Kerry Waylen

Social Research on Natural Resource Management
Social, Economic and Geographical Sciences
T: +44 (0)1224 395313
Kerry Waylen is a senior researcher in the Social, Economic and Geographical Sciences (SEGS) department at the James Hutton Institute.  She builds understanding of how to achieve more 'joined up' approaches to natural resource management - i.e. working holistically and inclusively to consider multiple issues and interests in interconnected systems. She works part-time.
  • What is the potential of new concepts and instruments for environmental management, particularly those – such as the ‘Ecosystem Approach’ or ‘Nature-Based Solutions’ – that aim to promote inclusive and holistic approaches?
  • How are different knowledges produced and used in decision-making? How do institutional settings interact with specific initiatives or devices (especially those related to ‘Natural Capital’ or ‘Ecosystem Services’) for ‘mainstreaming’ i.e. attempts to enrol business and other stakeholder groups in decision-making about and for nature?
  • How are efforts for adaptive co-governance shaped and constrained by existing institutions and ways of working? Do new initiatives and institutions complicate or help navigate the resultant challenges? Do monitoring and evaluation programmes reflect and shape expectations of knowledge use?
  • How can can scientists and scientific processes work with policy-making peers and processes to enable sustainable development?

Kerry’s main ongoing research projects

  • Kerry leads ‘Galvanising Change via Natural Capital’. This research explores if and how natural capital data and framings can be productive in galvanising changes for sustainability. This project also involves input from collaborators in SRUC. This project is funded by the Scottish Government RESAS Strategic Research Programme 2022-2027.
  • Kerry leads research on (up)scaling and mainstreaming of catchment NbS in Scotland, as part of the broader ‘Aim NbS’  project funded by the Scottish Government RESAS Strategic Research Programme 2022-2027.
  • Kerry supports research on enrolling private sector actors and resources for sustainability, within the European-funded ‘MERLIN’ project, focused on catchment-based Nature-Based Solutions (NbS). MERLIN started in October 2021 and runs for 4 years.

Research approaches

Kerry’s work predominantly uses interpretive qualitative research methods, e.g. collecting data from semi-structured interviews, workshops, participant observation, analysed using mixed inductive and deductive approaches.  She also has expertise in quantitative methods for primary and secondary data collection and analysis. The conceptual basis of individual projects varies, but underlying ideas about environmental governance relate to ideas in ecological economics, policy studies, and Science & Technology Studies (STS). Funding ranges from strategic longer-term research funded by the European Commission, the Scottish Government, through to more focused work via funders such as ALTER-NET and NatureScot.

Kerry has co-supervised 2 completed PhD students.  Kirsty Holstead built understanding of community water governance, funded by a Hydronation scholarship, with Dr Shona Russell at the University of St Andrews (PhD obtained 2023). Sam Poskitt appraised the potential of scenario-planning to support learning for sustainable development, joint funded by ESRC and the James Hutton Institute, with Dr Andrew Ainslie at the University of Reading (PhD obtained 2018). She is open to other supervisory relationships, dependent on securing funding.

Other roles

Her commitment to normative change and transdisciplinarity is reflected in a variety of engagements with policy and professional peers. Longer-running engagements are her role as chair of the Sustainable Land Management Group (SLMG) of the Scottish Forum for Natural Capital (SFNC) and a member of the advisory group of the NatureScot Farming with Nature programme.

Kerry is also a trustee of the Orskov Foundation, a charitable foundation that supports students and communities to develop sustainable land use to support livelihoods in lower-income countries. Her own current research is mostly based in Europe, but she is always interested to support sustainable development in the Global South – which relates to her past research and field experience.

Past research

Within MAGIC ‘Moving Towards Adaptive Governance in Complexity: Informing Nexus Security, funded by EU H2020, she carried out transdisciplinary research to prompt reflection on the suitability of European policy processes for nexus governance, particularly in relation to sustainable agriculture.

In 2021 she collaborated with Robin Pakeman and Mark Wilkinson on a SEFARI fellowship to identify a framework for implementing and evaluating NbS in Scotland.

She jointly led research with Kirsty Blackstock on how to achieve joined-up approaches to land and natural resource management that deliver to multiple societal goals.  This also encompasses exploration of how interacting policy instruments shape consideration of tradeoffs in natural resource management, and the opportunities for ‘new’ private sector actors or new instruments such as Payments for Ecosystem Services. This was funded by the Scottish Government RESAS Strategic Research Programme 2016-2022.

