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Robert James Nicholls

Professor of Climate Adaptation, University of East Anglia

Professor Nicholls is Director of the Tyndall Centre since 01 October 2019. He 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 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 a Web Of Science Highly Cited Researcher in 2019 and 2020. 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 co-leads the World Climate Research Programme Sea-Level Rise Grand Challenge to deliver sea-level science to support better coastal impact and adaptation assessments. He holds a BSc in Geology and a PhD in Civil Engineering both from the University of Southampton, where he later returned to be Professor of Coastal Engineering. Robert joined the University of East Anglia as Tyndall Director on 01 October 2019.


  • 2019–present
    Director of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, University of East Anglia
  • 2004–2019
    Professor of Coastal Engineering, University of Southampton