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Ecological Sciences

September 9, 2021
An all-female team of scientists from the James Hutton Institute travelled to Shetland to install the most northerly micrometeorological station in the UK to monitor greenhouse gas emissions from eroded peatland. The station, set up on a site...
September 9, 2021
Dr Rebekka Artz, a senior research scientist within the James Hutton Institute’s Ecological Sciences department, has contributed evidence to an inquiry by the Science and Technology Committee of the House of Lords into the role of nature-...
August 8, 2021
Researchers at the James Hutton Institute have responded to the latest international report on climate change by emphasising their continued determination to address the greatest challenge humanity has ever faced.
August 8, 2021
Researchers from the James Hutton Institute will contribute to one of six research teams tasked with developing new tools and approaches to help trees and woodlands adapt to climate change and enable the UK to reach the goal of net zero...
August 8, 2021
Dr Ruth Mitchell, a Plant Soil Ecologist at the James Hutton Institute’s Ecological Sciences department, has been appointed as a member of the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra), Trees and Woodlands Science...
June 6, 2021
Scotland has a legally binding commitment of being net-zero by 2045, and a 31% reduction is required in emissions from agriculture by 2032. This topic will be under discussion in the fourth Arable Conversations session on 29th June 2021 at 6:00...
June 6, 2021
Join us at Arable Scotland on 29th June for a virtual Arable Conversation with Pete Iannetta (James Hutton Institute), Ed Brown (Hutchinsons), Dick Neale (Hutchinsons), Christine Watson (SRUC) and Paul Hargreaves (SRUC), which will look at...
June 6, 2021
Arable Scotland, the premier event for the Scottish arable industry, returns on 29th June 2021. Now in its third year, the event brings together the key players in food production, academia and farming to discuss key issues and provide a wealth...
May 5, 2021
Legume plants can make ‘smart’ management decisions when it comes to interacting with their symbiotic bacterial partners to harness nitrogen from the atmosphere, a research team including a James Hutton Institute scientist has shown,...
April 4, 2021
Substantial cuts in global greenhouse gas emissions could be achieved by raising water levels in agricultural peatlands, according to a new study co-authored by James Hutton Institute scientists and published in the journal Nature. Peatlands...
April 4, 2021
First Milk, Nestlé and Agricarbon have announced the launch of a pioneering soil carbon capture project, with scientific guidance from leading soil ecologist and James Hutton Institute Honorary Associate, Dr Helaina Black. The project...
March 3, 2021
Volunteers are wanted for the first on-the-ground national survey to shed light on the distribution and numbers of Scottish mountain hares. The survey, which is launched today and will carry on throughout 2021, is calling on hillwalkers,...
March 3, 2021
Scientists of the James Hutton Institute, working alongside partners at China Agriculture University, have discovered novel ways in which arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi, bacteria and plant roots interact to influence the transfer of nutrients to...
March 3, 2021
A recent study published in Conservation Letters co-authored by a James Hutton Institute ecologist has investigated the number of women and the geographic distribution among the 1051 top-publishing authors in 13 leading journals in ecology and...
February 2, 2021
The James Hutton Institute has announced the appointment of directors for three flagship research and innovation initiatives: the International Barley Hub (IBH) and the Advanced Plant Growth Centre (APGC), both based in Dundee, and the...
February 2, 2021
By Pete Iannetta and Alison Karley, Ecological Sciences, James Hutton Institute The COVID-19 pandemic has stretched the UK’s systems of food supply, raising further questions about the adaptability of global food systems in a crisis - in...
January 1, 2021
As part of the EU Horizon 2020 research project DIVERSify, researchers of the James Hutton Institute and partner institutions have been working on investigating the viability of species mixture cropping as an alternative to crop monoculture....
January 1, 2021
In support of the James Hutton Institute’s Climate-Positive Farming initiative at Glensaugh, which explores a transformational approach to farming that achieves net-zero or even negative carbon emissions whilst protecting natural assets and...
January 1, 2021
Small mammals, such as mice and shrews, can occur in large numbers and play a crucial role in ecosystem functioning. They can drive predator populations and generate cascading effects on many prey species. They are also difficult to survey due to...
December 12, 2020
Mountain hares in Scotland show increasing camouflage mismatch due to less snowy winters, according to a new study carried out by an international research team including the James Hutton Institute. Mountain hares are one of multiple species...
December 12, 2020
Many of Scotland’s iconic landscapes and natural habitats have intolerable nitrogen levels according to a report released by Plantlife Scotland today. Endorsed by the James Hutton Institute and produced using some of its data, the report...
