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Southampton Marine and Maritime Institute
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Professor Rachel Mills 

Visiting Professor

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Professor Rachel Mills is Visiting Professor of the Faculty of Environmental and Life Sciences and is a member of the University Executive Board. Over her career she has developed and delivered undergraduate and postgraduate programmes in Ocean and Earth Science. More recently she has led the development and delivery of a free online course ‘Exploring our Ocean’ that has had global reach with learners of all ages and impact on societal understanding of sustainable oceans. Rachel regularly provides advice and direction for a range of international and UK organisations and high profile projects.

She is a deep-sea oceanographer who works on the chemistry of the deep seafloor and its impact on life in the sea. She has led research expeditions using submersibles and remotely operated vehicles to remote and deep, unexplored parts of the ocean. Her research focuses on metal cycling at the seafloor, the formation and alteration of deep sea mineral deposits and the dispersion of metals in the ocean.

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

University roles:

Senate Member of University Council.

Chair of the University Estates Programme Board.

Chair of the University Environment and Sustainability Steering Group/UEB Sustainability Champion.

Chair of the Southampton Science and Engineering Festival Steering Committee.

Member of the ‘Reducing Complexity’ Project Board, UEB sponsor.

Senate Member of VC appointment committee.

Member of Public Policy Southampton Advisory Board.

Lead Educator for Exploring our Ocean:

External roles:

Honorary Fellow of the Natural History Museum, London.

Member of the UKRI Future Leaders Fellowships Panel College Member.

Schmidt Ocean Institute Panel Member.

Chair of the UKRI-NERC £22m Climate Linked Atlantic Sector Science (CLASS) National Capability Advisory Group.

Deputy Chair of the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (Cefas) Quinquennial Review and ongoing Cefas Science Advisory Committee annual monitoring.

2016-2019. External Examiner for Undergraduate Ocean Sciences Programme at the University of Liverpool.

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

Room Number : 85/3039

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