Prior to that she jointly led work with Kirsty to understand the potential and challanges of implementing the Ecosystem Approach, funded by the Scottish Government RESAS Strategic Research Programme 2011-2016. This and several other projects have explored multi-level constraints on adopting more systemic and/or participatory approaches to environmental management, including: exploration of the barriers to implementing natural flood management in Scotland; analysing the first round of River Basin Management Planning for implementation of the Water Framework Directive in Scotland; and appraising the factors that can act as barriers to improving water quality.

She has explored the potential of scenario-planning to support natural resource management: she first explored scenarios of future change environmental, social and policy change for FP7-project REFRESH, then for COMET-LA (an EU FP7 project on Community-based Management of Environmental Challenges in Latin America) she explored if and how scenario-planning can assist communities to identify and develop sustainable community-based management. From 2012-16 Kerry used this knowledge to support Malawian villages and district-level planning for integrated natural resource management in two projects called “Water Futures: Towards Equitable Resource Strategies” aimed to improve the resilience of Malawia’s water management, whilst successor project ‘MAJI’ focused on how to take account of climate change.

Kerry has expertise on knowledge co-production processes relating to environmental management: she co-led WP2 for the FP7 project ‘SPIRAL’ (Science Policy Interfaces for Research Action and Learning, for biodiversity). She has used this expertise to help support practical science-policy connections in later projects such as MAGIC. For example, she helped designed the ESPPI:CREW project to evaluate science-policy and practice links for the Scottish Centre of Expertise in Waters and was involved in CATCH II, an initiative which aimed to try to better connect policy, practitioners working in and for integrated catchment management. In 2017-18 she a multi-partner collaboration “Monitoring and Evaluation for Ecosystem Management (MEEM) – Comparing theory and practice across Europe” to assess the extent to which adaptive management is supported by the monitoring driven by key European policies. This was funded as a ‘High Impact Action’ funded by ALTER-Net, Europe’s ecosystem research network.

Prior to working at the James Hutton Institute Kerry’s PhD research, carried out at Imperial College London 2006-2009, examined how combinations of individual views, culture and local institutions could influence the outcomes of community-based conservation in developing countries. In addition to policy-relevant work with NGOs, her prior experience included social research into attitudes towards nature resources in Trinidad, as part of an MSc from Imperial College. Her first degree is a MA in Natural Sciences, from the University of Cambridge.