December 12, 2020
A scientific team featuring researchers of the James Hutton Institute and Biomathematics and Statistics Scotland (BioSS) has scooped the Innovation Award at the prestigious RSPB Nature of Scotland Awards 2020. Led by Royal Botanic Garden...
November 11, 2020
New opportunities for PhD projects at the James Hutton Institute are now being advertised on FindAPhD.com. PhD projects are being offered by all five of our science departments covering many aspects of our work. All projects are funded jointly...
September 9, 2020
Mountains cover 22% of the world's land surface and are home to about 915 million people. In Europe, mountain ranges cover 36% of the European area and play an essential role in the provision of public and private goods. Despite their...
September 9, 2020
Despite encouraging progress in several areas, the health of the natural world is suffering badly and getting worse. Eight transformative changes are, therefore, urgently needed to ensure human wellbeing and save the planet, the UN warns in a...
August 8, 2020
Researchers at the James Hutton Institute and partner institutions are developing a suite of digital resources to help farmers harness the potential of crop mixtures to improve the sustainability of their production systems.
July 7, 2020
New research by an international research team including ecologists at the James Hutton Institute has produced the most comprehensive long-term image of the state of biodiversity across Europe, showing -among a number of findings –...
July 7, 2020
Planting huge numbers of trees to mitigate climate change is “not always the best strategy” – with some experimental sites in Scotland failing to increase carbon stocks, a new study co-authored by Hutton scientists has found....
June 6, 2020
Biodiversity —the variety of species, the genes within them, and the habitats in which they live— is threatened like never before. According to figures from the United Nations Environment Programme, we are on the verge of mass...
June 6, 2020
Different groups of soil fungi control the interactions between seedlings and established trees and can play a key role in the development or restoration of forests, new research by James Hutton Institute scientists has found.
April 4, 2020
“Society's priorities must be human health and the containment of the COVID-19 pandemic, but we also need to be thinking ahead to the resumption of conservation practice and education. There is an opportunity here to remind people of...
March 3, 2020
“Soil is life. We breathe the air, we drink the water and we eat the crops, we live on the soil. Soil stores twice as much carbon globally as the vegetation above ground and is a universe of microbial life working with plants to balance the...
March 3, 2020
Professor Lesley Torrance, Director of Science at the James Hutton Institute, has been made a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh (RSE), a body which contributes to the social, cultural and economic wellbeing of Scotland through the...
February 2, 2020
World Pulses Day (10th February) is a designated United Nations global event to recognise the importance of pulses (chickpeas, dry beans, lentils, dry peas and lupins among others) as a global food. Together with partners across Europe and the...
January 1, 2020
The UK Committee on Climate Change’s new report's recognition of agroforestry and peatland restoration as key actions to help deliver the major shift in land use needed to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 has been...
January 1, 2020
Professor Rob Brooker has been appointed to the leadership of the Ecological Sciences department at the James Hutton Institute, following the departure of Dr Helaina Black, who has become an Honorary Associate of the Institute. The group...
December 12, 2019
Professor Alison Hester, a senior research scientist within the James Hutton Institute’s Ecological Sciences group in Aberdeen, has been awarded an Honorary Fellowship of the Royal Scottish Geographical Society (RSGS) in recognition of...
December 12, 2019
‘Erosion’ is partly a natural process where soil particles are transported by our rivers and streams to the sea. ‘Accelerated erosion’ however, is caused by inappropriate land use or land management and this is a global...
November 11, 2019
Two researchers based at the James Hutton Institute in Dundee have been named as Highly Cited Researchers in the Highly Cited Researchers 2019 list published by the Web of Science Group.
November 11, 2019
Scientists of the James Hutton Institute recently visited China on a fact-finding mission to see how the Institute might collaborate with the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences (CAAS) to improve soybean cropping in China through better...
October 10, 2019
An innovative research project aims to demonstrate the benefits of using crop species mixtures as a sustainable crop production system. The Sustainability in Education and Agriculture using Mixtures (SEAMS) initiative is providing a platform for...
August 8, 2019
A ground-breaking research trial conducted by the James Hutton Institute and Kings Crops, a division of Frontier Agriculture, into the impact of green cover crops in Scotland has demonstrated notable benefits for spring barley yields, soil and...
August 8, 2019
Scientists of the James Hutton Institute will meet with European colleagues to discuss all scientific aspects of diversifying agricultural and food systems, on the practical implementation of crop diversification in value chains and on policy-...
