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Rachel Helliwell

Staff picture: Rachel Helliwell
Environmental and Biochemical Sciences
Environmental and Biochemical Sciences
Senior Research Scientist
+44 (0)344 928 5428 (*)

The James Hutton Institute
Aberdeen AB15 8QH
Scotland UK


Rachel Helliwell is a senior research scientist in the Hydrology and Biogeochemistry Group. She has over 23 years of research experience in catchment science. The key aim of her work is improve knowledge of catchment biogeochemical processes and hydrological cycles affecting the interactions between landscapes, their management and the resulting impacts on water quality and quantity. She is also interested in understanding the future impact of environmental drivers (e.g. climate, land management) on biogeochemical processes, hydrology and hydrochemistry.

Much of Rachel’s work has strongly applied and policy relevant aspects; for example, she has co-ordinated and participated in a number International and national funded projects in support of the EU Water Framework Directive and the UN Sustainable Development Goal 6.

Rachel has communicated the results from her research through engagement with a range of stakeholders to maximise its relevance and impact; co-ordinated the Scenarios Working Group on behalf of the Main Research Providers in Scotland and instigated collaborative research activities between Government/ Academics/ Industrial partners/ Environmental agencies and Practitioners.

Current research interests

Rachel is currently working with the Water Industry Team at the Scottish Government to develop the Hydro Nation International programme, an initiative geared towards the delivery of Sustainable Development Goal 6 (Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all by 2030). She is responsible for projects in India and Malawi and currently coordinates a decentralised waste water treatment project, designed with a local community for a rural school in India.

Rachel is particularly interested in co-designing her research with stakeholder groups to ensure it is relevant, fit for purpose and the translation of scientific information is effectively communicated to regulators, policy makers, industry and the general public. She is currently focusing on the development of new initiatives to build capacity in her area of work and ensure a sustainable legacy of projects beyond the period of funding.

As part of her commitment to the Scottish Government's Strategic Research Programme, Rachel is leading a project on river temperatures in Scotland. The research has shown evidence that Scottish rivers are warming. Increases can be attributed to rising air temperatures in spring, less snow accumulation during winter, and earlier snow melt. A factsheet has been disseminated amongst estate managers, policy makers and regulators, to highlight the root of the problem and demonstrate management options to enhance the resilience of rivers to change. A number of positive actions to keep rivers cools are recommended.


  • Wright, R.F.; Aherne, J.; Bishop, K.; Dillon, P.J.; Erlandsson, M.; Evans, C.D.; Forsius, M.; Hardekopf, D.W.; Helliwell, R.C.; Hruska, J.; Hutchins, M.; Kaste, O.; Kopacek, J.; Kram, P.; Laudon, H.; Moldan, F.; Rogora, M.; Sjoeng, A.M.s.; de Wit, H.A. (2010) Interaction of climate change and acid deposition., In: Kernan, M., Moss, B. & Battarbee, R. W. (eds.). Climate Change Impacts on Freshwater Ecosystems: Direct Effects and Interactions with Other Stresses. Blackwell Publishers, Oxford, Chapter 7, pp152-179.
  • Helliwell, R.C.; Lilly, A.; Bell, J. (2007) Soils of Lochnagar: their development, distribution, properties and influence on surface water chemistry., In: Lochnagar: The Natural History of a Mountain Lake Developments in Paleoenvironmental Research (DPER) (ed. Neil L. Rose). Volume 12, Springer, pp93-120.

