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Bob Mayes

Staff picture: Bob Mayes
Ecological Sciences
Ecological Sciences
Honorary Research Associate
+44 (0)344 928 5428 (*)

The James Hutton Institute
Aberdeen AB15 8QH
Scotland UK


Dr Bob Mayes trained as a ruminant nutritionist and, for over 30 years, has specialised in research on grazing sheep and cattle. During his time at the Institute, Bob gained expertise in measuring metabolite turnover and energy expenditure in grazing ruminants. He also studied the behaviours of radioactive, heavy metal and organic pollutants in livestock. However, his main achievements have been associated with the development of methodologies for measuring dietary intake, digestibility and plant species composition in grazing herbivores. These techniques, which use the chemical compounds in the wax of dietary plants as faecal markers, are now used by researchers world-wide; his original scientific paper on intake measurement using n-alkane markers now has over 365 ISI citations. The applications of these markers (hydrocarbons, fatty alcohols and fatty acids) have been extended to study the diets of wild animals, including non-ruminant herbivores and insectivorous birds and mammals. In 2008, Bob became an Honorary Life Member of the British Society of Animal Science, in recognition of his contribution to advances in animal science research.

Bob has, in recent work, applied the techniques for analysing plant wax compounds to soil samples. These compounds are very long-lived in soil and can be used as markers to indicate past changes in vegetation cover. In collaboration with other Macaulay staff, Bob has demonstrated that the plant wax markers and associated compounds can be used as an effective tool in soil forensic investigations.

Current research interests

Use of organic biomarkers in soil to monitor past and present vegetation change; organic biomarkers in soil and plant material as forensic tools; use of sterols and related compounds to monitor water pollution; measuring diet selection, intake and gut passage rate in sheep and cattle; measuring energy expenditure and gaseous exchange (including methane production) in ruminants using respiration chambers and indirect marker methods.


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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.