July 7, 2019
Ground-breaking research into the soil beneath our feet, just published in the journal Nature, transforms current understanding of life on land by revealing that the world’s largest animal populations are found in high-latitude sub-arctic...
July 7, 2019
It’s the season for a cold afternoon ‘gin & tonic’ on ice. The health impact of one too many is questionable, but what is the environmental footprint of that classically delicious aperitif? An international team of...
July 7, 2019
Scientists of the James Hutton Institute have discussed the latest research on arable crops as part of the launch of new event Arable Scotland, including renewed breeding efforts aimed at developing quality crops for defined markets, innovative...
June 6, 2019
Did you know 92 per cent of people worldwide do not breathe clean air, and that air pollution costs the global economy US$5 trillion every year in welfare costs? Also, are you familiar with the impact of ground-level ozone pollution on staple...
June 6, 2019
Dr Jenni Stockan, a research scientist within the James Hutton Institute’s Ecological Sciences group, has been distinguished by the Royal Entomological Society as the first woman to take the role of Honorary Secretary in the society’s...
May 5, 2019
Nature is declining globally at rates unprecedented in human history — and the rate of species extinctions is accelerating, with grave impacts on people around the world now likely, warns a landmark new report from the Intergovernmental...
April 4, 2019
Oak trees have long had a reputation for supporting a range of biodiversity, however, research published today has uncovered just how many species depend on British oak to survive. The decline of these iconic trees, currently threatened by pests...
February 2, 2019
Britain’s iconic oak trees have a reputation for supporting biodiversity, but a changing climate is making them increasingly susceptible to threats from pests and diseases. A research collaboration featuring James Hutton Institute...
February 2, 2019
Registrations are open for the Valuing our Life Support Systems 2019 summit, an independent and inclusive platform for science, policy and business communities to discuss and debate innovative natural capital solutions, which will be held on 21-...
February 2, 2019
Scotland’s agricultural landscape will need to adapt to new levels of variation in climate, policy and local and global markets if it is to successfully tackle the growing trend of climate change; that was one of the key messages of Dr Mike...
February 2, 2019
Professor Alison Hester, a senior research scientist within our Ecological Sciences group, has contributed to the development of new guidance by the Natural Capital Finance Alliance (NCFA), aimed at helping financial institutions conduct rapid...
February 2, 2019
Imagine a crop that can be used to help secure sufficient food for a growing global population, benefit the environment and brew fantastic beer. There is one – several in fact: pulses. The James Hutton Institute has joined forces with...
January 1, 2019
Creating Natural Connections, a partnership including the James Hutton Institute which seeks to deliver significant improvements to Cumbernauld’s environment over the next four years by building on the success of Cumbernauld Living...
November 11, 2018
There is no generally agreed upon, up-to-date system for fungal classification, with several different, partly incompatible classification systems used across many mycological resources. This confusion is partly due to the vast number of...
November 11, 2018
New opportunities for PhD projects at the James Hutton Institute are now being advertised on FindAPhD.com. PhD projects are being offered by all five of our Science Groups covering many aspects of our work. All projects are funded jointly between...
October 10, 2018
For many people fungi are simply the edible mushrooms that appear on your dinner plate or the toadstool you pass by in your local park, however fungi are some of the planets most vital organisms. They provide powerful medicines including...
September 9, 2018
Scientists from the James Hutton Institute have found that waters in Scottish rivers are reaching record-breaking warm temperatures, which may have implications for rural economies across the country. By comparing historical records kept by the...
July 7, 2018
Farmers and land managers can improve agricultural productivity by using crop mixtures and taking into consideration the role of evolution in shaping the plants they grow, new research by James Hutton Institute scientists and partners at ETH...
April 4, 2018
Pulses, the dry, edible seeds of plants in the legume family, which include UK-grown beans and peas as well as chickpeas and lentils, are incredibly sustainable superfoods that can make a unique contribution to global food security due to their...
March 3, 2018
For generations, rice has been a key crop for the Kelabit people who populate the highlands of Malaysian Borneo – so much so that the slow-growing variety grown in the area shares a name with the region and its main town, Bario. However,...
February 2, 2018
Scientists from the James Hutton Institute have developed a screening system which uses transparent soil technology to help fight nematodes - microscopic worms that are harmful to plants, damaging about 10% of susceptible crops and causing...
January 1, 2018
A report published today and co-authored by James Hutton Institute scientists recommends ways to count mountain hares. The scientific study compared a range of methods to count individuals, and determined the most effective, reliable and cost-...