  • Helwig, K.; Aderemi, A.; Donnelly, D.; Gibb, S.; Gozdzielewska, L.; Harrower, J.; Helliwell, R.C.; Hunter, C.; Niemi, L.; Pagaling, E.; Price, L.; Roberts, J.; Zhang, Z. (2021) Pharmaceuticals in the water environment: baseline assessment and recommendations., Research Summary Report on CREW Website, 16 February 2021, 3pp.
  • Hare, M.P.; Helliwell, R.C.; Ferrier, R.C. (eds) (2020) Exploring Scotland’s resilience to drought and low flow conditions. Full report., World Water Day, 22 March 2019. CREW and Hydro Nation International Report, 24pp.
  • Hare, M.P.; Helliwell, R.C.; Ferrier, R.C. (eds) (2020) Exploring Scotland’s resilience to drought and low flow conditions, Short report., World Water Day, 22 March 2019. CREW and Hydro Nation International Report.
  • Allan, A.; Helliwell, R.C.; Hutton, C.; Hill, C.; Halliday, S.J.; Lyon, C.; Hornby, D.; Ahuja, S.; Akoumianaki, I.; Gimona, A.; Glendell, M.; Pohle, I.; Spray, C.; Waldock, I. (2019) Ramganga river health, Final report., Report to Scottish Government, 430pp.
  • Helliwell, R.C.; Vinten, A.J.A. (2019) World Water Day 2018 report., World Water Day Conference, Edinburgh, 22 March 2018.
  • Helliwell, R.C.; Pagaling, E. (2018) Stockholm Wise List learning journey - pharmaceutical "waste" and carbon emissions., Contract Report, 22pp.
  • Donnelly, D.; Helliwell, R.C.; Bowes, J.; Hallard, M. (2018) An assessment of the performance of the PLUS+ tool to evaluate WFD compliance in Scottish standing waters., Report for RESAS, 26pp.
  • Helliwell, R.C.; Gibbs, S. (2017) Review the changing demand on water supplies, the impact of abstraction, the resilience and sustainability of ground water in Malawi., Report for the Evaluation of the Malawi Climate Justice Fund Project, 8pp.
  • Helliwell, R.C.; Ferrier, R.C.; Greig, B. (2017) Hydro Nation Commercial Advisory Services - Support structure paper., Report to Scottish Government, 15pp.
  • Helliwell, R.C.; Donnelly, D. (2016) Assessment of the capacity of Loch Shiel to accommodate additional inputs of phosphorus without comprising the current WFD /RAG status, Contract Report on behalf of Marine Harvest.
  • Donnelly, D.; Helliwell, R.C. (2016) Loch Garry draft report., Contract Report, 29 August 2016.
  • Donnelly, D.; Helliwell, R.C. (2016) Loch Ness draft report., Contract Report, 21 September 2016.
  • Jackson-Bake, L; Balana, B.; Dunn, S.M.; Helliwell, R.C.: Martin-Ortega, J.; Perni, A.; Slee, B. (2014) Synthesis of work in the River Dee catchment, UK., Deliverable 7.13 of the EU FP7 REFRESH Project.
  • Sarkki, S.; Grunewald, K.; Alados,C.L.; Nijnik,M.; Ficko, A.; Formanek, P.; Malis, F.; Wielgolaski, F.E.; Laine, K.; Skre, O.; Inkeroinen, J.; Miller, D.R.; Brown, I.; Castellazzi, M.; Munoz-Rojas, J.; Helliwell, R.C. (2014) Questionnaire based investigation of stakeholder needs as linked to ecosystem services, governance, and science in European treeline areas., Report of COST Action ES1203 on Enhancing the Resilience Capacity of SENSitive Mountain FORest Ecosystems under Environmental Change (SENSFOR), 6ECST, Brussels, 64pp.
  • Helliwell, R.C.; Avery, L.; Conniff, A.; MacNay, D.; Gorman, H. (2013) Reducing pollution from forestry related activities in the Gallloway and Eskdalemuir forests: a review of best management practices to reduce diffuse pollution., CREW Report.
  • Balana, B.; Martin-Ortega, J.; Perni, A.; Slee, B.; Helliwell, R.C.; Jackson-Blake, L.; Cooksley, S.L.; Dunn, S.M. (2013) Cost-effectiveness analysis report for the Dee sub-catchment (Scotland) including analysis of disproportionality., REFRESH PROJECT: Adaptive Strategies to Mitigate the Impacts of Climate Change on European Freshwater Ecosystems.
  • Jackson-Blake, L.; Dunn, S.M.; Hershkovitz, Y.; Sample, J.; Helliwell, R.C.; Balana, B. (2013) Biophysical catchment-scale modelling in the River Dee, Scotland, Deliverable 5.3: REFRESH website.
