My Research

Hi 👋, I’m Sam - an environmental modeller and self-proclaimed research software engineer at the UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, Lancaster, with a background in quantum physics and software development. My main specialism is in the development of geospatial fate and exposure models of potential pollutants in soils and surface waters, including micro- and nanoplastics, nanomaterials and metals. Through this, I am interested in integrating models to better quantify the impact of environmental change, giving us a deeper understanding of human-environment interactions. My work frequently involves assessing the relevance of such models to regulators and industry, tackling issues around how complex model output can be best used in robust, evidence-based decision making. I currently lead the FRAGMENT-MNP project, which is developing a model of micro- and nanoplastic fragmentation in the environment.

I am a keen advocate of, creator of and contributor to open source software and open science. I am a 2022 Fellow of the Software Sustainability Institute and am interested in how software sustainability best practices and state-of-the-art digital infrastructures can help environmental modelling. I am an early career fellow on NERC’s Constructing a Digital Environment Expert Network and a member of the Centre of Excellence in Environmental Data Science (CEEDS).

In my free time, I can usually be found running, walking, climbing or cycling in the hills and mountains of the UK. I am a qualified winter mountain leader and have previously worked as a freelance outdoor instructor.

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My Projects

Below is a selection of some of the key projects that I have been or am currently involved in.

All Projects

ETERNAL

September 2022 to August 2026

The aim of this EU Horizon Europe project is to reduce the environmental impact of pharmaceutical products throughout their life cycle. Our work is to assess the environmental risk posed by commonly used pharmaceuticals, including how product and process modifications investigated in the project will reduce this risk.

FRAGMENT-MNP

October 2021 to September 2023

I am currently leading this project, funded by the European Chemical Industry Council’s Long-Range Research Initiative (Cefic-LRI), to develop a mechanistic model of micro- and nanoplastic fragmentation in the environment. The model will be a pragmatic, open-source tool to allow stakeholders to predict how a broad variety of polymers fragment under environmentally realistic ranges of degradation (e.g. photolysis, hydrolysis and biodegradation) and mechanical stresses. Understanding fragmentation is crucial in risk assessing plastics, due to the differential uptake and transport of different sized plastic particles.

Nanomaterial Safe-by-Design projects

March 2020 to February 2024

The SAbyNA and ASINA projects are aiming to facilitate safe-by-design nanomaterial development. In these projects, we are assessing what safe-by-design means for environmental exposure assessment, and how currently available environmental exposure models can be used and optimised for safe-by-design purposes.

NanoSolveIT

February 2019 to January 2023

In the NanoSolveIT project, we are developing an in silico Integrated Approach to Testing and Assessment (IATA) for environment and human nanosafety, via a cloud platform of integrated models. This includes providing user friendly interfaces to environmental exposure models such as the NanoFASE model and SimpleBox4nano, and linking this to biotic uptake models in order to predict risk.

UK-SCAPE SPEED

April 2018 to March 2023

As part of the UK Status, Change and Projections of the Environment (UK-SCAPE) project, SPEED aims to produce spatially-explicit projections of how key environmental drivers are predicted to change under differing social and climatic futures. Using these projections, we are predicting future topsoil metal concentrations, bioaccumulation and risk, by developing an integrated model of soil carbon, pH and metal speciation.

NanoFASE

August 2015 to September 2019

The goal of this €11m European Commission Horizon 2020 project was to develop an exposure assessment framework for engineered nanomaterials. Central to this was the creation of a multimedia spatiotemporal model of nanomaterial fate and speciation in the environment, which I was responsible for developing. The so-called NanoFASE model (Nanomaterial Fate And Speciation in the Environment) represents not only the state-of-the-art in nanomaterial exposure modelling, but alse one of the more advanced exposure models in existence, offering predictions of nanomaterial concentrations with spatiotemporal resolution across terrestrial and aquatic environments. The project finished in 2019, but we are continuing to develop the model in other nano-related projects, as well as extending its domain to other chemicals.

Skills and Interests

Environmental fate and exposure
Microplastics, nanomaterials, metals
Research software engineering
Integrated environmental modelling
Computational science
X-ray absorption spectroscopy
Main languages: Python, Fortran
Web development

Committees and Memberships