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 Nicola Ellis

Nicola Ellis

PhD Research Student

 Amory C360


Amory Building, University of Exeter, Rennes Drive, Exeter, EX4 4RJ , UK


I’ve always been interested in how we interact with our environment. I studied geography with Exeter at the Cornwall Campus, then moved on to Durham University to study environmental risk. My master’s dissertation investigated the potential of soil to reduce flood risk in Northumberland in partnership with Northumbrian Water. The project, alongside experiencing my own home flooding twice, secured my interest in using our natural environment to manage floods in the UK. This led me to my current PhD in partnership with Devon Wildlife Trust and the Environment Agency, researching the natural flood management potential of Culm grassland in North Devon.

Broad research specialisms:

Hydrology, pedology, ecology


BSc (Hons) Physical Geography, University of Exeter
MSc Risk, Durham University


Research projects

Project Title: Can unimproved grasslands deliver natural flood management alongside environmental benefits?

Supervisors: Prof R Brazier, Dr K Anderson (University of Exeter), Ms L Schneidau (Devon Wildlife Trust), Dr R Smith (Environment Agency)

Funding Body: Devon Wildlife Trust, Environment Agency, University of Exeter

Project Description:
The research project explores the value of unimproved grasslands in North Devon, also known as Culm Grassland or Rhos pasture, as a form of natural flood management. This reflects the current shift in flood management away from engineering structures, and instead the use of natural processes to attenuate flood impacts alongside multiple environmental and social benefits.

The Culm grasslands are a highly fragmented habitat, with only 10% of grassland remaining in comparison with 1950 extent. This reduction is largely due to the expansion of agriculture and the abandonment of the habitat. The grassland is a vital ecosystem, supporting species such as the Marsh Fritillary Butterfly (a top ten EU endangered species). The unimproved grassland has been shown to have water retention properties, alongside other environmental benefits such as water quality regulation, mitigation of soil erosion and as a storage of carbon. This research project aims to explore the multiple benefits offered by this unique but fragmented habitat, contributing to ongoing efforts to restore the grassland and improve local environments.


Supervision / Group

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