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The University of Southampton
Ocean and Earth Science, National Oceanography Centre Southampton
(023) 8059 2678

Professor Rachel Mills 


Professor Rachel Mills's photo

Professor Rachel Mills is Dean of the Faculty of Environmental and Life Sciences at the University of Southampton. She researches the earth-ocean system, using geochemical techniques to understand how material is transported from the sea floor into the oceans and its impact on life processes.

March 2016 - present: Dean of Faculty of Environmental and Life Sciences, University of Southampton

2014-2016: Head of Ocean and Earth Science, National Oceanography Centre Southampton, University of Southampton

2010-2014: Associate Dean, Faculty of Environmental and Life Sciences, University of Southampton

2009-2010: Associate Dean, Faculty of Engineering, Science and Mathematics, University of Southampton

2005-2009: Deputy Head of School (Education Development), School of Ocean and Earth Science, University of Southampton.

1993-2005: Lecturer/Senior Lecturer, School of Ocean and Earth Science, University of Southampton.

1992-1993: Post Doctoral Research Fellow, Dept of Earth Sciences, University of Cambridge.

1989-1992: PhD: Marine Geochemistry, Dept of Earth Sciences, University of Cambridge. A Geochemical and Isotopic Study of Metalliferous Sediments from the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, 26oN.

1985-1988: BSc Oceanography with Chemistry, Dept of Oceanography, University of Southampton, 1st Class Honours.

Research interests

Specialism: Ocean Chemistry

I am a marine geochemist who works on broad biogeochemical problems through collaboration with interdisciplinary teams. My work involves both ship based fieldwork and laboratory based analyses and experiments.

Over the course of my career I have made significant contributions to the understanding of active hydrothermal deposit formation and alteration. I currently work closely with biologists and microbiologists to understand the interactions between microbial and macrobiotic communities and seafloor mineral deposits. A particular focus is on the biological impact on diagenetic processes and chemical fluxes within and around active and inactive hydrothermal systems.

More recently we have used hydrothermal sediment geochemistry to infer past Pacific ocean ventilation over the late Pleistocene, quantify low-temperature hydrothermal circulation through young ocean crust and to estimate the impact of microbial processes on mineralisation at the seafloor. We have used a range of proxies of sedimentary processes to evaluate carbon sequestration into the deep ocean in an area of natural iron fertilisation in the Southern Ocean. We use sediment geochemistry to test the validity of newer proxies and to quantify boundary fluxes of trace metals in the South Atlantic.

My most recent developments include collaboration with biological chemists to evaluate the response of diatom metabolism to nutrient limitation and to develop a range of new lipid-based proxies for environmental parameters.

Research group


Research project(s)


Biogeography of deepwater chemosynthetic ecosystems (ChEss) - Dormant

Biogeochemical cycling in hydrothermal settings south of the Antarctic Polar Front

Micronutrient inputs from sediments to seawater

Phosphorus replacement in diatom lipids: Quantification of phospholipids and non-phosphorus lipids

Exploring the Deep Ocean

2013- Member of UK Scientific Committee on Oceanic Research

2012-2015 Member of NERC Training Advisory Group advising the NERC Executive on Doctoral Training

2012- Member of Earth Sciences Services and Facilities Management Group

2008- Member of the InterRidge Working Group on Seafloor Mineralisation


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Professor Rachel Mills
Dean | Faculty of Environmental and Life Sciences
University of Southampton, Southampton, SO17 1BJ
United Kingdom

Room Number: 85/3039

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