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Emeritus Professor Michael Depledge CBE FRS FRCP

Emeritus Professor Michael Depledge CBE FRS FRCP

Emeritus Professor of Environment and Human Health; and member of the Board of the European Centre for Environment and Human Health

 5585 (Secretary)


 Office hours:

Professor Depledge is now retired from the University but may be reached via his University email address: He remains active in research and in several advisory roles.



Michael was educated at Westfield College, University of London where he gained a First Class Honours degree in Biological Sciences, (1975) and a PhD in the ecotoxicology of marine organisms (1978). As a post-doctoral research fellow at the Brompton Hospital, London he moved on to study lung damage in the severely ill. Later, as a clinical scientist at the Royal Marsden Hospital he became a member of the team that conducted the first bone marrow transplants for the treatment of leukaemia. His pioneering research led to ways of reducing the severe lung toxicity associated with chemotherapy, whole body irradiation and the transplanted bone marrow graft. (1979-1982). In 1982, as a lecturer in Physiology at the Medical School of the University of Hong Kong, he developed research in environmental medicine, but in 1987 was invited to become the first Chair of Ecotoxicology in Europe at Odense University, Denmark aged 33 years. He went on to establish a highly productive, internationally-recognised research group. He returned to the UK in 1994 to take up the Chair of Marine Biology and Ecotoxicology at the University of Plymouth. He was a founding Director of the Plymouth Environmental Research Centre in 1996.

In September 2002, Michael was invited to take up the role of Chief Scientific Advisor of the UK Government’s Environment Agency. After a 4 year term in which he produced the Agency’s first ever Science Strategy and created a Europe-wide partnership among the science departments of EU member state environment agencies, he returned to academia to take up the Chair of Environment and Human Health at Peninsula Medical School. At the same time he became the Chief Science Advisor at Plymouth Marine Laboratory (the later until Sept, 2007). He was appointed as a board member of the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC 2002 to 2006), and was a founding board member of Natural England (2006-2009). He is a former member of UK Government’s Chief Scientific Advisors Committee (CSAC) and worked as a member of the Royal Society’s task force on “Ground level ozone in the 21st Century” and as their representative to the European Academies Science Advisory Committee (EASAC). Professor Depledge is a former chair of the Science Advisory Group for Environment and Climate Change, in DG-Research, European Commission in Brussels and a former member of the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution.

Depledge has published more than 400 peer-reviewed scientific papers in leading international journals and books. In recognition of his major scientific contributions to the fields of comparative toxicology and medical toxicology he was awarded a Doctor of Science (DSc) degree by the University of London (1996). Since 1990 he has been an expert advisor to the United Nations, working in Brazil, Costa Rica, India, China, Vietnam and several other countries to develop the RAMP (Rapid Assessment of Marine Pollution) programme for UNEP’s Global Oceans Observing System (GOOS). He also serves as an expert advisor to the World Health Organisation (2001- ongoing).

In 2008 Depledge conceived and took the lead in developing and establishing the European Centre for Environment and Human Health on the University of Exeter Medical School campus in Truro.

Professor Depledge’s role in the University of Exeter Medical School has been to establish and pioneer the development of the Environment and Human Health research area and to serve as an ambassador both for the medical school and the University of Exeter as a whole. He has been involved in various fund raising activities and in the international work of the University. He has been very active in leading the development of new research themes across the university. He was formerly a member of the UK Government's  Hazardous Substances Advisory Committee (HSAC - DEFRA) and the Global Health Committee (Department of Health).

Michael moved to Emeritus Professor status in 2018, but continues as a Advisory Board member for the ECEHH as well as the boards of several research projects. 

Depledge is currently Chief Scientific Advisor of the Eden Project and chair of the Advisory Board of the Convex SEASCAPE programme. He holds Honorary Professorships at University College, London and Chiba University  Medical School, Tokyo, Japan. He was appointed as a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the 2016 New Years Honours list for his service to the environment and human health. In May 2023 he was elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society.

Broad research specialisms

Prof. Depledge is interested in all aspects of biology, but especially the ways in which anthropogenic activities affect the environment and human health. The ecotoxicological research he conducted has focused on the effects of environmental pollutants on the physiology and behaviour of marine invertebrates and subsequent ecological and evolutionary consequences. He has a particular interest in biomarkers (that allow changes in the health and physiological status of organisms to be monitored over time.) and in chemical pollution effects in nature.

Another key aspect of his work has been to pioneer studeis how environmental change impacts the health and wellbeing of humans.

For many years he has been exploring how to use research findings in a constructive way to influence the development of new policies. This has now become his primary objective.


BSc(Hons) First Class, Biological Sciences

PhD (Lond.) Marine Ecotoxicology

DSc (Lond.)

DSc (Honorary – University of Westminster)

FRCP (Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians)

CBE (Commander of the Order of the British Empire)

FRS (Fellow of the Royal Society)


Research interests

Prof. Depledge's research addresses the interconnections between the environment and human health.

Research projects

He has ongoing research projects with his research teams looking at:

Impacts of climate change on human health and wellbeing

Emerging environmental chemicals and human health

Ecological Public health, biodiversity and ecosystem services

Pharmaceutical impacts on the environment and human health

Nanomaterials and human health.

Use of the natural environment to promote health and wellbeing.

Novel use of media to communicate science-policy issues.


EU Convergence Funding £12 million – for the establishment of the European Centre for Environment and Human Health.

Well World Project (BUPA)

MED-MI project (with Professor Lora Fleming et al). MRC.

Balance project (with Mark Jackson) Wellcome Trust.

ESRC Project – Beyond Greenspace Project (with Dr Ben Wheeler)

EU CLEANSEA project (with Professor Tamara Galloway).


