Liam Heffernan

Researcher at Department of Ecology and Genetics, Limnology

Visiting address:
Evolutionsbiologiskt centrum (EBC)
Norbyvägen 18 D
752 36 Uppsala
Postal address:
Norbyvägen 18 D
752 36 Uppsala

Short presentation

Biogeochemist with experience in enzymology and microbial activity, soil carbon storage, greenhouse gas fluxes, stable isotopes, organic matter quality, and the use of these techniques to assess mechanistic pathways and constraints on organic matter decomposition across ecosystem boundaries. Research interests are biogeochemical cycling in northern terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems and perturbations to the carbon cycle due to climate change.

Keywords: greenhouse gas carbon cycle organic matter permafrost peatlands enzymes

I am a soil biogeochemist who is becoming increasingly interested in aquatic biogeochemistry, particularly the interface between the two worlds and how terrestrial derived organic matter impacts and is impacted by aquatic ecosystems. I am interested in the reactivity of organic matter, particularly in the organic rich Arctic-Boreal region. My research focuses on how terrestrially derived organic matter reacts to changes in constraints on decomposition following disturbance, such as permafrost thaw, or lateral export to aquatics ecosystems.

I completed my BSc. in Environmental Science – Plant Biotechnology at University College Cork in 2011 and MSc. in Plant Science at University College Dublin in 2013. Both degrees were a far cry from soil biogeochemistry. However after completing my MSc. I spent 6-months working in the ECOS Laboratory at École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne, and here a soil biogeochemist was born. From 2015 – 2020 I completed my PhD in Soil Science with the Catchment and Wetland Sciences Research Group at the University of Alberta. My PhD work focused on carbon cycling in thawing permafrost peatlands and used a variety of complimentary biogeochemical and microbial techniques to assess the short- (decades) and long- (centuries) term impacts of thermokarst formation on boreal peatland carbon cycling in western Canada.

My current research focuses on the thermodynamic and kinetic constraints of organic matter decomposition in terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems. This work combines field-research and lab-based experiments to assess the reactivity on organic matter and how shifting ecological conditions will impact biogeochemical cycling in organic rich northern latitude ecosystems. I am fortunate enough to draw on nearly a decades-worth of experience in studying high latitude and altitude ecosystems from areas such as Canada, Svalbard, Scandinavia, and Switzerland.

I am a co-founder of the Peatland ECR Action Team (PEAT), a globally diverse and inclusive network and community for early career peatland researchers (and fans) of any ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, or ability.

If you are interested in potential collaborations, discussing past projects, or any other aspect of my work please get in touch at

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Liam Heffernan