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Scotland’s natural habitats at risk due to intolerable nitrogen levels (News)

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 dat ... Read more

Open Farm Sunday 2019 (Event)

Come and spend a fun family day at Mylnefield Farm! The Institute will be taking part in Open Farm Sunday 2019 on 9 June. ... Read more

Hutton chemical analysis contributes to study of pollutants in sheep livers (News)

Researchers based at the James Hutton Institute in Aberdeen have contributed to a study which has found that pollutants cause ‘worrying’ changes in sheep livers. ... Read more

Partnership to develop run-off tool app (News)

The James Hutton Institute has partnered with Syngenta and the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) to develop and test a run-off tool app. The tool will advise land managers on the best management practices to reduce r ... Read more

Film screening - “10 Billion What’s on your plate?” (Event)

We are pleased to invite you to a screening of “10 Billion What’s on your plate?”, on Thursday 22 March 2018. Doors will be open at 6:30 pm with the event starting at 7:00. The film follows th ... Read more

Beating the ‘scourge’ of plastic waste (News)

Around 6.3 billion tonnes of plastic waste have so far been generated globally. Almost 80% of it goes into landfill or natural environment. Given the harm this causes, especially in the marine environment, the need to do something ... Read more

'A Plastic Ocean' Film Screening (Event)

The global production of plastic continues to grow and a significant proportion of this ends up in our oceans. It is predicted that by 2025, without improvements to waste management, there will be 1 ton of plastic for every 3 tons ... Read more

Scientists investigate potential of plant traits and intercropping to reduce reliance on fertilisers (News)

Ongoing research by the James Hutton Institute, Rothamsted Research and Lancaster University is shedding light into the dark world of roots and soils, by focusing on the potential of plants to harness the phosphorus (P) already pr ... Read more

UK-India link-up to tackle food security challenges through nitrogen fixation (News)

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 fix ... Read more

Policy and Research Briefs (Research Page)

The briefs described on this page are either hosted on the knowledgescotland website, or are available for direct download (pdf format). ... Read more

Soils@Hutton - Soil and Climate Change (Research Page)

Learn more about soils & climate change ... Read more

Diffuse pollution modelling (Research Page)

Data from spatial monitoring of water quality provided parameter sets for validation of catchment scale models. These have been used in a number of externally funded research projects including REFRESH. ... Read more

Phosphorus biogeochemistry in riparian buffer strips (Research Page)

Management to mitigate pollutant swapping Buffer strips are useful for mitigating diffuse pollution. As riparian buffers perform their role in sediment trapping, P accumulates with no loss mechanism (as in wetland denitrificatio ... Read more

State of Scotland’s environment outlined in new report (News)

On the whole, Scotland’s environment is of good quality and there have been many significant improvements in recent years. However, the 2014 State of the Environment Report clearly shows that some habitats and species are un ... Read more

The Atlantic Maritime Croplands – sustainability and environment (Research Page)

A case study on sustainable agriculture and the environment at the James Hutton Institute ... Read more

Integrated pest management - weeds (Research Page)

Expertise and capability at the James Hutton institute, Dundee ... Read more

Improving implementation and increasing uptake of measures to improve water quality in Scotland (Research Page)

Guidance and advice for improving implementation and increasing uptake of measures to improve water quality in Scotland The Scotland River Basin Management Plan (2010) requires implementation of programmes of measures to support ... Read more

HAP-E@Hutton Projects and Outputs (Research Page)

Opportunities PhD opportunity joint with University of Surrey on pathogens, antimicrobial resistance and anaerobic digestion ... Read more

HAPE Core researchers (Research Page)

  ... Read more

HAPE Platforms, resources and approaches (Research Page)

Pathogens do not automatically pose a risk to human or animal health if there is no pathway by which they can reach that person or animal (the receptor). Therefore, using a Source-Pathway-Receptor approach to address human and ani ... Read more

HAP-E@Hutton (Research Page)

The core research group in the Centre for Human and Animal Pathogens in the Environment (HAP-E) at the James Hutton Institute studies the following pathogen-environment systems. ... Read more

Centre for Human and Animal Pathogens in the Environment (HAP-E@Hutton) (Research Page)

