School of Earth and Environment

Ian Burke Dr Ian Burke

Associate Professor: Environmental Geochemistry

Telephone number: +44(0) 113 34 37532 lab 33965
Email address:
Room: 9.150

Affiliation: Earth Surface Science Institute


2012-present: Associate Professor: Environmental Geochemistry
Director of Postgraduate Research Studies (SoEE)
2005-2012: Lecturer: Biogeochemistry (Leeds)
2002-2005: Postdoctoral Researcher: Biogeochemistry (Leeds)


1998-2001: Ph.D. Marine Geochemistry (Southampton)
1994-1998: B.Sc. Environmental Geoscience (Edinburgh)


Member of the Royal Society of Chemistry (2008-present);
RSC Radiochemistry Group Committee Member (2009-present, Treasurer from 2015)
Member of The Geochemical Society, USA (2002-present)
Member of The Minerological Society of Great Britain and Ireland (2011-present)
University and College Union, UK (2002-present)

Research Interests

I am an environmental geochemist interested in the fundamental processes that affect the environmental behaviour, mobility and bioavailability of metals and radionuclides in a range of natural and contaminated systems. My research is driven by a fascination in the complex behaviour that is observed in real environmental situations; and, is focused on experimental approaches involving advanced geochemical and geomicrobiological techniques.

Google Scholar Profile
Scopus Profile

List of Publications (with links to PDF versions)

Current Research Projects (as PI unless otherwise stated):

Assessment of the impact of leak zone processes in the natural attenuation of radionuclides. (2016-2020) This Nuclear Decommissioning Authority Funded PhD bursary will investigate the potential for using monitored natural attenuation as a remedial method at UK nuclear sites. Work is especially focused on uranium mobility in sediments affected by highly acidic fuel reprocessing leachate. PhD: Emma James

Marine Ice: Ice Nucleating Particles in the Marine Atmosphere (2015-2019) As part of European Research Council consolidator grant to Ben Murray (PI) this PHD project will investigate the use of environmental scanning election microscopy for characterisation of ice nucleating particles in the marine atmosphere. PhD: Alberto Sanchez Marroquin

Interactions of Cr(VI) with humic substances at high pH. (2014-2018) Funded by an overseas research scholarship (PI: Douglas Stewart, Civil Engineering) this project is focused on understanding the mobility of Cr(VI) in organic rich soils affected by hyperalkaline chromium ore processing residue leachate. PhD: Suha Dmour

Co-treatment of mixed radionuclides in contaminated water by carbonate precipitation reactions. (2014-2018) PhD bursary from the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority studying the potential for removal of C-14 and Sr-90 from groundwater. The main aim is to explore viability of alkaline carbonate precipitation reactions as a low cost treatment option for the nuclear industry. PhD: David Hodkin.

Effect of ageing on clean-up of dusts and soils after a nuclear contamination event. (2014-2018) EPSRC funded PhD with additional sponsorship from National Nuclear laboratory Ltd. During the hours and days immediately after a nuclear contamination event there will be a need for rapid site investigation and clean-up. This project will investigate the initial uptake reactions and long term fate of radioactive cobalt reacted with urban soils and soil minerals; and the implications of mineral reactions for intervention strategies. PhD: Gemma Woodward.

R3AW: Resource Recovery and Remediation for Alkaline Wastes. (2015-2018) Funded as part of the NERC thematic programme on resource recovery from waste (Co-PIs: Will Mayes, University of Hull and Ian Burke). This research grant will support work examining the possibility for accelerated leaching of alkaline industrial by-products (e.g. steel slags, bauxite residues and PFA) with the aim of recovering valuable metals and promoting long term chemical stabilisation. (Main grant followed from an initial NERC catalyst grant and feasibility study ran in 2013-14.) Leeds PDRA: Andy Bray.

Past Research Projects (as PI unless otherwise stated):

Effect of sediment resuspension on nutrient and metal cycling in estuarine sediments. (2013-2017) University of Leeds sponsored studentship investigating how nutrients and metals are taken up and remobilised from Humber Estuary mud flat sediments as a function of distance along the estuary and in situ biogeochemical conditions. (PI: Rob Mortimer) PhD: Andrea Vidal-Dura.

Natural and enhanced retardation of C-14 contamination in groundwater. (2013-2017) EPSRC industrial CASE funded studentship with National Nuclear Laboratory Ltd. The detection of high radiocarbon activities in groundwater at some UK nuclear sites has prompted interest in its source, environmental reactions and long term fate in contaminated ground. This project will combine laboratory investigations of C-14 behaviour in representative microcosm systems with geochemical modelling approaches to develop a new conceptual understanding of C-14 behaviour at contaminated sites. PhD: Aislinn Boylan.

Biogeochemistry of contaminants in hyperalkaline environments: Trace metal leaching and environmental impact of alkaline steel making wastes. (2013-2017) Steel making wastes are the most rapidly growing group of metalliferous wastes in the world. Leaching of trace metals (especially vanadium) and alkalinity during storage limits possible afteruses and is a potential source of environment harm. This EPSRC doctoral training award funded project seeks to understand BOF steel slag leaching and determine how the highly alkaline leachate effects the environment during subsequent interaction with adjacent soils and sediments. PhD: Andy Hobson.

Precipitation, conditioning and long term stability of calcium uranate wasteforms. (2013-2017) Conversion of some U-containing wastes to Ca uranates may provide a stable wasteform suitable for safe long term storage or disposal. This EPSRC funded project will investigate the utility of rapid aqueous and non-aqueous precipitation reactions for cost effective Ca uranate production; and, test the long stability and solubility of the phases produced. (PI: Bruce Hanson, Chemical and Process Engineering). PhD: Wei Ding - went on to medical training at the Univeristy of Southampton .