EU Convergence Funding £12 million – for the establishment of the European Centre for Environment and Human Health.

Well World Project (BUPA)

MED-MI project (with Professor Lora Fleming et al). MRC.

Balance project (with Mark Jackson) Wellcome Trust.

ESRC Project – Beyond Greenspace Project (with Dr Ben Wheeler)

EU CLEANSEA project (with Professor Tamara Galloway).




External Engagement and Impact


Former Visiting Professorships at the School of Public Health, Harvard University, USA (1998 to 2004), Imperial College, London (2003-2009) and Keeley Visiting Fellow at Wadham College, Oxford University (2006).

Honorary Professor, Department of Zoology, Oxford University (ongoing)

Honorary Professor, University College, London (ongoing).

Poulsson Medal of Honour, Norwegian Society of Pharmacology and Toxicology (2009).

Doctor of Science (honoris causa), University of Westminster (2011).

Committee/panel activities

Advisor to UNEP, IMO and IOC.

Hazardous Substances Advisory Committee (UK Government)

Chair of the Science Advisory Group (Environment and Climate Change) European Union DG-Research and Innovation.

Royal Society Representative (Environment) on the European Academies Science Advisory Council.

Chair of the Advisory Group on Nanomaterials and Human Health (World Health Organisation).

Member of the committee of Global Environmental Change and Human Health (United Nations).

Chair of the Advisory Board, ECEHH- UEMS.

Member of the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution (2007-2012)

Honorary Visiting Professorship at UCL.

Editorial responsibilities


Marine Environmental Research (Special Issue)

Invited lectures

Invited Distinguished Keynote lecture:”Environment and Human Health in Africa in the 21st Century”, February 2010, Eckherd College, Florida, USA

Awarded the “Poulsson Medal for Distinguished Work in Pharmacology and Toxicology”, and gave invited keynote lecture “Nanotechnology: implications for the environment and human health”. Norwegian Society of Pharmacology and Toxicology, December 2010

Invited lecture: “Nanomaterials and Health”, Franco-British Workshop on the Potential Human Health and Environmental Issues associated with Nanotechnologies, British Embassy, Paris, March 2010

Invited Seminar “The future of ecotoxicology” National Agricultural Research Institute of France (INRA), Rennes, France, May 2010

Invited Keynote: “How do pollutants affect evolutionary processes?” Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry, (SETAC) Annual Meeting, Seville, Spain, May 2010

Invited keynote lecture: “Ecotoxicological Implications of Global Environmental Change” 27th Congress of the European Society of Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology (ESCBP), Alessandria, Italy, September 2010.

Invited lecture; “Water and the Environment” at the Potent Substances on the Boundaries of Food & Medicine conference, Wellcome Trust Centre, London, September 2010.

Invited keynote and Session Chair “Health and Ecosystems” Natural Capital Initiative (NERC/CEH), British Library Conference Centre, London, September 2010.

Invited Distinguished ARA Lecture,”The Value of Nature”, Technical University of Vienna, December 2010 (note previous lecturer was Robert F. Kennedy Jr: next lecturer is Gro Harland Bruntland).

Invited Distinguished Lecture: “How does Biodiversity Influence Human Health, Well-being and Prosperity”, Faculty of Law, University of South Carolina, USA. March 2011 .

Distinguished keynote lecture: “Nature, Health and Wellbeing”, National Conference on the Environment, University College Cork, Ireland, April 2011

Invited keynote lecture: “Health and wellbeing from the Environment”, First Conference of College of Medicine, Mansion House, London, May 2011

Invited Plenary lecture: “Citizen Science for the environment and human health”, Citizen Science Workshop, European Environment Agency, Copenhagen, June 2011

Invited to give the “Chiltern Lecture” at Health Protection Agency, Chilton, Didcot (Title: Re-evaluating interconnections between the environment and human health). April 2012

Invited by the Prime Minister of Bhutan, to participate at the High-Level Meeting on “Happiness and Wellbeing: Defining A New Economic Paradigm”, held at the United Nations Head Quarters in New York, April 2012.

HRH Prince of Wales Pharma Project, Business, Health and prosperity, leadership for the future of Human Health. Invited keynote lecture – “The future of human health – the implications of social and environmental change”, held at the Royal Society, London. June 2012

Invited lecture: “Innovation: How do we value health? “ given to the National Health Service – Sustainable Development Unit Routemap event, held at Buro Happold, London, July 2012

Invited keynote: “Coastal environments, health and wellbeing.” Given at the International Workshop Climate change adaption strategies for coastal cities, Venice, Italy. September 2012

Invited lecture at 3rd SETAC Central Eastern Europe Conference, Poland - Ecotoxicology Revisited Mike’s talk to be titled “Ecotoxicological Enlightenment” September 2012

Natural Childhood Summit (National Trust event), London, September 2012. Mike’s talk: the benefits of nature

Rhodes Conference (William Morris organising), 10th Anniversary Session, World Public Forum "Dialogue of Civilisations"., October 2012. Mike’s talk: A Nanomaterial World: Threats and Opportunities

Sustainable Health and Social Care: Research & Development Summit at the King’s Fund, London. November 2012

Science and Policy for Change: Children, place and health in Scotland, Title of talk: The methodological challenges of complex science-policy questions” November 2012

Forum of Innovation event, Rome. December 2012

Bridging the Gap: How can horizon scanning and strategic futures be used to inform policy. Defence Capability Centre Conference Hall, Defence Academy, Shrivenham. January 2013

Delhi Sustainable Development Summit, 31 January-3 February 2013

Media Coverage

Sunday Times, Guardian, ITN.


He led the creation of the Masters in Environment and Human Health at ECEHH and gives lectures on the course.

Supervision of PhD students.

Supervision / Group

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