Future leaders have their say to guide NERC

NERC has appointed a new advisory body made up of diverse and talented individuals destined to be leaders in their field.

The Future Leaders Council will advise the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) on:

  • digital
  • sustainability
  • public engagement
  • diversity and inclusion
  • wider strategic questions

The members come from a range of environmental science backgrounds in research, business and public administration.

NERC’s aim is to both bring in new voices, particularly those that are not well represented in environmental science, and to develop new talent for the future. The Future Leaders Council will provide advice and information to the NERC executive.

NERC appoints eight members to council

The council will be chaired by Charlie McNichol-Fardon, an experienced sustainability professional and head of sustainability at the UK Hydrographic Office.

The members are:

  • Dr Andrea Burke, a senior lecturer in the School of Earth and Environmental Sciences at the University of St Andrews
  • Melania Tarquino, strategic energy lead at Surrey County Council
  • Dr Gbotemi Adediran, an emerging contaminants scientist at the UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology
  • Dr Ailsa Stroud, principal scientific advisor to Environmental Standards Scotland
  • Dr Feng Mao, an associate professor at the Institute for Global Sustainable Development, University of Warwick
  • Dr Craig Poku, a data scientist, who works on data insights for organisations and on embedding ethical practices in artificial intelligence
  • Professor Sonal Choudhary, a chair in sustainable management at the School for Business and Society, University of York

To find out more about the members of the Future Leaders Council see the ‘Further information’ box.

A diversity of talent boosts productivity

UK Research and Innovation’s diversity and inclusion strategy recognises that developing and retaining a diverse pool of talent with different ideas, approaches and perspectives on research and innovation is essential to driving UK productivity.

NERC recognises that there are low levels of diversity and inclusion in the environmental sciences and has a four-year plan to widen opportunities and contributions.

Alison Robinson, NERC Deputy Executive Chair said:

NERC is committed to involving a greater range of voices in the future direction of environmental science.

We have aimed to appoint people to the Future Leaders Council we might not otherwise see in our governance structure or in the leadership of other bodies in environmental science.

We are really excited to hear their views. We expect them to challenge us and to have a real impact on the future of environmental science.

Council will provide advice and challenge

Council members will:

  • provide advice on policies being considered by NERC and on digital strategy and approaches
  • oversee development and implementation of the NERC net zero pathway
  • have governance oversight of a £1.5 million sustainability themed fund
  • provide oversight and challenge for public engagement strategy
  • act as advocates for NERC in their communities

Further information


Charlie Mcnichol-Fardon

Charlie Mcnichol-Fardon is an experienced sustainability professional who is currently serving as Head of Sustainability at The UK Hydrographic Office (UKHO) (Ministry of Defence).

With over 14 years of experience in sustainability consultancy and business ownership, prior to joining UKHO, Charlie worked across a variety of industries as a business and sustainability consultant. She led the development of a variety of sustainability initiatives that transformed business models and operationalised sustainability solutions.

Charlie now works closely with internal stakeholders, external partners, and industry peers to drive progress on sustainability issues and to promote the adoption of best practice across public and private sectors.

Charlie’s qualifications include an MSc in Global Sustainability Solutions and an MBA from the University of Exeter.

Andrea Burke

Dr Andrea Burke (PhD in Geochemsitry, MIT/Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute 2011) is a Senior Lecturer in the School of Earth and Environmental Sciences at the University of St Andrews.

Her research applies geochemical techniques to understand climate change in the past and present, and to develop new carbon capture technologies.

Melania Tarquino

Melania Tarquino holds an MSc in Environmental Technology from Imperial College London and a bachelor’s in Environmental Management, as well as multiple Energy Management certifications.

She is the Strategic Energy Lead at Surrey County Council and leads the team that works to realise Surrey County Council’s ambitions to become a net zero council in its buildings and operations by 2030, and for Surrey to become a net zero county by 2050.

Previously she worked for the non-profit and for the private sectors on renewable energy and environmental management matters.

Gbotemi Adediran

Dr Gbotemi Adediran is an Emerging Contaminants Scientist at the UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (UKCEH).

Additionally, he is the principal investigator at NERC’s UK Centre for Multimodal Correlative Microscopy and Spectroscopy (CoreMiS) located at UKCEH.

Dr Adediran obtained his MSc in Water and Environmental Management from the University of Bristol and his PhD in Biogeochemistry from the University of Edinburgh.

His research is centred on the use of advanced micro-spectroscopic techniques to understand hydro-biogeochemical processes of nutrients and contaminants from the nanoscale to the field scale.

Ailsa Stroud

Dr Ailsa Stroud (PhD MChem MRSC) is currently Principal Scientific Advisor to Environmental Standards Scotland, an independent Parliamentary body providing scrutiny on environmental science and policy issues.

She has advised several government departments on science policy in environmental fields ranging from earth observations to air quality and geoengineering.

Since her PhD in Atmospheric Chemistry, she has led paleoclimate science projects in both polar regions been a passionate advocate for social mobility and inclusion.

Feng Mao

Dr Feng Mao is an Associate Professor at the Institute for Global Sustainable Development, University of Warwick.

His key research interests lie in the intersection of water, ecosystems, society, and technologies, intending to understand and underpin complex transformations to a more sustainable and resilient future in the Anthropocene.

Craig Poku

Dr Craig Poku is a data scientist, who works on data insights for organisations and has a strong determination in embedding ethical practices in artificial intelligence.

He has a track record in environmental science research prior to transitioning to data science, where he’s always ensured that racially marginalised communities are at the forefront of any work he conducts.

Sonal Choudhary

Professor Sonal Choudhary is a Chair in Sustainable Management at The School for Business and Society, University of York.

With core expertise in agri-food supply chain management, she has an interdisciplinary background in plant sciences, ecology, environmental sciences, GIS and remote sensing, and works at interface between these disciplines to generate impact on policy and businesses.

She completed her PhD in collaboration with NERC-British Antarctic Survey High Arctic (Ny-Alesund, Svalbard) Station on Impact of Climate Change and Atmospheric Nitrogen Deposition on High Arctic Tundra Ecosystem (Plant-Soil ecology).

Most of her research is now focusing on ‘Digital innovations for enhancing resilience and sustainability of food systems’ at multiple scale, with a particular focus on environmental sustainability including net zero.

Top image:  Credit: borchee, E+ via Getty Images

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