Prior to appointment



Conference papers

  • Hester, A.J.; Artz, R.; Blackstock, K.; Gimona, A.; Matthews, K.; Waylen, K. (2021) Delivering multiple benefits: informing land use decision-making, Keynote Presentation: Challenging our Upland Futures Symposium, 7-8 October 2021, Perth, UK.
  • Waylen, K.A.; Blackstock, K.L.; Juarez-Bourke, A.; Marshall, K.M. (2021) Agency and constraint: the role of individuals in policy coherence for joined-up water governance, Presentation delivered as part of panel on Integrative Water Governance across Scales, Levels and Sectors, ICPP5, 5th International Conference on Public Policy, 5-9 July 2021.
  • Waylen, K.A.; Blackstock, K.L.; Juárez-Bourke, A.; Marshall, K. (2020) Striving to integrate delivery of water policies: the challenges of governing differently, Presentation given at the 2020 General Conference of the European Consortium of Political Research (ECPR) Governance, in the Session “Water Governance and The European Union Water Framework Directive”, 24-28 August 2020. (Online).
  • Blackstock, K.L.; Waylen, K A.; Matthews, K.B.; Juarez-Bourke, A.; Wardell-Johnson, D.; Miller, D.R. (2020) Questioning the role of scientific experts in science-policy interfaces: Reflecting on our engagement on ‘nexus’ and ‘sustainable agriculture’, Presentation given at the International Seminar on Environment and Society –
    Current Challenges and Pathways to Change, Lisbon, Portugal, 2-3 March 2020.
  • Marshall, K.; Waylen, K.A.; Wilkinson, M.; Dodd, N.; Beier, S. (2019) Community attitudes to natural flood management (NFM). CRW2018-03, SCOTS Conference Event, Dean Castle Visitor Centre, Kilmarnock, 28 November 2019. Powerpoint presentation.
  • Matthews, K.B.; Blackstock, K.L.; Waylen, K.A.; Juarez-Bourke, A.; Rivington, M.; Miller, D.G.; Wardell-Johnson, D.; Cabello Villarejo, V.; Kovacic, Z.; Renner, A.; Ripa, M.; Giampietro, M. (2019) Using deliberative societal metabolism analysis to analyse CAP’s delivery of EU sustainability and climate change objectives., 172nd EAAE Seminar, Agricultural Policy for the Environment or Environmental Policy for Agriculture? Brussels, 28-29 May 2019. (Paper)
  • Voelker, T.; Blackstock, K.L.; Waylen, K.A.; Kocavic, Z.; Sindt, J.; Strand, R. (2018) The role of quantifying material flows in the governance of the water-energy-food Nexus, Presentation given at RGS-IBG Annual Conference, Cardiff, 28-31 August 2018.
  • Waylen, K.A.; Blackstock, K.L.; Irvine, K.N. (2017) Transforming the culture of environmental decision-making: Creating space for a transdisciplinary dialogue amongst those working on understanding and promoting transformative changes in environmental decision-making., Transformation Labs (T-Labs) Workshop Report, CECHR, Dundee, 29 August 2017, preceding Transformation 2017, Transformations in Practice, Dundee, 30 August – 1 September 2017. Final Report posted to Webpage.
  • Matthews, K.B.; Blackstock, K.L.; Rivington, M.; Waylen, K.A.; Miller, D.G.; Wardell-Johnson, D.; Kovacic, Z.; Renner, A.; Ripa, M.; Giampietro, M. (2017) Delivering more than the “Sum of the Parts”: using Quantitative Storytelling to address the challenges of conducting science for policy in the EU land, water and energy nexus., 22nd International Congress on Modelling and Simulation (MODSIM2017), Hobart, Tasmania, Australia, 3-8 December 2017, Keynote Presentation for Stream – Participatory Decision Making and Modelling Social Systems, Session K7 Evaluating the incorporation of science and other forms of knowledge in decision making and practice, pp15-21.
  • Waylen, K.A.; Blackstock, K.L.; Völker, T.; Strand, R.; Kovacic, Z.; Matthews, K.B. (2017) How do European policies shape nature-society interactions: introducing the MAGIC approach., Presentation delivered at ALTER-Net Conference, Ghent, Belgium, 3 May 2017. Day 2, Session 6.
  • Blackstock, K.L.; Waylen, K.A.; Matthews, K.B.; Giampietro, M. (2016) Quantitative story telling at the European Commission: new method, same challenges for Nexus policy studies., Presented at Session on “Be Constructive! Situating Sustainability Research at the Nexus of Positivism and Reflective Positionality”, RGS-IBG Annual International Conference, London, 30 August – 2 September 2016.
  • Blackstock, K.L.; Waylen, K.A.; Matthews, K.B.; Giampietro M. (2016) Tackling Nexus using a post-normal science approach to social metabolism modelling., Presented at Session on ‘Water-Energy-Food Nexus (3)’, RGS-IBG Conference on ‘Nexus Thinking’, London, 30 August – 2 September 2016.
