Deparment of Environmental Sciences

The Department of Environmental Sciences seeks to understand the integrated behaviour of the soil-plant-atmosphere system as it affects the flow and partitioning of resources including carbon and water. We are a highly interdisciplinary team interested in how the complex interactions between the different components of the system impact on food security and associated ecosystem services in the immediate and long-term. This is particularly important in meeting the challenges presented by environmental change including both natural and anthropogenic sources of climate variation, in the regeneration of degraded land and water, and development of sustainable agricultural technologies. The Department plays a leading role in the University of Sydney Institute of Sustainable Solutions.

  1. Soil-plant-microbe system. This theme focuses on the interactions that operate across a broad range in scale to control the amount and availability of water, carbon and nutrients in soil, and their partitioning into plants. It includes the award-winning Centre for Nitrogen Fixation (SUNFix).
  2. Plant-atmosphere interactions. This theme aims to quantify the interactions that affect the exchange of water and carbon between the plant and atmosphere.
  3. Variation and scaling. This theme develops techniques for quantifying the variability of the soil-plant-atmosphere system and to exploit this understanding to improve the efficiency an sustainability of agriculture and to protect the environment. This theme includes the Australian Centre for Precision Agriculture (ACPA).

Our approach is to underpin our research with a strong theoretical framework that is firmly imbedded in leading edge experimentation. This helps facilitate the pipeline from world-leading basic science through to application to real-world problems. This provides a unique training environment for postgraduate students who are well-equipped to fast-track in to research leadership roles on graduating. Our funding sources include the Australian Research Council (ARC), Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC), the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR), and the Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation (RIRDC).

Willem Vervoort


Associate Prof Willem Vervoort: Determining future environmental management requires understanding of the basic drivers of landscape change.


The use of Precision Agriculture technologies and techniques for managing the ‘what/where/how much’ decisions regarding inputs for crop growth is rapidly entering the mainstream.


Prof Alex McBratney, Department Head
Phone: +61 2 8627 1130