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Dr Robert A Holland BSc, MRes, PhD

Senior Research Fellow

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As an ecologist and conservation scientist, Dr Robert Holland is interested in understanding how the planet's resources can be used sustainably. His current work focuses on the relationship between human demand for energy and the implications that this has for natural capital and ecosystem services.

Career History

2017-present: Senior Research Fellow. University of Southampton, UK.
2012-2016: Research Fellow. University of Southampton, UK.
2010-2012: IUCN Freshwater Biodiversity Unit Programme Officer. Cambridge, UK.
2009-2010: UK Popnet - "Linking biodiversity and ecosystem services: processes, priorities and prospects". University of Sheffield, UK.
2003-2006: Freshwater Biological Association. Windermere, UK.
2001-2003: Regional Officer. British Science Association, UK.

Academic Qualifications

2006-2010: PhD Temporal variation in lotic macroinvertebrate communities in England and Wales. University of Sheffield, UK.
1998-1999: MRes Science of the Environment. Lancaster University, UK.
1993-1999: BSc (Hons) Biology. University of Portsmouth, UK.

I graduated from the University of Portsmouth in 1997 and continued my studies at Lancaster University where I graduated with an MRes in the Science of the Environment. The early part of my career was as a science communicator for both the British Science Association and the Freshwater Biological Association.

In 2006 I decided to return to university and I undertook a research project in conjunction with Environment Agency examining the temporal variability of river invertebrate communities across England and Wales. I demonstrated that there were distinct spatial and temporal patterns in the communities relating to both environmental drivers and the constituent species within them.

Having completed my PhD I took up a role with the IUCN Freshwater Biodiversity Unit. Here I analysed the findings of the most comprehensive assessment of freshwater species ever conducted for Africa, and developed a methodology for the identification of Key Biodiversity Areas for freshwater species.

I am now a senior research fellow at the University of Southampton where I am pursuing my long standing interest in ecosystem services.

Research interests

My research examines the pressures and trade-offs that impact biodiversity and the provision of ecosystem services globally. My research interests fall into two main areas;

(i) In recent years much of my work has focused on the interaction between energy systems and the environment. Here I have used a multidisciplinary approach drawing on techniques from ecology, economics, environmental and social sciences to consider the implications of different energy pathways. My research seeks to widen the debate around energy systems “beyond carbon”, to consider how society can make informed choices about desirable energy options based on a broader understanding of the implications for biodiversity and ecosystem services.

(ii) I maintain an active research interest in freshwater biodiversity and ecosystem services. Often freshwater itself and the species that it contains are viewed simply as a resource for use by humans such that the focus is often on the quantity or provision with little interest in the quality. I am interested in examining how it is possible to balance the very real needs of people for access to freshwater and the services it provides with the requirements of the species that live within it. 

I am an early career research (appointed February 2012) with a background in the NGO sector having worked for a number of conservation and research organisations. With a h-index of 12, I have a growing publication record with my work cited 640 times since 2011 (Google Scholar June 2017). I have published in high ranking journals including as lead author in the Proceeding of the National Academy of Sciences. Other significant outputs include articles in Conservation Letters, Global Ecology and Biogeography and Conservation Biology. I was awarded the Dean’s prize for outstanding contribution to research in 2015/16. As part of IUCN Freshwater Biodiversity Unit I was joint recipient of the Species Survival Commission’s Citation of Excellence for analysis of the status and threats to freshwater biodiversity across Africa.

PhD Supervision

Jennifer Ball: Measuring and optimising multiple ecosystem services provided by chalk systems. Vitacress Foundation, Environment Agency & University of Southampton.

Caspar Donninson: Going carbon negative: Bioenergy with Carbon Capture and Sequestration (BECCS) -impacts on UK and global natural capital. NERC.


Research group

Environmental Biosciences

Affiliate research group

Institute for Life Sciences (IfLS)

Research project(s)

A global framework for quantifying the ecosystem service impacts of oil and biofuel production

The main objective of this 2 year project is to develop a way of comparing the impact on ecosystem services of two very different sources of transport fuel - biofuels and petroleum.


Measurement and Analysis of bioenergy greenhouse gases: integrating GHGs into LCAs and the UK Biomass Value Chain Modelling Environment

Bioenergy value chains: Whole systems analysis and optimisation

Bioenergy is a complex and sometimes controversial subject. This project integrates models of different aspects of the UK bioenergy supply chains across multiple scales. The resulting tool will provide guidance to decision makers about the complex social and environmental impacts of differing bioenergy strategies to aid policy development.

An ecosystem service approach to quantifying the role of freshwater biodiversity in supporting food security

Quantifying linkages between livelihoods, freshwater biodiversity, and drivers of food security and other ecosystem services.

Measuring and optimising multiple ecosystem services provided by chalk streams

Addressing the Valuation of Energy and Nature Together (ADVENT)

ADVENT seeks to explore future UK low-carbon energy pathways and quantify their differing implications for stocks of natural capital (e.g. groundwater and natural habitats) and for the provision of ecosystem services (e.g. irrigation, visual amenity, recreation).

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Book Chapters

  • Papathanasopoulou, E., Holland, R., Dockerty, T., Scott, K., Wegg, T., Beaumont, N., ... Austen, M. (2015). Energy and ecosystem service impacts. In P. Ekins, M. Bradshaw, & J. Watson (Eds.), Global Energy. Issues, Potentials, and Policy Implications Oxford, GB: Oxford University Press.
  • Holland, R., Scott, K., Wegg, T., Beaumont, N., Papathanasopoulou, E., & Smith, P. (2015). Energy production and ecosystem services. In P. Ekins, M. Bradshaw, & J. Watson (Eds.), Global Energy. Issues, Potential and Policy Implications (pp. 112-125). Oxford, GB: Oxford University Press.

2017–present: Supergen Bioenergy Hub Core Management Group with responsibility for ecosystems and environment.
2017–present: Water Energy Food: WEFWEBS Advisory Board member representing the UK Energy Research Centre (UKERC).

Dr Robert A Holland
School of Biological Sciences
Faculty of Environmental and Life Sciences
Life Sciences Building 85
University of Southampton
Highfield Campus
SO17 1BJ

Room Number: 85/6041

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