  • Blackstock, K.L.; Waylen, K.A.; Matthews, K.B.; Giampietro M. (2016) Who feels the magic? Relational spaces within Nexus policy studies., Presented at Session on ‘Relational Geographies of Participation’, RGS-IBG Conference on ‘Nexus Thinking’, London, 30 August – 2 September 2016.
  • Waylen, K.A.; Martin Ortega, J. (2016) Payments for ecosystem services – a potential tool for managing the rural nexus?, Presentation within the session ‘Managing the Rural Nexus’ at the RGS-IBG Annual International Conference 2016, London, 30 August -2 September 2016.
  • Waylen, K.A.; Holstead, K.L.; Colley, K. (2016) Conceptualising human-nature relationships: Learning from experiences of ‘Natural Flood Management’ in Scotland., Presentation within the session ‘Hydrosocial or socio-hydro’ at the RGS-IBG Annual International Conference 2016, London, 30 August -2 September 2016.
  • Waylen, K.A.; Blackstock, K.L.; Holstead, K. (2016) What does studying the ‘Ecosystem Approach’ tell us about attempts to be transformative?, Presentation at the Interpretive Policy Analysis 11th International Conference, Hull, 5-7 July 2016.
  • Holstead, K.L.; Waylen, K.A.; Colley, K.; Hopkins, J. (2015) Challenges of doing something new: barriers to natural flood management., Presentation at the World Water Conference, Edinburgh, 25-29 May 2015.
  • Waylen, K.A.; Blackstock, K.L. (2014) What insights are offered by experiences of the “Ecosystem Approach”? Highlighting the effects of institutional inertia and evolution., Presentation at the Resilience Alliance Conference 2014: Resilience and Development, Mobilising for Transformation, Montpellier, 4-8 May 2014.
  • Waylen, K.A.; Martin-Ortega, J.; Brown, I.; Blackstock, K.L. (2014) Scenario planning and futures thinking: a useful tool for community-based management of trade-offs?, Resilience Alliance Conference 2014: Resilience and Development, Mobilising for Transformation, Montpellier, 4-8 May 2014.
  • Waylen, K.A.; Blackstock, K.L. (2014) Jargon-busting: Understanding Ecosystem Approaches, Ecosystem Service Assessments and their mutual interdependence., Presentation at the Ecosystem Services Community (ESCom) Scotland Launch Event, Edinburgh, 29 April – 1 May 2014.
  • Young, J.; Waylen, K. (2012) Exploring the biodiversity science-policy interface: Lessons learned from the UK National Ecosystem Assessment., British Ecological Society Annual Meeting 2012, University of Birmingham, UK, 17-20 December 2012.
  • Waylen, K.A.; Young, J. (2012) The NEA and communication about ecosystem services: reflections on recent experiences., Paper presentation at BRIDGE-LIAISE Joint Workshop, London, 3-4 May 2012.
  • Macleod, C.J.A.; Black, H.I.J.; Brown, K.; Blackstock, K.L.; Dawson, J.J.C.; Holmes, B.; Langan, S.J.; Marshall, K.; Martin-Ortega, J.; Munoz-Rojas, J.; Morris, S.; Prager, K.; Rivington, M.; Waylen, K.; Vinten, A.J.A.; Gordon, I.J. (2011) What is required for greater levels of interdisciplinary science in a research institute?, 6th International Conference on Environmental Future: Interdisciplinary Progress in Environmental Science and Management, Newcastle, UK, 18-22 July 2011.
  • Langan, S.J.; Rotko, P.; O’Sullivan, J.; Bonaiuto, M.; Twigger-Ross, C.; Bradford, R.; Waylen, K.; Aaltonen, J.; Watson, R.D.; Carrus, G. R (2011) Uncertainty and risk in flood communications (UR-Flood) in Europe., UFRIM International Symposium (Urban Flood Risk Management: Approaches to Enhance Resilience of Communities), Graz, Austria, 21-23 September 2011, pp9-14.
  • Bradford, R.; O’Sullivan, J.; Langan, S.J.; Bonaiuto, M.; Rotko, P.; Twigger-Ross, C.; Waylen, K.; Aaltonen, J.; Watson, R.D.; Carrus, G. (2011) Improving flood communications in Europe: some results from vulnerable and impacted communities., UFRIM International Symposium (Urban Flood Risk Management: Approaches to Enhance Resilience of Communities), Graz, Austria, 21-23 September 2011, 553-558.
  • Waylen, K.A.; Blackstock, K.L.; Marshall, K. (2011) Combining prescribed targets with stakeholder participation : lessons from water resource management in Scotland., International Symposium for Society and Natural Resource Management, (ISSRM), Madison, Wisconsin, USA, 4-8 June 2011.
  • Blackstock, K.L.; Dunglinson, J.; Marshall, K.M.; Waylen K.A. (2010) Draft conceptual model to evaluate stakeholder involvement in RBMP., Presentation to the Colluquium on Public Participation and River Basin Management in the Implementation of WFD, Luneburg, Germany, 1-3 September 2010.
  • Blackstock, K.L.; Dunglinson, J.; Marshall, K.M.; Waylen K.A. (2010) Scotland’s experiences of public participation in RBMP., Presentation to the Colluquium on Public Participation and River Basin Management in the Implementation of WFD, Luneburg, Germany, 1-3 September 2010.

Conference posters