Dr Sean Burke

Senior hydrogeologist
BGS Keyworth

Sean Burke’s Biography

  • 2012 – ongoing : Senior Hydrogeologist, British Geological Survey
  • 2010 –2012 : Senior Research Associate, Newcastle University
  • 2003 –2010 : Senior Scientist Environment Agency
  • 2001 –2003 : Research Associate, Department of Geography, University of Sheffield
  • 1998 –2001 : University of Sheffield, PhD Geochemical Modelling
  • 1996 –1997 : University of Newcastle upon Tyne. MSc Groundwater Engineering
  • 1993 –1996 : University of Sheffield.BSc Environmental Geology

Research interests

  • Conceptual modelling
  • Diffuse agricultural pollution
  • Groundwater policy development and implementation
  • Integrated Catchment Management
  • Minewater

Current projects and collaborations

  • 2011 –2017 : Demonstration Test Catchments (DTC)Principal Investigator Defra’s Demonstration Test Catchment programme (DTC) is investigating the diffuse pollution problem in three contrasting areas of the UK: the grassland dominated Eden catchment in the northwest of England (http://www.edendtc.org.uk); the arable dominated Wensum catchment in East Anglia (http://www.wensumalliance.org.uk) and the mixed farming of the Hampshire Avon and Tamar catchments in southern England (http://www.avondtc.org.uk). Component 1 of the DTC project included the selection and instrumentation of a series of target sub-catchments for hydrological, water quality and ecological monitoring using state-of-the-art sensor-web based systems together with more conventional approaches. Component 2 of the DTC programme will draw on this monitoring and experimental infrastructure to examine the impact of diffuse pollution mitigation measures. A range of mitigation measures agreed with key stakeholders in each sub-catchment will be installed and monitored. Rather than exploring solely how to minimise diffuse pollution, this project aims to understand the trade-offs involved in maintaining food production within sustainable farm businesses and delivering environmental improvements within soil and water.
  • 2013 –2014 : NERC Portfolio Analysis Principal Investigator
  • 2013 –2015 : China-UK Sustainable Agriculture Innovation Network (SAIN) Co Investigator This research project examines the cycling of the nutrient elements nitrogen and phosphorus in agricultural systems within China and the UK. The research at Lancaster will develop and apply a new framework to quantify the stocks and the fluxes of nutrients within cereal, livestock and fruit/vegetable production systems. These nutrient footprints will provide the basis for identifying future policy and practice to promote sustainable nutrient management in the face of changing demands on agricultural production. As one of the world’s largest producers and consumers of finite inorganic phosphorus fertiliser, the management of nutrients in China has potential implications for agricultural production globally. The project is part of the Sustainable Agriculture Innovation Network (http://www.sainonline.org/english.html), a collaboration between the UK and China to develop and exchange innovative approaches related to the use of nutrients in agriculture. The 3-year project began in March 2013 and is led by SOAS and Lancaster University and involves collaboration with colleagues at BGS in the UK. A network of collaborators from China is also involved, drawn from across the Ministry of Agriculture, Chinese Academy of Sciences, China Agricultural University, Chinese Academy of Agriculture Sciences and Northwest A&F University.

