Skip to navigation Skip to content

Lorna Dawson

Staff picture: Lorna Dawson
Environmental and Biochemical Sciences
Environmental and Biochemical Sciences
Head of Forensic Science
+44 (0)7815 178093

The James Hutton Institute
Aberdeen AB15 8QH
Scotland UK


Professor Lorna Dawson is Head of the Soil Forensics Group within the Environmental and Biochemical Sciences group at the James Hutton Institute, and has over 30 years’ experience in managing and conducting research in soil and plant interactions, in particular its application in the criminal justice system. She was awarded a CBE in the Queen's Birthday Honours list in June 2018.

Lorna is also honorary professor in Forensic Science at Robert Gordon University, and is SEFARI Advisor on the Scottish Government‘s (RESAS) strategic research programme 2016-2021, where she reports to the Directors' Executive Committee to ensure effective delivery of the Scottish Government’s Strategic Research Programme. She is the SEFARI Gateway Knowledge Exchange Lead for Environment. She is affiliated to Robert Gordon University in Aberdeen, contributing to Forensic Science lecture courses and also lectures at the universities of Aberdeen, Strathclyde and Edinburgh. She has supervised over 20 PhD projects and has published over 100 refereed journal papers, books and book chapters, and regularly presents at national and international conferences. Professor Dawson was awarded a Special Recognition award at the Pride of Britain 2017 awards ceremony.

Lorna developed the application of soil organo-mineral markers in forensic investigations and was Principal Investigator on a research project funded by the EPSRC (SoilFit), developing tools for soil characterisation in forensics and an aligned KE project (GIMI). This work involved collaboration with various forensic experts in the National Policing Improvement Agency, the Forensic Science Service, and various police laboratories and forces. She was Lead PI on a FW7 European grant (MiSAFE) developing and testing microbial tools for use in case work. She is treasurer of an international Geoforensics network (IUGS Initiative on Forensic Geology-IFG) and a member of the ENFSI (European Network of Forensic Science Institutes) Animals, Plants, Soils Traces (APST) working group and a member of the Technical Committee of the University of Messina, Rome, teaching on the Masters in Forensic Geology course. She coordinated sessions at the International Crime Science Meetings, London, 2007-2009 and organised major conferences on environmental and criminal soil forensics in 2007 and 2010 and the International Network of Environmental Forensics, and has co-organised major international conferences in 2007 (Edinburgh), 2010 (California) 2012 (The Hague) and 2016 (London).

Current research interests

Lorna has co-edited seminal books on Geoforensics (Springer, 2009 and The Geological Society, London, 2013), is a trained Expert Witness and is Head of the Hutton Soil Forensic team (see leaflet on our soil forensic services, PDF file) and has worked on over 100 forensic cases in the UK and abroad, as a forensic soil expert working for police forces, lawyers and forensic service providers. She is a member of the National Crime Agency and has diplomas in Criminal and Civil law (Cardiff University, 2011 and 2012, revalidated in 2017). She regularly presents evidence in courts in Scotland, England, Wales and Australia. She is a Fellow of the British Society of Soil Science, a Chartered Soil Scientist, was a council member of the Institute of Professional Soil Scientists (2009-2013) and was a member of the Science and Technology Facilities Council, Science in Society panel (2007-2011). She has considerable experience in knowledge exchange, has worked on sabbatical for the BBC, advising on 'Countryfile', ‘Vera’ and 'Silent Witness'. She has also worked with a range of crime authors (Murder, Mystery & Microscopes pages), e.g. crime author Ann Cleeves to produce a Murder, Mystery Pack to be distributed to libraries to run public events. She is responsible for developing many of the Institute's soil education resources, for example, the set of soils posters, composting activity, and Soils of the Crofts which has been translated into Gaelic with Crofting Connections. She regularly organises and performs in public debating events, examining the interface between science and fiction, and was awarded best live science communication event, 2009. She was appointed to the General Committee of the British Science Association in 2013, is a STEM Ambassador; and a member of the Chief Scientist’s Science and Engineering Community Forum (2015). She is a Fellow of the RSA, and a member of the RSA, Food, Farming and Countryside Commission’s Research Advisory Group (December, 2017 to present), on the Editorial Board of Geoscience and a member of the Intellectual Property Office (IPO) Academic Committee, 2018 to 2021.


Printed from /staff/lorna-dawson on 25/03/23 04:29:07 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.