December 12, 2017
Professor Alison Hester, of our Ecological Sciences group, has been appointed as member of a new independently-led group which aims to ensure grouse moor management practices are not only sustainable but are legally compliant. The group has...
November 11, 2017
New opportunities for PhD projects at the James Hutton Institute are now being advertised on FindAPhD.com. PhD projects are being offered by all five of our Science Groups covering many aspects of our work. All projects are funded jointly between...
November 11, 2017
A senior scientist from the James Hutton Institute has again been distinguished as a Highly Cited Researcher by Clarivate Analytics. Professor Philip J. White, from our Ecological Sciences group, has been included in the Highly Cited Researcher...
November 11, 2017
Research from the James Hutton Institute will be utilised in a new initiative, with a potential spend of 1.2 billion dollars, aimed at tackling climate change and reducing greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) in India. One of the major impacts of...
November 11, 2017
For the first time in many years, red squirrels have been spotted at the James Hutton Institute's Craigiebuckler site and near the University of Aberdeen— a promising sign that this charismatic species is making a comeback in Aberdeen....
October 10, 2017
Following a recruitment exercise, the James Hutton Institute is pleased to confirm the appointment of Professor Lesley Torrance and Professor Deborah Roberts to the posts of Directors of Science on a permanent basis with immediate effect.
August 8, 2017
The potential offered by social innovation to improve the livelihoods of remote forest-dependent communities will be at the centre of discussions during a special session of the 125th Anniversary Congress of the International Union of Forest...
August 8, 2017
A Memorandum of Understanding has been signed between the Ukrainian National Forestry University (UNFU) and the James Hutton Institute to promote cooperation in scientific research on sustainability, ecosystem service issues, climate change,...
June 6, 2017
A new research initiative led by Scotland’s James Hutton Institute is set to explore innovative mixed-species crop systems, or ‘plant teams’, in a drive to tackle a global challenge: how to feed a growing population from finite...
June 6, 2017
Legumes are a very special type of crop; they are not only a source of highly nutritious food and feed but legumes require no inorganic nitrogen fertiliser, which means they have major advantages as a more sustainable crop. Despite their benefits...
May 5, 2017
Lyme disease – an infection contracted from the bite of an infected tick– is an important emerging disease in the UK, and is increasing in incidence in people in the UK and large parts of Europe and North America. A new study,...
April 4, 2017
According to recent media reports the European Commission seems poised to ban some of Europe’s most widely used pesticides to protect bees and other pollinators, but is the move likely to have an impact on food production and security?...
March 3, 2017
Fungi are immensely important to humanity and the planet we live on. They belong to their own kingdom, provide powerful medicines including antibiotics, regulate many processes in soils and also provide society with numerous food and drink...
February 2, 2017
Scotland’s environment faces many challenges including a changing climate, invasive species, pollution and changes in the way our land and seas are managed, and ecological research is at the heart of solutions to help policymakers,...
January 1, 2017
Deer are iconic species in Scotland and provide a key ecological resource for the tourism, hunting and food industries. However, at high densities their impact can be detrimental to some habitats. Are the right policies and incentives in place to...
January 1, 2017
The concept of ‘nature-based solutions’ has been featured in the latest editorial of influential publication Nature, citing a paper co-written by James Hutton Institute scientists as a key resource in developing the notion of NBS.
December 12, 2016
Often portrayed as pulling Santa’s sleigh, reindeer are a Christmas staple. Now, ecologists have found that reindeer are shrinking due to the impact of climate change on their food supplies. Speaking at the British Ecological Society...
December 12, 2016
Scientists at the James Hutton Institute have welcomed the Scottish Government's decision to allow beavers to remain in Argyll and Tayside as a protected species, but warned continued long-term monitoring and active management in...
July 7, 2016
Four new projects addressing challenges in soil and water management across whole rotations have been awarded £1.2m in funding from the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB). The interrelated projects will form a five-year...
June 6, 2016
Scientists at the James Hutton institute have welcomed the findings of a report published by the House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee on the health of UK soils. Soil is of fundamental importance to society yet remains one of our most...
April 4, 2016
Scientists in Brazil and the UK are joining forces to help solve urgent food and energy security issues in South America's most populous country, by establishing a virtual centre that will investigate how to reduce the use of fertilisers and...
April 4, 2016
An upcoming book co-edited by a James Hutton Institute entomologist and environmental researcher will provide an in-depth look into the contribution of wood ants to woodland ecosystem functions and processes.
March 3, 2016
There has been a renewed drive in nature conservation policy in recent years, but is it coming at the expense of limitations in the delivery of the many services that our ecosystems provide, such as tourism and recreation, provision of raw...
