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Occupational and Environmental Physiology

Occupational and Environmental Physiology is a research theme within the Centre for Physical Activity, Sport and Exercise Sciences. 

Focus of our research

The multi-disciplinary research and support work within this theme focuses on preserving and improving human health whilst advancing performance, tolerance and safety in occupational, sports, recreation, home-based and exploration settings across the life course.

Our fundamental approach is to tailor the science to optimise potential outcomes that influence real world practice. Collaborators and clients benefit from our skill and experience in brokering core scientific ideas and principles to refine questions and evolve pragmatic solutions. This includes:

  • A focus on exposure to extreme occupational and/or environmental conditions
  • Characterisation of physiological, psychological and cognitive function across specific conditions and scenarios
  • Measuring a multitude of performance and training responses, evaluating interventions, undertaking training studies
  • Job task and needs analyses
  • Field-based data collection and laboratory-based job task simulation to facilitate conducting observational and experimental investigations to investigate various interventions / mitigations
  • Developing and validating physical employment standards and environmental thermal tolerance limits for operations
  • Providing evidence based pragmatic solutions and/or recommendations to clients
  • Investigating extreme environments as a stimulus for adaptation to improve health
  • Informing working guidelines, standard operating procedures and policy changes to improve health and safety and enhance performance of workers on a local and national level

Key researchers

Dr Doug Thake

Theme Lead

Doug has >20 years’ experience of leading projects in academia and industry. He has developed, managed and delivered numerous environmental physiology works including thermal tolerance in personal protective equipment and thermal comfort in vehicles. Doug combined interests in altitude and heat to develop cross-acclimation/tolerance studies in Humans. He collaborates with MoD colleagues on expeditionary travel in extreme environments. Doug is a principal investigator for government funded projects for The Defence Sciences and Technology Laboratory and Innovate UK (Knowledge Transfer Partnership).


Project spotlight


Project Name Project Information
Health and Performance Benefits of Hot Water Immersion

Useability and mechanistic studies in young, middle aged and older adults addressing positive health outcomes and performance adaptations resulting from immersion in hot water.

Heatwave Mitigation for Older Adults (under development) Examining interventions to reduce morbidity and mortality in older adults and clinically vulnerable populations due to thermal strain during heat waves in the UK
Thermal Tolerance in Personal Protective Clothing

This work addresses the impact of thermal strain and potential mitigations on performance and well-being across a range of occupations that wear personal protective equipment, from relatively light weight (NHS workers) to extremely heavy (military, bomb disposal).

Occupational Heat Stress Management Field and laboratory-based studies to develop and tailor predictive algorithms from physiological signals in order to protect workers from heat illness and optimise well-being and productivity.
 Queen’s Award for Enterprise Logo
University of the year shortlisted
QS Five Star Rating 2023