  • Mitchell, R.J.; Beesley, L.; Briggs, R.; Cuthbert, A.; Dawson, J.J.C.; Helliwell, R.C.; Hewison, R.L.; Kerr, C.; Leith, I.D.; Owen, I.J.; Potts, J.M.; Newman, G.; Smith, D.; Shephard, L.J.; Sturgeon, F.; Taylor, A.F.S.; White, D.; Williams, A.; Williams, E.; Black, H.I.J. (2013) Testing soil quality indicators., Report to SEPA.
  • Helliwell, R.C.; Irvine, R.J. (2013) Towards developing a common understanding of scenarios in research and practice in Scotland., Report to staff at MRP and Scottish Government, 28 January 2013.
  • Rowe, E.C.; Jones, L.; Stevens, C.J.; Vieno, M.; Dore, A.J.; Hall, J.; Sutton, M.; Mills, G.; Evans, C.D.; Helliwell, R.C.; Britton, A.J.; Mitchell, R.J.; Caporn, S.J.; Dise, N.B.; Field, C.; Emmett, B.A. (2013) Measures to evaluate benefits to UK semi-natural habitats of reductions in nitrogen deposition., Final Report on REBEND Project. Defra Tender Reference: AQ0823. CEH Project: NEC04307.
  • Helliwell, R.C.; Aherne, J.; MacDougall, G. (2012) Evaluation of the future impact of acid deposition from the proposed Hunterston power station on the status of surface waters in the UK., Final report on behalf of CREW (Centre of Expertise for Waters), Scottish Government, Project No. C203010.
  • Jackson-Blake, L.A.; Dunn, S.M.; Helliwell, R.C. (2012) Strategies to mitigate the impacts of climate change on European freshwater ecosystems. Interim report on the biophysical catchment-scale modelling in the River Dee, Scotland., EU FP7 REFRESH Project. Integrated Biophysical Modelling (WP5) Reporting.
  • Martin-Ortega, J.; Perni, A.; McKee, A.; Helliwell, R.C.; Cooksley, S. (2012) Social and Economic effects of improving water quality in the Loch of Skene and the Leuchar Burn. Sharing local knowledge and views (II)., REFRESH Project: Adaptive strategies to Mitigate the Impacts of Climate Change on European Freshwater Ecosystems. 2nd Dunecht REFRESH Workshop Feedback Leaflet.
  • Martin-Ortega, J.; Perni, A.; McKee, A.; Helliwell, R.C. (2012) Proceedings of the workshop for informing the disproportionality analysis and flagging the wider benefits of improving water quality in the Loch of Skene and Leuchar Burn sub-catchment, UK., REFRESH Project: Adaptive strategies to Mitigate the Impacts of Climate Change on European Freshwater Ecosystems Tasks 6.4 & 6.5 Interim Report.
  • Martin-Ortega, J.; Perni, A.; McKee, A.; Helliwell, R.C. (2012) Social and economic effects of improving water quality in the Loch of Skene and the Leuchar Burn. Sharing local knowledge and views (II)., REFRESH Project: Adaptive strategies to Mitigate the Impacts of Climate Change on European Freshwater Ecosystems. 2nd Dunecht REFRESH Workshop summary.
  • Helliwell, R.C.; Aherne, J.; MacDougall, G.; Broadmeadow, S.; Nisbet, T.R.; Sample, J.; Jackson-Blake, L.; Doughty, R.; Malcolm, I. (2011) Modelling the long-term response of stream water chemistry to atmospheric pollution and forestry practices in Galloway, SW Scotland., Forestry Commission Report.
  • Stutter, M.I.; Baggaley, N.; Barry, C.; Chapman, S.J.; Dawson, J.J.C.; Helliwell, R.C.; Higgins, A.; Howden, N.; Jackson-Blake, L.; Lumsdon, D.G.; Malcolm, I.; Sample, J.; Potts, J.; Worrall, F. (2011) Assessment of the contribution of aquatic carbon fluxes to carbon losses from UK peatlands. Final report, SNIFFER Contract Report ER18, July 2011.
  • Waylen, K.A.; Slee, R.; Helliwell, R.C.; Brown, I.; Morris, S.; Blackstock, K.L. (2011) REFRESH Cross-European Policy Workshop Report., Deliverable 1.13 for the REFRESH Project.
  • Evans, C.; Hall, J.; Rowe, E.; Helliwell, R.C.; Smart, S.; Norris, D.; Cooper, D.; Coull, M.C.; Moldan, F.; Blomgren, H.; MacDougall, G.; Aherne, J.; Oulehle, F.; Cosby, J.; Hutchins, M.; Woods, C.; Lawlor, A.; Jenkins, A. (2010) Critical loads and dynamic modelling umbrella., DRAFT Final Report for the period 2077 - 2010, March 2010.
  • Curtis, C.; Batterbee, R.; Helliwell, R.C.; Flower, R.; Simpson, G.L.; Monteith, D.; Shilland, E.; Aherne, J.; MacDougall, G. (2010) Chapter 9 Recovery Progress: reference conditions and restoration targets., UK Acid Waters Monitoring Network 20 year Interpretative Report, ECRC Research Report 141, pp206-237.

