Skip to navigation Skip to content

Kerry Waylen

Staff picture: Kerry Waylen
Social, Economic and Geographical Sciences
Social, Economic and Geographical Sciences
Social Research on Natural Resource Management
+44 (0)1224 395313

The James Hutton Institute
Aberdeen AB15 8QH
Scotland UK


Kerry Waylen is a senior researcher in the Social, Economic and Geographical Sciences (SEGS) department at the James Hutton Institute.  She aims to understand - and help achieve - more inclusive and holistic natural resource management, with a growing focus on the role of knowledges within environmental governance. She works part-time.

Current research interests

  • When might it make sense to use 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 collaboration and decision-making? If and how do concepts (such as 'Ecosystem Services' or 'Natural Capital') or tools (such as scenario-planning) influence processes of knowledge co-production, including in science-policy interfaces? How do monitoring and evaluation programmes reflect and shape expectations of knowledge use?
  • How are efforts for adaptive co-governance shaped and constrained by existing institutions and ways of working? Do new initiatives such landscape partnerships complicate or help navigate the resultant challenges? What are the implications for altering governance arrangements to support sustainable development?

Kerry's main ongoing research projects

  • Kerry leads a project '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 co-leads with Rowan Ellis, research on (up)scaling and mainstreaming of catchment NbS in Scotland, including urban as well as rural setttings.This is part of the 'Aim NbS'  project funded by the Scottish Government RESAS Strategic Research Programme 2022-2027.
  • Kerry supports research on enrolling private sector actors and financiers 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 current 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. She has an established track record in all aspects of project and staff management.  Her research 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 currently co-supervises 1 PhD student: Kirsty Holstead, who is building understanding of community water governance, funded by a Hydronation scholarship, with Dr Shona Russell at the University of St Andrews. She previously co-supervised Sam Poskitt, who is exploring 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. Sam obtained his PhD in March 2018 and now works at the University of Reading on the participatory extension work in developing countries.

Kerry is 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 projects.

Past research

Within the recent project 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.


Printed from /staff/kerry-waylen on 21/03/23 12:59:45 AM

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.