Key pathogens in the environment interests Environmental survival of pathogens (for example, Clostridia in anaerobic digestate) Antimicrobial resistance - the environment/inputs to the environment as a vector and "melt ... Read more

Implications of copper (Cu) on estuarine ecosystem functioning (Research Page)

Many antifouling paints, applied to ships’ hulls and other marine structures, contain copper (Cu) as an active ingredient. As a result many European waterways are becoming increasingly Cu contaminated. This work is investiga ... Read more

Environmental and Biochemical Sciences
Environmental and Biochemical Sciences
Senior Research Scientist
+44 (0)344 928 5428 (*)

The James Hutton Institute
Aberdeen AB15 8QH
Scotland UK


Current research interests

Rachel is currently working with the Water Industry Team at the Scottish Government to develop the Hydro Nation International programme, an initiative geared towards the delivery of Sustainable Development Goal 6 (Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all by 2030). She is responsible for projects in India and Malawi and currently coordinates a decentralised waste water treatment project, designed with a local community for a rural school in India.

Rachel is particularly interested in co-designing her research with stakeholder groups to ensure it is relevant, fit for purpose and the translation of scientific information is effectively communicated to regulators, policy makers, industry and the general public. She is currently focusing on the development of new initiatives to build capacity in her area of work and ensure a sustainable legacy of projects beyond the period of funding.

As part of her commitment to the Scottish Government's Strategic Research Programme, Rachel is leading a project on river temperatures in Scotland. The research has shown evidence that Scottish rivers are warming. Increases can be attributed to rising air temperatures in spring, less snow accumulation during winter, and earlier snow melt. A factsheet has been disseminated amongst estate managers, policy makers and regulators, to highlight the root of the problem and demonstrate management options to enhance the resilience of rivers to change. A number of positive actions to keep rivers cools are recommended.


  • Wright, R.F.; Aherne, J.; Bishop, K.; Dillon, P.J.; Erlandsson, M.; Evans, C.D.; Forsius, M.; Hardekopf, D.W.; Helliwell, R.C.; Hruska, J.; Hutchins, M.; Kaste, O.; Kopacek, J.; Kram, P.; Laudon, H.; Moldan, F.; Rogora, M.; Sjoeng, A.M.s.; de Wit, H.A. (2010) Interaction of climate change and acid deposition., In: Kernan, M., Moss, B. & Battarbee, R. W. (eds.). Climate Change Impacts on Freshwater Ecosystems: Direct Effects and Interactions with Other Stresses. Blackwell Publishers, Oxford, Chapter 7, pp152-179.
  • Helliwell, R.C.; Lilly, A.; Bell, J. (2007) Soils of Lochnagar: their development, distribution, properties and influence on surface water chemistry., In: Lochnagar: The Natural History of a Mountain Lake Developments in Paleoenvironmental Research (DPER) (ed. Neil L. Rose). Volume 12, Springer, pp93-120.

