Dr Clare Woulds

Dr Clare Woulds


I am Professor of Marine Biogeochemistry, with expertise in benthic biogeochemistry, organic geochemistry, and stable isotope tracing. My research is broadly concerned with studying the biogeochemical processes occurring in marine sediments, with an emphasis on the cycling and burial of organic carbon, and the role played by benthic fauna in shaping their own geochemical environment. Work in low oxygen environments such as the Baltic Sea and the Arabian Sea has led to a particular interest in de-convolving the often co-varying factors of sediment organic matter content, dissolved oxygen concentration and benthic faunal community biomass and structure in determining the early diagenetic pathways of organic carbon. I investigate short-term benthic c-cycling using stable isotope tracer experiments, which I have conducted in a wide range of settings from intertidal sands to deep-sea sites in the Southern Ocean. I have also worked in sedimented chemosynthetic environments, investigating C sources for benthic ecosystems. Current projects include manipulative experiments to investigate the impacts of climate change stressors and microplastics on benthic community biogeochemical function, investigation of the mechanisms governing C burial in marine sediments, and characerising the environmental baseline and potential impact on sediment biogeochemistry of proposed deep-sea mining.

Grants awarded include:

  • 2020 –: New biomarker tools to characterise the role of macroalgae in coastal marine Blue Carbon budgets. Assemble Plus transnational access grant to conduct sampling at Tvarminne Zoological Station, Gulf of Finland.
  • 2020 – :Baseline biogeochemistry of the Clarion Clipperton Zone. £900,000 for baseline assessment and environmental impact studies of proposed deep-sea mining. Funded by The Metals Company.
  • 2017 – 2023: MINORG. Funded team member on ‘The role of minerals in the oceanic carbon cycle’, ERC Consolidator Grant awarded to prof. Caroline Peacock.
  • 2010-2022: NERC Life Sciences Mass Spectrometry Facility. Several grants in kind for isotopic analysis of samples from projects in the Baltic Sea, Arabian Sea, Southern Ocean, and UK uplands.
  • August 2012: White Rose Collaboration Fund. £12,000 for networking and pilot studies investigating the impact of storminess on coasts.
  • March 2012: NERC small project grant. £65,000 for analysis of samples from isotope tracing experiments conducted at Southern Ocean chemosynthetic sites on cruise JC55.
  • 2011: University of Leeds Capital Group. Secured funding (£72,000) for and co-ordinated the purchase of a gas chromatography-mass spectrometer for the School of Geography.
  • May 2010: Antarctic Science Bursary. £4700 to allow me to conduct isotope tracing experiments during a Southern Ocean cruise in Jan/Feb 2011.
  • September 2009: Royal Society International Travel Grant. £1650 to allow me to visit the Netherlands Institute for Ecology for collaboration.
  • June 2008: Royal Society Research Grant, £15,000 to construct new experimental equipment to take on a research cruise.
  • March 2008: Ion Microprobe Facility One Day Project Grant, One day of instrument time on the Cameca 1270 ion microprobe, equivalent to £1000
  • May 2006: NERC Postdoctoral Fellowship, including £29,000 research costs for 3 years.
  • May 2004: William Dickson Travel Grant, £350, for travel to NIOO in The Netherlands to carry out pigment analyses.
  • December 2004: University of Edinburgh Small Project Grant, £300, for travel to Salt Lake City, to give a presentation at the ASLO aquatic sciences meeting

Current position

  • Associate Professor in Water, Soil and Carbon Interactions

Previous positions

  • 2006-2009-NERC Postdoctoral Fellow, School of GeoSciences, University of Edinburgh

Reviewing and Editing

  • 2012 - 2022 Associate editor for Biogeosciences
  • 2012-2017 - NERC Life Sciences Mass Spectrometry Facility steering committee member

Membership of learned societies

At various times these include:

  • American Society of Limnology and Oceanography
  • European Geosciences Union
  • The Challenger Society for Marine Science

Conference Presentations

  • September 2016-Challenger Society, Liverpool 13C Pulse Chase Studies of C Cycling at a Diffuse Hydrothermal Vent
  • July 2015-Nutrient Symposium, Leeds Patterns of carbon processing at the seafloor: the role of faunal and microbial communities in moderating carbon flows (invited)
  • April 2013-EGU, Vienna 13C pulse chase studies of C cycling at chemosynthetic sites
  • April 2011-European Geosciences Union, Benthic nutrient dynamics across the Arabian Sea OMZ.
  • July 2009-British Organic Geochemical Society, Bristol, Factors affecting the short-term biological processing of organic carbon in marine sediments: evidence from 13C enrichment studies.
  • January 2009-ASLO, Nice, Uptake and biochemical alteration of organic matter by intertidal polychaetes
  • July 2008-British Organic Geochemical Society, Newcastle, Uptake and Biochemical Alteration of Organic Matter by Intertidal Polychaetes
  • April 2008-EGU, Nice,
    1)  Factors affecting the short-term fate of organic carbon in marine sediments: evidence from 13C enrichment studies
    2) Sediment biogeochemistry across an oxygen minimum zone
  • February 2005-ASLO, Salt Lake City, The role of benthic fauna in sediment organic matter cycling; results of pulse-chase carbon tracer studies across the arabian sea oxygen minimum zone (omz).
  • September 2004-Challenger Society, Liverpool, Tracer Studies of Fauna As Controls On Organic Carbon Burial Across The Arabian Sea Oxygen Minimum Zone.
  • April 2004-EGU, Nice, In situ and shipboard isotope tracer incubation studies of seafloor communities and carbon cycling in the Arabian Sea.


  • Co-Head of School
<h4>Research projects</h4> <p>Any research projects I'm currently working on will be listed below. Our list of all <a href="https://environment.leeds.ac.uk/dir/research-projects">research projects</a> allows you to view and search the full list of projects in the faculty.</p>


  • PhD, Investigating The Links Between Faunal Activity And Organic Geochemis, University of Edinburgh
  • BSc, Environmental Geoscience, University of Edinburgh

Student education


  • Global Biogeochemical Cycles
  • Data Statistical Analysis and Skills for Physical Geographers
  • Marine Ecosystems
  • Dissertation Mentor

PhD Supervision

  • Gangadhar Tambre – Started October 2021, ‘Microplastics in marine sediment, and their impact on benthic community function’
  • Alejandra Zazueta-Lopez – Started October 2019, ‘Impacts of coastal eutrophication on benthic ecosystem function’
  • Louise Brown - Started October 2017, 'Investigating marine benthic ecosystem response to global environmental change'
  • Owen Lo - Started October 2017, 'Evaluating secondary effects of natural flood management (NFM) projects in upland environments'
  • Asib Ahmed - Submitted August 2018, 'Assessment of susceptibility and community resilience capacity to changes in coastal land dynamics in Bangladesh'
  • Dr James Bell - Completed May 2017, 'Sedimented chemosynthetic ecosystems of the Southern Ocean'
  • Dr Carol White - Completed 2016, 'Organic matter cycling in hypoxic environments: the role of oxygen availability and benthic faunal communities'

Research groups and institutes

  • River Basin Processes and Management

Current postgraduate researchers

<h4>Postgraduate research opportunities</h4> <p>We welcome enquiries from motivated and qualified applicants from all around the world who are interested in PhD study. Our <a href="https://phd.leeds.ac.uk">research opportunities</a> allow you to search for projects and scholarships.</p>