March 3, 2016
Two new projects featuring James Hutton Institute scientists in Aberdeen and Dundee have received a share of £2m for research to help combat threats to trees and plants, as part of the Tree Health and Plant Biosecurity Initiative (THAPBI)....
February 2, 2016
A report from a ground-breaking project identifying ways to resolve conflicts about predation has been launched by Environment Minister, Dr Aileen McLeod. The report analyses the views of a large number of stakeholders in conservation and land...
February 2, 2016
A prestigious and fiercely contested science prize has been awarded to a student based at the James Hutton Institute and the University of Aberdeen, and funded by Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH). The 2015 Anne Keymer Prize was won by Janet...
January 1, 2016
Scientists in India and the UK are joining forces to help solve urgent food security issues in the Asian country by establishing a virtual centre that will investigate how to reduce the use of fertilisers and engineer nitrogen fixation - an...
November 11, 2015
Dr Lionel Dupuy, of the James Hutton Institute’s Ecological Sciences group in Dundee, has been shortlisted for a Scottish Enterprise Life Sciences Award in the Innovation category. These awards are presented to recognise excellence in...
September 9, 2015
Protein dense yard-long beans offer an affordable source of vitamins, particularly in South Asia where the crops thrive. However, the bean pod borer, Maruca vitrata, threatens the production of these vitamin-rich legumes, with potential...
March 3, 2015
In order to ensure food security for its sizeable population, China needs to find ways of overcoming pressing environmental challenges and developing a science to policy interface. That was the key message of the China-UK Summit for Environmental...
March 3, 2015
A James Hutton Institute scientist has been awarded a highly prestigious European Research Council (ERC) Consolidator Grant to undertake research on a new generation of artificial soils; it is hoped that this would allow researchers to better...
January 1, 2015
The James Hutton Institute has joined forces with Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) and the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT) to begin a three-year study to trial different methods of assessing mountain hare populations in upland areas of...
January 1, 2015
Senior soil ecologist Dr Helaina Black has been appointed to the leadership of the Ecological Sciences group at the James Hutton Institute, following the retirement of Dr Pete Goddard.
August 8, 2014
A scientist from the James Hutton Institute has been named the best young mycologist in Europe and joined an elite group of only six researchers around the world to be awarded a similar accolade for their continent. Dr Alison Bennett, a...
July 7, 2014
Newly published research into soil microbes shows how, eventually, farmers might reduce greenhouse gas production through the way they manage their soils. The work, by an EU wide consortium including researchers from the James Hutton Institute,...
May 5, 2014
A young scientist whose research focusses on pathogens in the environment has been awarded the prestigious Peter Massalski Prize for meritorious research. Dr Fiona Brennan, research scientist with the Ecological Sciences group at the James Hutton...
September 9, 2012
A new transparent soil is helping to reveal the dark, underground secrets of plant roots. A team of researchers from the James Hutton Institute and the University of Abertay Dundee have developed a see-through soil which will enable them to study...
August 8, 2012
An Aberdeen-based scientist with a mission to spread the word about wood ants has won a prestigious new award from the Royal Entomological Society. Jenni Stockan of the James Hutton Institute's Ecological Sciences group won the inaugural Marsh...
June 6, 2012
Global experts on one of the last frontiers of agricultural and ecological sciences will congregate in Dundee this week (26-29 June) to discuss how their research could lead to sustainable increases in crop productivity and more effective use of...
June 6, 2012
Two young scientists working at the James Hutton Institute have been jointly awarded the Peter Massalski Prize for meritorious research. This year’s award panel were so impressed by the calibre of nominations that they decided to jointly...
March 3, 2012
The Chief Executive of the James Hutton Institute, and several senior scientists on his team, are heading to London shortly to take part in the Planet Under Pressure conference which gets underway at the new International Convention Centre (ICC) at...
June 6, 2011
The foundation of the James Hutton Institute has taken a major step forward with the announcement of the senior science leadership team.
April 4, 2011
Scotland has a brand new research ‘super institute’ with the job of tackling some of the world’s most challenging problems including the impact of climate change and threats to food and water security. The James Hutton...
March 3, 2011

Rob Brooker (Member of Staff)

Rob is a plant ecologist with over 23 years’ experience of ecological research. He has extensive experience of ecology in a wide range of environments, including arctic, montane, alpine, semi-arid and arable ecosystems, and currently...

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The James Hutton Research Institute is the result of the merger in April 2011 of MLURI and SCRI. This merger formed a new powerhouse for research into food, land use, and climate change.