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Nick Cutler MA PhD

Nick Cutler MA PhD

Fellow of Churchill College & Temporary Lecturer in Geography Department.

Physical geographer with a special interest in long-term ecological change, particularly in high-latitude habitats.



  • 2011-present: Fellow in Geography, Churchill College & Temporary Lecturer in the Geography Department, Cambridge University
  • 2011-2016: College Lecturer in Geography, Trinity College, Cambridge
  • 2009-2011: Postdoctoral Research Assistant, School of Geography & the Environment, University of Oxford; Stipendiary Research Fellow & Tutor in Geography, Keble College, Oxford
  • 2008-2009: Postdoctoral Research Associate, Scottish Centre for Carbon Storage, University of Edinburgh


  • PhD Geography – University of Edinburgh
  • MA Geography – University of Cambridge


My work focuses on long-term ecological change, i.e., the development of terrestrial ecosystems over periods of decades to centuries. My research addresses linkages between the atmosphere, biosphere and earth surface systems and encompasses the ecological impacts of climate change and natural hazards. As such, it is inherently multidisciplinary and I collaborate with researchers from a range of fields, both in the UK and overseas.

Current projects

Tephra layers and early warning signals for critical transitions

This project focuses on biophysical feedbacks, specifically, the ways in which vegetation cover influences the preservation of volcanic ash layers. The research has two main goals: 1) to develop ash layers as a proxy for past vegetation cover (and ultimately, a source of information about past landscape resilience) and 2) to improve reconstructions of past volcanic eruptions.

Icelandic fieldwork

The little things matter: microbes of the boreal bryosphere

My work on ecosystem processes focuses on multi-decadal changes in biological communities under different climatic and disturbance regimes. This project investigates how the microbial communities of the boreal bryosphere (i.e., the bacteria and fungi that live in the moss layer blanketing huge swathes of the boreal forest) recover from wildfires. Microbes play a key role in the cycling of carbon and nitrogen in the boreal forest, but this function is likely to be impacted by climate change over the coming decades.


  • Cutler, N.A., Arróniz-Crespo, M., Street, L.E., Jones, D.L., Chaput, D.L. & DeLuca, T.H. (2016) Long-term recovery of microbial communities in the boreal bryosphere following fire disturbance. Microbial Ecology. doi:10.1007/s00248-016-0832-7.
  • Cutler, N.A., Bailey, R.M., Hickson, K.T., Streeter, R.T. & Dugmore, A.J. (2016) Vegetation structure influences the retention of airfall tephra in a sub-arctic landscape. Progress in Physical Geography, 40, 661-675.
  • Cutler, N.A., Chaput, D.L., Oliver, A.E. & Viles, H.A. (2015) The spatial organization and microbial community structure of an epilithic biofilm. FEMS Ecology & Microbiology, 91, 1-9.
  • Cutler, N.A., Chaput, D.L. & van der Gast, C.J. (2014) Long-term changes in soil microbial communities during primary succession. Soil Biology and Biochemistry, 69, 359-370.
  • Cutler, N.A., Viles, H.A., Ahmad, S., McCabe, S. & Smith, B.J. (2013) Algal 'greening' and the conservation of stone heritage structures. Science of the Total Environment, 442, 152-164.
  • Viles, H.A. & Cutler, N.A. (2012) Global environmental change and the biology of heritage structures. Global Change Biology, 18, 2406-2418.
  • Cutler, N. (2011) Vegetation-environment interactions in a sub-arctic primary succession. Polar Biology, 34, 693-706.
  • Cutler, N. & Viles, H. (2010) Eukaryotic microorganisms and stone biodeterioration. Geomicrobiology Journal, 27, 630-646.
  • Cutler, N. (2010) Long-term primary succession: a comparison of non-spatial and spatially explicit inferential techniques. Plant Ecology, 208, 123-136.
  • Cutler, N.A., Belyea, L.R. & Dugmore, A.J. (2008) Spatial patterns of microsite colonisation on two young lava flows on Mount Hekla, Iceland. Journal of Vegetation Science, 19, 277-286.
  • Cutler, N.A., Belyea, L.R. & Dugmore, A.J. (2008) The spatiotemporal dynamics of a primary succession. Journal of Ecology, 96, 231-246.


I provide supervisions for the following papers in the Geography Tripos:

  • Part IA: Physical Geography
  • Part 1B: Biogeography
  • Part II: Biogeography

I also contribute lectures to the Part 1B and Part II Biogeography courses.