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Jean Robertson

Staff picture: Jean Robertson
Environmental and Biochemical Sciences
Environmental and Biochemical Sciences
Head of Infrared Spectroscopy
+44 (0)344 928 5428 (*)

The James Hutton Institute
Aberdeen AB15 8QH
Scotland UK


Jean Robertson is an Infrared Spectroscopist and Head of the IR Section of the Analytical Group at the Institute. She has worked at the Institute in the IR Section since 2004, becoming head of the section in 2005, which encompasses both the analytical techniques of FTIR (Fourier Transform Infrared) spectroscopy and NIR (Near Infrared) spectroscopy.

Current research interests

Her expertise in FTIR spectroscopy was first developed through her PhD, awarded in 1990, in which she studied structures of organometallic compounds using this technique. Through her work at the Institute she now applies this expertise in IR spectroscopy to a wide range of naturally occurring samples. She has developed the specialist knowledge necessary for interpreting the complex FTIR spectra of minerals, soils, sediments, fungal species and vegetation. An FTIR spectrum provides a "chemical fingerprint" or chemical overview of a sample encompassing both organic and mineral components and is therefore particularly applicable to the combined study of soil mineralogy and organic matter. From the samples generated for the National Soil Inventory of Scotland a soils database has been created for which the IR section has provided high quality FTIR and NIR spectral data. Analysis of relationships between this spectral data and the other data held for the soils, including mineralogy and wax markers from vegetation input, will be a key research interest, particularly in relation to changes in soil organic matter. Another key area of research is the development of NIR calibrations for the prediction of parameters for a range of materials including soil, animal faeces and vegetation. Effective calibrations allow analysis to be provided in a quick, cheap and environmentally friendly manner and significantly extend the number of samples it is possible to work with for a given project. Development of suitable calibrations will have a potentially highly significant input into a range of ecological and environmental monitoring projects.


  • Robertson, A.H.J.; Main, A.M.; Robinson, L.J.; Dawson, L.A. (2015) In situ FTIR analysis of soils for forensic applications., FT-IR Technology for Today's Spectroscopists, August 2015.

  • Roberts, D.; Torrance, L.; Stirton, G.; Britton, A.J.; Craig, C.; Kyle, C-A.; Abel, C.; Macaulay, C.; Fielding, D.; Watson, H.; Pohle, I.; Robertson, J.; Maxwell, J.; Irvine, K.; Sutherland, L-A.; Dawson, L.A.; Shepherd, L.; Miller, P.; Ellis, R.; Richards, S.; Blok, V.; Hackett, C.; Kettle, H. (2018) Women in Science., The James Hutton Institute, 25pp.

  • Hillier, S.; Robertson, J.; Dawson, L.A. (2008) Micro-scale Approaches to Soil Evidence (micro - ASE)., Science and Technology Facilities Council: SRS Experiment Report 2008.
  • Dawson, L.A.; Delbos, E.; Hillier, S.; Robertson, J.; Ross, J.M. (2007) Analytical investigation on soils from Roman finds., Report for National Museums of Scotland, May 2007.

  • Robertson, A.H.J.; Wetterlind, J.; Main, A.M.; Alshihabi, O. (2019) How to minimise loss in spectral quality when going from laboratory to field measurements using a portable FTIR instrument., Global Workshop on Proximal Soil Sensing (GWPSS), Linking Soil Sensing to Management Decisions, Columbia, Missouri, 28-31 May 2019, 6pp.
  • Robertson, A.H.J.; Pérez-Fernández, E.; Baggaley, N.J.; McKenzie, B.M.; Owen, I.J.; Lilly, A. (2019) Extending predictions of soil parameters for a national dataset., In: Engelsen, S.B., Sørensen, K.M. and van den Berg, D. (eds.). Proceedings of the 18th International Conference on Near Infrared Spectroscopy (ICNIRS2017), NIR Spectroscopy at Work in Industry, Copenhagen, Denmark, 11-15 June 2017. IM Publications, Chichester, pp123-127.
  • Pérez-Fernández, E.; Aitkenhead, M.; Shand, C.A.; Robertson, A.H.J. (2017) On using the precise sensor., Proceedings of the 11th European Conference in Precision Agriculture, John McIntyre Centre, Edinburgh, 16-20 July 2017. Presentation 17 July 2017.
  • Aitkenhead, M.J.; Cameron, C.; Gaskin, G.; Choisy, B.; Coull, M.C.; Black, H.I.J.; Robertson, A.H.J. (2016) The Scottish way - getting results in soil spectroscopy without spending money., European Geosciences Union General Assembly 2016 (EGU 2016), Vienna, Austria, 17-22 April 2016. Geophysical Research Abstracts, Vol. 18, EGU2016-162.
  • Robertson, A.H.J.; Main, A.M.; Robinson, L.J.; Dawson, L.A. (2015) In situ FTIR analysis of forensic soil samples at a mock crime scene., Proceedings of the 4th Global Workshop on Proximal Soil Sensing in Hangzhou, China, 12-15 May 2015.
  • Aitkenhead, M.J.; Coull, M.C.; Robertson, A.J.H. (2013) Prediction of soil properties with NIR data and site descriptors using preprocessing and neural networks., International Workshop, Soil Spectroscopy: the present and future of Soil Monitoring, FAO HQ, Rome, Italy, 4-6 December 2013.
  • Hillier, S.; Pendlowski, H.; Fraser, T.; Robertson, J.; Delbos, E.; Phillips, I.; Gray, N.; Wilson, I. (2013) Tubular halloysite., Minerals for Life, Appleton Tower, Edinburgh, 17-19 June 2013.
  • Robertson, A.H.J. (2012) Soil composition mapping by FTIR., FTIR Session and Workshop, Remote Sensing and Photogrammetry Society's Annual Conference 2012, Greenwich, London, 12-14 September 2012.
  • Dawson, L.A.; Czerniakiewicz, M.; Handley, K.; Hillier, S.; Robertson, J.; Ross, J.M.; Towers, W.; Donnelly, D.; Mayes, R.W. (2010) A complementary approach to the forensic analysis of soil in case investigations., International Workshop on Criminal and Environmental Soil Forensics, 3rd, Long Beach, California, 2-4 November 2010.
  • Delbos, E.; Dawson, L.A.; Hillier, S.; Robertson, J.; Ross, J.; Thornton, B. (2008) Traces of soil from archaeological artefacts: a multidisciplinary approach., International Crime Science Conference 2008, London, 17-18 July 2008.
  • Robertson, J.; Delbos, E.; Dawson, L.; Angus, K.; Morrisson, A. (2007) In situ FTIR analysis of soil evidence on clothing., Soil Forensics International Conference, Edinburgh, 30 October - 1 November 2007.
  • Hillier, S.; Dawson, L.A.; Robertson, J, Delbos, E.; Shiels, J.; Campbell, S.; Mayes, R.W.; Ross, J.M. (2007) Provenancing archaeological objects using traces of soil., Conference Proceedings, Heriot Watt University, Edinburgh, 30 October - 1 November 2007.
  • Dawson, L.A.; Morrisson, A.; Macdonald, L.M.; Ross, J.M.; Mayes, R.W.; Robertson, J.; Towers, W.; Brewer, M. (2007) Soil Forensics University Network (SoilFUN) Protocols., Soil Forensics International Conference, Edinburgh, 30 October - 1 November 2007.
  • Dawson, L.A.; Morrisson, A.; Ross, J.M.; Mayes, R.W.; Robertson, J. (2007) Soil Forensics University Network (SoilFUN) Outline., Soil Forensics International Conference, Edinburgh, 30 October - 1 November 2007.

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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.