bartlett, R., Hughes A., (2008) Isotopic composition of sulfate as a tracer of natural and anthropogenic influences on groundwater geochemistry in an urban sandstone aquifer, Birmingham, UK. Applied Geochemistry doi:10.1016/j.apgeochem.2008.03.012 

Bartlett, R., Mortimer, R. J. G., Morris, K. M., (2008) Anoxic nitrification: evidence from Humber Estuary sediments (UK). Chemical Geology 250, 29-39 

Bartlett, R., Mortimer, R. J. G., Morris, K. M., (2007) The biogeochemistry of a manganese-rich Scottish sea loch: implications for the study of anoxic nitrification. Continental Shelf Research 27, 1501-1509 

Bartlett, R., Bottrell, S., Coulson, J., (2005) Behaviour of sulfur during diagenesis of a maritime ombotrophic peat from Yell, Shetland Islands, UK. Applied Geochemistry 20, 1597-1605

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