  • Helwig, K.; Aderemi, A.; Donnelly, D.; Gibb, S.; Gozdzielewska, L.; Harrower, J.; Helliwell, R.C.; Hunter, C.; Niemi, L.; Pagaling, E.; Price, L.; Roberts, J.; Zhang, Z. (2021) Pharmaceuticals in the water environment: baseline assessment and recommendations., Research Summary Report on CREW Website, 16 February 2021, 3pp.
  • Hare, M.P.; Helliwell, R.C.; Ferrier, R.C. (eds) (2020) Exploring Scotland?s resilience to drought and low flow conditions. Full report., World Water Day, 22 March 2019. CREW and Hydro Nation International Report, 24pp.
  • Hare, M.P.; Helliwell, R.C.; Ferrier, R.C. (eds) (2020) Exploring Scotland?s resilience to drought and low flow conditions, Short report., World Water Day, 22 March 2019. CREW and Hydro Nation International Report.
  • Allan, A.; Helliwell, R.C.; Hutton, C.; Hill, C.; Halliday, S.J.; Lyon, C.; Hornby, D.; Ahuja, S.; Akoumianaki, I.; Gimona, A.; Glendell, M.; Pohle, I.; Spray, C.; Waldock, I. (2019) Ramganga river health, Final report., Report to Scottish Government, 430pp.
  • Helliwell, R.C.; Vinten, A.J.A. (2019) World Water Day 2018 report., World Water Day Conference, Edinburgh, 22 March 2018.
  • Helliwell, R.C.; Pagaling, E. (2018) Stockholm Wise List learning journey - pharmaceutical "waste" and carbon emissions., Contract Report, 22pp.
  • Donnelly, D.; Helliwell, R.C.; Bowes, J.; Hallard, M. (2018) An assessment of the performance of the PLUS+ tool to evaluate WFD compliance in Scottish standing waters., Report for RESAS, 26pp.
  • Helliwell, R.C.; Gibbs, S. (2017) Review the changing demand on water supplies, the impact of abstraction, the resilience and sustainability of ground water in Malawi., Report for the Evaluation of the Malawi Climate Justice Fund Project, 8pp.
  • Helliwell, R.C.; Ferrier, R.C.; Greig, B. (2017) Hydro Nation Commercial Advisory Services - Support structure paper., Report to Scottish Government, 15pp.
  • Helliwell, R.C.; Donnelly, D. (2016) Assessment of the capacity of Loch Shiel to accommodate additional inputs of phosphorus without comprising the current WFD /RAG status, Contract Report on behalf of Marine Harvest.
  • Donnelly, D.; Helliwell, R.C. (2016) Loch Garry draft report., Contract Report, 29 August 2016.
  • Donnelly, D.; Helliwell, R.C. (2016) Loch Ness draft report., Contract Report, 21 September 2016.
  • Jackson-Bake, L; Balana, B.; Dunn, S.M.; Helliwell, R.C.: Martin-Ortega, J.; Perni, A.; Slee, B. (2014) Synthesis of work in the River Dee catchment, UK., Deliverable 7.13 of the EU FP7 REFRESH Project.
  • Sarkki, S.; Grunewald, K.; Alados,C.L.; Nijnik,M.; Ficko, A.; Formanek, P.; Malis, F.; Wielgolaski, F.E.; Laine, K.; Skre, O.; Inkeroinen, J.; Miller, D.R.; Brown, I.; Castellazzi, M.; Munoz-Rojas, J.; Helliwell, R.C. (2014) Questionnaire based investigation of stakeholder needs as linked to ecosystem services, governance, and science in European treeline areas., Report of COST Action ES1203 on Enhancing the Resilience Capacity of SENSitive Mountain FORest Ecosystems under Environmental Change (SENSFOR), 6ECST, Brussels, 64pp.
  • Helliwell, R.C.; Avery, L.; Conniff, A.; MacNay, D.; Gorman, H. (2013) Reducing pollution from forestry related activities in the Gallloway and Eskdalemuir forests: a review of best management practices to reduce diffuse pollution., CREW Report.
  • Balana, B.; Martin-Ortega, J.; Perni, A.; Slee, B.; Helliwell, R.C.; Jackson-Blake, L.; Cooksley, S.L.; Dunn, S.M. (2013) Cost-effectiveness analysis report for the Dee sub-catchment (Scotland) including analysis of disproportionality., REFRESH PROJECT: Adaptive Strategies to Mitigate the Impacts of Climate Change on European Freshwater Ecosystems.
  • Jackson-Blake, L.; Dunn, S.M.; Hershkovitz, Y.; Sample, J.; Helliwell, R.C.; Balana, B. (2013) Biophysical catchment-scale modelling in the River Dee, Scotland, Deliverable 5.3: REFRESH website.
  • Mitchell, R.J.; Beesley, L.; Briggs, R.; Cuthbert, A.; Dawson, J.J.C.; Helliwell, R.C.; Hewison, R.L.; Kerr, C.; Leith, I.D.; Owen, I.J.; Potts, J.M.; Newman, G.; Smith, D.; Shephard, L.J.; Sturgeon, F.; Taylor, A.F.S.; White, D.; Williams, A.; Williams, E.; Black, H.I.J. (2013) Testing soil quality indicators., Report to SEPA.
