Environmental and Biochemical Sciences

Environmental and Biochemical Sciences (EBS) is a department of over 80 scientists and spans a range of disciplines encompassing entirely laboratory-based work to ecosystem-scale research across landscapes and rivers. The breadth and diversity of our work includes the metabolomics of food crops, their chemical makeup and control of this through plant breeding.

Our work on soils covers not only their distribution and classification but also function, composition and physical properties, in both natural and managed systems. This department is responsible for the National Soil Inventory of Scotland. The management of river catchments and biogeochemistry of water courses completes our research focus and we have strong links to the Scottish Government Centre of Expertise for Waters, CREW

EBS has a large collection of analytical instrumentation used to support our research and generate external income through our commercial subsidiary, James Hutton Limited.  We work in an integrated way with the other science groups, using advanced modelling, bio- and enviro- informatics, soil and environmental databases, long-term monitoring datasets, geographic information systems and social-economic assessments. Our work uses research platforms and long- and short-term field sites across Scotland and the UK. Through collaboration our work and expertise are extended to a range of sites and systems across the globe, emphasising that, although based in Scotland, much of the work we do has much wider applications.

Our work covers much of the terrestrial environment and involves soils, water and crop production. Our research deals with the fundamental composition of soils (geological, chemical and physical) and seeks to better understand soils as a natural resource, enabling its protection as well as its utilisation for crop production. The management of water resources is fundamental to our work and takes into consideration mountain catchments, rivers and the coastline.

Using high-throughput phenotyping approaches, such as metabolomics and transcriptomics, we assess a range of quality characteristics and their genetic control.
Our stable isotopes research tackles a range of applications, collaborating with a wide range of partners across the globe.
With increasing demands to provide food, energy and clean water, we are involved in developing sustainable use for our land.
Operating across scales from microscopic to landscape, from arable agriculture to semi-natural and natural environments.
This group aims to improve knowledge of biogeochemical and hydrological cycles, and their role in ecosystem functions and services.
Environmental chemistry is the multi-disciplinary study of chemical and biochemical phenomena within natural ecosystems.

Head of department

Head of Department
Based in Aberdeen
T: +44 (0)344 928 5428 (*)

Dr Andy Kindness is the leader of The James Hutton Institute’s Environmental and Biochemical Sciences group.

Dr Kindness’ joined the Institute from Aberdeen University’s School of Natural and Computing Sciences, where he coordinated a postgraduate MSc in Oil & Gas Chemistry, was responsible for recruitment of students for this course and helped develop curricula, increased industry interaction, student numbers and student satisfaction.

His previous experience includes time as Dean of Chemistry and Physics at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa during which he oversaw the building and equipping of new teaching and state of the art research facilities which facilitated the school becoming the top producer of post-graduate students and Chemistry publications on the African continent.

Meet the team