Dr Deborah Pearce

PhD, Senior Teaching Fellow

Programme Lead for Biology And Environment

Department of Biological and Medical Sciences

Deborah Pearce


In my role as Programme Lead for Biology and the Environment, I am responsible for the curriculum development of several undergraduate programmes including Environmental Sciences, Animal Biology & Conservation, and Biology and PG MSc Conservation Ecology.

I am also the Programme Lead for several Collaborative Programmes including the Equine BScs and the FdScs in Equine Science & Management and Animal Behaviour & Welfare, and the Life Sciences Foundation year with Abingdon and Witney College and the FdSc and BSc top-ups in Animal Conservation, Applied Animal Management and Countryside Management with Bridgwater College.

I am Recruitment Lead for the Department of Biological and Medical Sciences and member of the Faculty Admissions and Recruitment Group.

I joined Oxford Brookes University in 1996. Prior to this, I was a lecturer in Aberdeen and a NERC Post-Doctoral Research Assistant at the then Queen Mary & Westfield College, London. My recent research focuses on the carbon dynamics of wetlands and their contribution to Global Warming.

Teaching and supervision


Modules taught

I currently lead and teach on a double (30 CATs) Level 4 module in Biodiversity. My contribution relates to community and ecosystem ecology as well as ecological investigations and experimental design.

I teach on one Level 5 module on surveys and licensing where my contribution relates to habitat (Phase 1) and plant community (Phase 2) surveys and supporting students in relation to their taxonomic collection.

I lead and teach on two Level 6 modules. Environmental Change: field work and research (a double module, 30 CATs) which includes a field course to Devon. Within the module I lead on supporting students to develop a research strategy for their Reviews and on the writing of mock NERC grant proposals and organising and chairing the peer review Panels. I am module leader for the Environmental Consultancy in which students get a brief from an external client.

I lead an MSc module on Research Methods. My teaching on the module mainly focusses on introducing the dissertation, assessing student critiques of past dissertations and teaching on experimental design and data analysis, interpretation and presentation using Excel.

I contribute to other MSc modules including Ecology for conservation and Environmental Impact assessment mainly contributing lectures and practicals around habitat and community classification and Phase 1 and 2 survey methods.

In conclusion, my main areas of expertise are around research methods, habitat and plant surveying and geochemical cycling and response to climate change.


I study the role of wetlands in carbon cycling. Throughout my work I have developed novel techniques for using quadruple mass spectrometry with a membrane inlet (QMS) to measure gaseous fluxes from and concentration profiles of dissolved gases in the field (predominantly peatlands but currently also small water bodies) or in collected cores. This technique allows real time in situ measurements at a low spatial resolution of many gases simultaneously (routinely CH4, CO2, O2, N2 and Ar). A clear understanding of carbon and greenhouse gas (GHG) fluxes these systems is of high importance to practitioners and policymakers in order for them to understand the current role of UK peatlands in climate change and improve management of peatlands for climate change mitigation.

Currently I am working on the carbon dynamics of small water bodies. They rapidly accumulate sediment, and therefore carbon and there is some evidence that, on a global scale, ponds may be sequestering as much carbon as the world’s oceans. However, the role of ponds in carbon cycling is unclear. The rate at which they return carbon as CO2 and CH4 requires quantification if their role in carbon cycling is to be understood. Ponds may differ in age, depth, temperature, oxygen concentration, nutrient inputs, water quality and litter types. There are therefore a number of factors which can influence decomposition processes and the amount of carbon stored or returned as CO2 or CH4. I am applying expertise gained from working on the carbon dynamics of bogs to small water bodies including the use of quadruple mass spectrometry in the field to get real time gaseous profiles.

Research group membership

  • Environmental Ecology Research Group

Research grants and awards

University funding:

  • NERC PhD studenship 2005-2009: Chris Laing: Methane from peatbogs: Investigating the zone of peak production.
  • Nigel Groome PhD Bursary 2009-2013: Ruth Shaw: Ponds: carbon sources or sinks?

Knowledge transfer and innovation awards (eg HEIF):

  • Awarded HEIF 4 money (£10,000) for Market Research on the Feasibility of CPD training courses in Conservation and Ecology.


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Professional information

Memberships of professional bodies

  • Member of the British Ecological Society and was Chair of a Special Topics Group, the Mires Research Group from 2001 until 2008.
  • University representative for the Institute of Biology until 2009.


  • Laing CG, Shreeve TG and Pearce DME. (2008) Methane from peat bogs: characterising the zone of peak production. Oral presentation at the British Ecological Society, University College London, September 2008.
  • Laing, CG., Shreeve, TG and Pearce DME (2008) In situ measurement of methane bubbles in surface wetland cores. Oral presentation at the 8th International INTECOL, Cuiaba, Brazil, July 2008.
  • Laing CG, Shreeve TG and Pearce DME (2007) Methane from peat bogs: characterising the zone of peak production. Oral presentation at Human Dimensions of Global Environmental Climate Change workshop, Leeds 2007.

I organised a Thematic topic for the British Ecological Society meeting in 2006 on Wetland Restoration. Key questions addressed were whether current restoration management is working in terms of recolonisation and maintenance of flora, fauna and microbes, and functionality of physico-chemical, hydrological and ecosystem processes, and whether socioeconomic factors are fully integrated. The Key speaker was Curtis J. Richardson, Professor of Resource Ecology and Director of the Duke University Wetland Centre, North Carolina speaking on the ‘Restoration of the Mesopotamian marshes of Iraq’.