  • Helliwell, R.C.; Irvine, R.J. (2013) Towards developing a common understanding of scenarios in research and practice in Scotland., Report to staff at MRP and Scottish Government, 28 January 2013.
  • Rowe, E.C.; Jones, L.; Stevens, C.J.; Vieno, M.; Dore, A.J.; Hall, J.; Sutton, M.; Mills, G.; Evans, C.D.; Helliwell, R.C.; Britton, A.J.; Mitchell, R.J.; Caporn, S.J.; Dise, N.B.; Field, C.; Emmett, B.A. (2013) Measures to evaluate benefits to UK semi-natural habitats of reductions in nitrogen deposition., Final Report on REBEND Project. Defra Tender Reference: AQ0823. CEH Project: NEC04307.
  • Helliwell, R.C.; Aherne, J.; MacDougall, G. (2012) Evaluation of the future impact of acid deposition from the proposed Hunterston power station on the status of surface waters in the UK., Final report on behalf of CREW (Centre of Expertise for Waters), Scottish Government, Project No. C203010.
  • Jackson-Blake, L.A.; Dunn, S.M.; Helliwell, R.C. (2012) Strategies to mitigate the impacts of climate change on European freshwater ecosystems. Interim report on the biophysical catchment-scale modelling in the River Dee, Scotland., EU FP7 REFRESH Project. Integrated Biophysical Modelling (WP5) Reporting.
  • Martin-Ortega, J.; Perni, A.; McKee, A.; Helliwell, R.C.; Cooksley, S. (2012) Social and Economic effects of improving water quality in the Loch of Skene and the Leuchar Burn. Sharing local knowledge and views (II)., REFRESH Project: Adaptive strategies to Mitigate the Impacts of Climate Change on European Freshwater Ecosystems. 2nd Dunecht REFRESH Workshop Feedback Leaflet.
  • Martin-Ortega, J.; Perni, A.; McKee, A.; Helliwell, R.C. (2012) Proceedings of the workshop for informing the disproportionality analysis and flagging the wider benefits of improving water quality in the Loch of Skene and Leuchar Burn sub-catchment, UK., REFRESH Project: Adaptive strategies to Mitigate the Impacts of Climate Change on European Freshwater Ecosystems Tasks 6.4 & 6.5 Interim Report.
  • Martin-Ortega, J.; Perni, A.; McKee, A.; Helliwell, R.C. (2012) Social and economic effects of improving water quality in the Loch of Skene and the Leuchar Burn. Sharing local knowledge and views (II)., REFRESH Project: Adaptive strategies to Mitigate the Impacts of Climate Change on European Freshwater Ecosystems. 2nd Dunecht REFRESH Workshop summary.
  • Helliwell, R.C.; Aherne, J.; MacDougall, G.; Broadmeadow, S.; Nisbet, T.R.; Sample, J.; Jackson-Blake, L.; Doughty, R.; Malcolm, I. (2011) Modelling the long-term response of stream water chemistry to atmospheric pollution and forestry practices in Galloway, SW Scotland., Forestry Commission Report.
  • Stutter, M.I.; Baggaley, N.; Barry, C.; Chapman, S.J.; Dawson, J.J.C.; Helliwell, R.C.; Higgins, A.; Howden, N.; Jackson-Blake, L.; Lumsdon, D.G.; Malcolm, I.; Sample, J.; Potts, J.; Worrall, F. (2011) Assessment of the contribution of aquatic carbon fluxes to carbon losses from UK peatlands. Final report, SNIFFER Contract Report ER18, July 2011.
  • Waylen, K.A.; Slee, R.; Helliwell, R.C.; Brown, I.; Morris, S.; Blackstock, K.L. (2011) REFRESH Cross-European Policy Workshop Report., Deliverable 1.13 for the REFRESH Project.
  • Curtis, C.; Battarbee, R.; Helliwell, R.C. (2010) Critical loads and the Water Framework Directive - experiences from the UK., In: Proceedings of the 25th Meeting of the ICP Waters Task Force, Burlington, Canada, 19-21 October 2009 (eds. B.L. Skjelkvale, H. de Wit & D. Jeffries). NIVA report no. 5995 2010. NIVA, Oslo, Norway, pp50-54.
  • Curtis, C.; Batterbee, R.; Helliwell, R.C.; Flower, R.; Simpson, G.L.; Monteith, D.; Shilland, E.; Aherne, J.; MacDougall, G. (2010) Chapter 9 Recovery Progress: reference conditions and restoration targets., UK Acid Waters Monitoring Network 20 year Interpretative Report, ECRC Research Report 141, pp206-237.

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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.