MetTrans – Metal transport in the environment. (2012-2016) EU FP7 Marie Curie Initial Training Network investigating stable element isotope transformations in the natural environment. (PI: Don Porcelli, University of Oxford) – I am an associate partner supporting network fellows working on the biogeochemical cycling of Fe and Cr.

Immobilisation of radionuclides via in situ incorporation into stable mineral phases. (2010-2015) Uptake of radionuclide to minerals offers a potential route for treatment of radionuclide contaminated land. This Nuclear Decommissioning Authority funded project will investigate the fate of Tc-99 and Sr-90 during alkaline clay alteration and rapid carbonate precipitation via amorphous intermediate phases. (This work was also supported by funded access to the ESRF and Diamond Synchrotrons) PhD: Janice Littlewood.

Caesium and strontium sorption to sediment and clay minerals. (2010-2014) Radioactive Cs and Sr are two of the most important contaminant radionuclides present in terrestrial environments. This EPSRC funded industrial CASE studentship with National Nuclear Laboratory Ltd. will investigate the sorption of Cs and Sr onto the surfaces on common soil mineral and heterogeneous sediments. (This work was also supported by EPSRC funded access to the Manchester ChemiSTEM and SFTC funded access to the Diamond Synchrotron.) PhD: Adam Fuller – currently a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Manchester.

The Ajka alumina plant accident: Biogeochemical processes and trace element mobility in alkaline waste affected soils. (2010-2014) The bauxite residue (red mud) spill at Ajka, Hungary released ~ 1 million cubic metres of highly caustic metalliferous sludge into a relatively minor river catchment. This work investigated the occurrence and behaviour of a toxic trace metals in the red mud as a function of the emergency remediation processes used; including direct neutralisation and mixing with soils (to prevent dust formation). The long term environmental legacy of the red mud released was also evaluated. This work was supported by NERC urgency grant (PI: Will Mayes, University of Hull), SFTC funded access to the Diamond Synchrotron and an EPSRC studentship at Leeds. PhD: Cindy Lockwoodwent on to postdoctoral research at the University of Tübingen.

Integrated systems for treating groundwater contaminated with chromium. (2010-2013) This University of Leeds funded studentship investigated treatment systems for removal of Cr(VI) contamination from alkaline leachates produced by chromium ore processing residues. The fundamental mechanisms of Cr(VI) reduction occurring in both chemical treatments (using elemental iron) and biological treatment (using Fe(III)-reducing bacteria) were investigated. (PI: Douglas Stewart, Civil Engineering) PhD Sam Fuller went on to industry as a contaminated land engineer.

Effectiveness of green rust nano-particles for treatment of metal contamination. (2009-2011)Supported by a NERC Dorothy Hodgkinson Postdoctoral Fellowship, this work investigated the use of green rusts (mixed Fe(II)/(III) oxyhydroxides) for removal of Cr(VI) contamination from alkaline leachates from chromium ore processing residues. (PI: Sam Shaw, University of Manchester) Research Fellow: Christine Rogers went on to visiting researcher status at the University of Leeds.

Investigation of strontium-90 behaviour in contaminated ground. (2008-2012) Sr-90 is an important contaminant a several UK nuclear sites. This EPSRC-NDA-NNL co-funded project investigated the adsorption of Sr-90 to sediments and Sr incorporation to secondary mineral precipitates as a function of changing groundwater composition. (This work was also supported by funded access to the ESRF Synchrotron). PHD: Sarah Wallace – currently a radioactive materials regulator at the Environment Agency

The biogeochemistry of radioactively contaminated land. (2008-2012) EPSRC funded studentship investigating the use of in situ sediment bioreduction processes for the removal of Tc-99 and Sr-90 contamination in the presence of high nitrate co-contaminants at UK nuclear sites. (This work was also supported by funded access to the ESRF Synchrotron). (PI: Katherine Morris, University of Manchester) PhD: Clare Thorpe – went on to postdoctoral research at the University of Manchester.

Bioremediation of chromate in alkaline sediment-water systems. (2008-2011) Poorly designed disposal of chromium ore processing residues has led to groundwater contamination with Cr(VI)-containing alkaline leachate at several sites around the world. This University of Leeds funded studentship investigated the biologically mediated Cr(VI) reduction reactions occurring in situ within the alkaline leachate plume formed within subsurface sediments at a legacy waste disposal site in the North of England. (This work was also supported by SFTC funded access to the Diamond Synchrotron.) PHD: Robert Whittleston– went on to research management at the NDA Radioactive Waste Management Ltd.

The environmental behaviour of redox active radionuclides. (2006-2010) NERC funded project investigating the role of microbial mediated reduction processes on Tc-99, U and Np-237 mobility in aquifer sediments at UK nuclear sites. (PI: Katherine Morris, University of Manchester). Leeds PDRA: Gareth Law – currently senior lecturer in analytical radiochemistry at the University of Manchester.

Radionuclide biogeochemistry in UK contaminated land scenarios. (2004-2008) NERC funded studentship investigating Tc-99 and U biogeochemistry in radioactively contaminated land. (PI: Katherine Morris, University of Manchester) PhD: James Begg – currently a senior staff scientist at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.

The biogeochemistry of technetium. (2002-2005) NERC funded project investigating Tc-99 behaviour in anoxic estuarine sediments – I was the Leeds based PDRA. (PI: Katherine Morris, University of Manchester)

Ocean-Climate processes recorded in Holocene laminated sediments from the Gotland Deep, Baltic Sea. (1998-2001) NERC funded studentship investigating the formation of Mn carbonate layers in anoxic Baltic Sea sediments – This was my PhD project. (PI: Alan Kemp, University of Southampton).