World leading coastal scientist and engineer to head the Tyndall Centre

August 1, 2019


Professor Robert Nicholls is the new Director of the Tyndall Centre. Robert is a world leading scientist and engineer who has studied coastal problems and solutions for 30 years, focusing on how increases in sea-level caused by climate change result in coastal erosion and flooding, and how communities can adapt to these changes. He has studied the implications of sea level rise in the UK and in many of the most sensitive regions of the world. A distinctive dimension of his work is assessing coastal zones as interacting systems that allow policy-relevant examination and developing appropriate solutions.

Robert said “I am very excited to take on the Directorship of the Tyndall Centre. The Tyndall Centre maintains its strong reputation in research and influence which is more important as we move to decarbonise our energy systems, enhance resilience, develop equitably in low carbon ways and explore social transitions. I look forward to sustaining and enhancing these important activities.”

Robert was an early core partner in the Tyndall Centre, leading the ‘Coasts’ research theme that built the world’s first integrated assessment of a coastal zone, focussed on North Norfolk in the UK, called the Tyndall Coastal Simulator.  The approach was modified for cities, becoming the Tyndall Urban Integrated Assessment Facility, focussed on London. Both the Tyndall Coastal and Urban simulators have given birth to large follow-on projects for interdisciplinary analysis of climate change impacts, adaptation and mitigation applied to other locations throughout the world.

Robert is one of the principal developers of the DIVA (Dynamic Interactive Vulnerability Assessment), used in both research and in policy development. DIVA has been used extensively including for the EU Green Paper on Adaptation, the UNFCCC 2007 paper on adaptation costs, the World Bank 2010 assessment of the Economics of Adaptation to Climate Change, and Asian Development Bank studies of China, South Korea, Japan and Mongolia, and the World Bank Beyond the Gap 2019 study of infrastructure investment costs for climate change. He also led a global assessment of flood exposure in large port cities with the Organisaion for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). At the Tyndall Centre, we continue to use DIVA in our international research for the UK Government.

Most recently, Robert has led significant international projects on the integrated assessment of the development of deltas, including climate change, sea level rise and other key drivers. Much of this recent work is in Bangladesh, the ESPA Deltas and DECCMA Projects, including supporting the Bangladesh government Delta plan 2100.

Robert is co-lead of the World Climate Research Programme Sea-Level Rise Grand Challenge to deliver sea-level science to support better coastal impact and adaptation assessments. He has published over 200 peer-reviewed papers, is the co-editor of six books, and many articles and book chapters, including authorship of five assessment reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).  He has a BSc in Geology and a PhD in Civil Engineering from the University of Southampton, where he later returned to be Professor of Coastal Engineering. Robert joins the Tyndall Centre and the University of East Anglia on 01 October this year.

Robert is the first Tyndall Director with a coastal and civil engineering background, fitting well with the pioneering interdisciplinary ethos for researching solutions to climate change. Former Directors are natural scientists (Mike Hulme, John Schellnhuber CBE, Andrew Watkinson, Corinne Le Quéré CBE), interim Directors at the University of Manchester specialising in energy emissions and social science (Kevin Anderson and Carly McLachlan), and science policy advisor (Sir Robert Watson).