Key papers

Perks, M T, Owen, G J, Benskin, C M, Jonczyk, J, Deasy, C, Burke, S, Reaney, S M, and Haygarth, P M. 2015. Dominant mechanisms for the delivery of fine sediment and phosphorus to fluvial networks draining grassland dominated headwater catchments. Sci Total Environ. 2015 Apr 9;523:178-190. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2015.03.008
McGonigle, D F, Burke, S, Collins, A, L, Gartner, R, Haft, M, Harris, R, Haygarth, P M, Hedges, M C, Hiscock K M, and Lovett, A. 2014. Developing demonstration test catchments as a platform for transdisciplinary land management research in England and Wales.. Environmental Science: Processes & Impacts 02/2014; DOI:10.1039/c3em00658a
Ockenden, M, Deasy, C E, Benskin, C, Beven, K J, Burke, S, Collins, A L, Evans, R, Falloon, P D, Forber, K J, Hiscock, K M, Hollaway, M J, Kahana, R, Macleod, C J A, Reaney, S M, Snell, M, Villamizar, M, Withers, P, Zhou, J & Haygarth, P M. 2016. Changing climate and nutrient transfers: evidence from high temporal resolution concentration-flow dynamics in headwater catchments Science of the Total Environment, vol 548-549, pp. 325-339., 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2015.12.086
Smith, L, Alex Inman, A, Lai, X, Haifang Zhang, H, Meng F, Jianbin, Z, Burke, S, Rahn, C Siciliano, G, Haygarth, P, Bellarby, J, and Surridge, B. 2016. Mitigation of diffuse water pollution from agriculture in England and China, and the scope for policy transfer. Land Use Policy. In press.
Wang, L, Burke, S P. 2016. A catchment-scale method to simulating the impact of historical nitrate loading from agricultural land on the nitrate-concentration trends in the sandstone aquifers in the Eden Valley, UK., Sci Total Environ 2016, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.scitotenv.2016.10.235
Snell, M A, Barker, P, Surridge, B, Large, A R G, Jonczyk, J, Benskin, C, Reaney, S, Perks, M, Owen, G, Cleasby, W, Deasy, C, Burke, S and Haygarth, P. 2014. High frequency variability of environmental drivers determining benthic community dynamics in headwater streams., Environmental Science: Processes & Impacts 02/2014. DOI: 10.1039/C3EM00680H
Outram, F N, Lloyd, C E M, Jonczyk, J, Benskin, F, McW, H, Grant, F, Perks, M T, Deasy, C, Burke, S P, Collins, A L, Freer, J, Haygarth, P M, Hiscock, K M, Johnes, P J, and Lovett, A L. 2014. High-frequency monitoring of nitrogen and phosphorus response in three rural catchments to the end of the 2011–2012 drought in England, Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci., 18, 3429-3448, doi:10.5194/hess-18-3429-2014, 2014.
Butcher, A S, Griffiths, K, Lapworth, D, Humpage, A. Burke, S. 2009. Investigation of rising nitrate concentrations in groundwater in the Eden Valley, Cumbria: Estimating Recharge Rates Through Glacial Till Using An Applied Tracer Technique. British Geological Survey Technical Report, OR/09/059.
Hewett, C J M, Quinn, P F, Heathwaite, A L, Doyle, A, Burke, S,  Whitehead, P G and Lerner, D N. 2008. A Multi-Scale Framework for Strategic Management of Diffuse Pollution, Environmental Modelling and Software, 24(1), 2009, pp.74-85 (Available online 2 July 2008).
Butcher, A S, Lawrence, A, Mansour, M S, Burke, S, Ingram, J & Merrin, P. 2008. Investigation of rising nitrate concentrations in groundwater in the Eden Valley, Cumbria: Unsaturated Zone Studies. British Geological Survey Technical Report, CR/05/258N.
Heathwaite, A.L., Burke, S.P and Bolton, L. 2006. Field drains as a route of rapid nutrient export from agricultural land receiving biosolids. Science of the Total Environment, Volume 365, issues 1-3 pp 33-46.
Butcher, A S, Lawrence A.R. Tribe, E , Cunningham, J, Hannay, S, Burke, S, Merrin, P and Ingram, J. 2005. Investigation of rising nitrate concentrations in groundwater in the Eden Valley, Cumbria: Catchment Water Quality Survey British Geological Survey Technical Report, CR/05/258N.
Burke, S.P. Banwart, S.A. Jarvis, A. England, A. and Younger, P. L. 2003. Up-scaling of oxidation and accretion reactors: engineering and economic considerations. Land Contamination and Remediation, Volume 11: Part 2.
Burke, S P, Heathwaite, A L and Preedy, N P. 2003. Transfer of phosphorus to surface waters. In: Valsami-Jones, E. (Editor) Phosphorus in Environmental Technology. IWA Publishing, UK, 120-146.
Burke, S P, Heathwaite, A L, Quinn, P F, Merrett, S, Whitehead, P G, Preedy, N P, Lerner, D L and Saul, A J. 2003. Strategic Management of Non-Point Source Pollution from Sewage Sludge: The SEAL Project. Water Science and Technology, 47 (7-8), 305-310.
Burke, S.P. and Banwart, S.A. 2002. A geochemical model for removal of iron(II)(aq) from mine water discharges. Applied Geochemistry, Vol. 17 (4) pp. 431-443.
Burke, S P & Younger, P L. 2000. Groundwater Rebound in the South Yorkshire coalfield: A First Approximation using the GRAM model. Quarterly Journal of Engineering Geology. 33 pp149-160.
Banks, D, Burke, S P & Gray, C. 1997. Hydrogeochemistry of Coal Mine Drainage and other Ferruginous Waters in North Derbyshire and South Yorkshire, UK. Quarterly Journal of Engineering Geology, 30, 257-280.


  • Fellow of the Geological Society of London

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