  • Irvine, K.N.; Julius Cesar, A.; Karin, H.; Sebastien, C.; Price, L.; Singleton, J.; Helliwell, R.; Curran, S. (2023) Designing an Acceptable and Feasible Blue-Green Prescribing Programme for Scotland’s Mental Health Service, British Council Workshop on Nature-Based Public Health Interventions, Germany, July 2022
  • Stutter, M.I.; Dunn, S,M.; Dawson, J.J.C.; Vinten, A.J.A.; Helliwell, R.C.; Cooksley, S.; Hough, R.L.; Kenyon, W. (2012) Can our waters meet the challenge of supporting multiple ecosystem services at national to local scales?, Joint SAC/SEPA Biennial Conference in association with Forest Research, The James Hutton Institute and Scottish Natural Heritage "Agriculture and the Environment IX: Valuing Ecosystems: Policy, Economic and Management Interactions", Edinburgh, 3-4 April 2012.
  • Caporn, S.; Field, C.; Nise, N.; Payne, R.; Britton, A.J.; Emmett, B.; Helliwell, R.C.; Hughes, S.; Jones, L.; Lees, S.; Leith, I.; Shepherd, L.; Pheonix, G.; Power, S.; Southon, G.; Stevens, C. (2012) Pollution and climate influences on plant communities across UK peatlands., 14th International Peat Congress, Peatlands in Balance, Stockholm, Sweden, 3-8 June 2012. Extended abstract No 404, 6pp.
  • Dunn, S.M.; Castellazzi, M.; Shahgedanova, M.; Jackson-Blake, L.; Brown, I.; Sample, J.; Helliwell, R.C. (2012) Modelling scenarios of land use and climate change on diffuse pollution from agricultural nitrate., Proceedings of the 11th British Hydrological Society National Symposium, University of Dundee, Dundee, 9-11 July 2012.
  • Jackson-Blake, L.A; Helliwell, R.C.; Posch, M. (2011) Development of long-term N and S deposition scenarios for the demonstration catchments for use in WP5., Deliverable 1.10 for the REFRESH Project.
  • Futter, M.N.; Helliwell, R.C.; Whitehead, P.G.; Aherne, J. (2008) Modelling nitrate dynamics in montane catchments: pitfalls and opportunities., British Hydrological Society Conference Proceedings, Sustainable Hydrology for the 21st Century, University of Exeter, 15-17 September 2008.
  • Helliwell, R.C.; Juggins, S. (2002) Predicting biological and chemical recovery in the Galloway region of SW Scotland., Celtic Water in a European Framework: Pointing the Way to Quality, National University of Ireland, Galway, 8-10 July 2002.
  • Soulsby, C.; Malcolm, R.; Helliwell, R.C.; Ferrier, R.C. (1999) Seasonal hydrology of oxygen-18 in the Allt a' Mharcaidh, Scotland : implications for water movement and residence times., IAHS Publication.
  • Helliwell, R.C.; Ferrier, R.C.; Jenkins, A.; Soulsby, C. (1998) Influence of altitude on bulk and enhancement deposition in the Cairngorm mountains, Scotland., Headwater '98, MERAN, 20-23 April 1998. Headwater Control IV : Hydrology, Water Resources and Ecology in Headwaters, pp209-212.
  • Soulsby, C.; Chen, M.; Helliwell, R.C.; Ferrier, R.C.; Jenkins, A.; Harriman, R. (1997) Groundwater influence on the hydrology and hydrochemistry of upland streams in Scotland., British Hydrological Society, 6th National Hydrology Symposium, University of Salford, 15-18 September, 1997.

  • Alejandre, J.C.; Irvine, K.N.; Chastin, S.; Price, L.; Pfleger, S.; Singleton, J.; Helliwell, R.; Helwig, K. (2022) Investigating the viability of a bluegreen prescribing strategy in the Scottish health system a research protocol, World Water Day 2020, Edinburgh
  • Irvine, K.; Alejandre, J.C. ; Chastin, S.; Price, L.; Pfleger, S.; Curran, S.; Singleton, J.; Helliwell, R.; Helwig, K. (2022) Prescribing blue space interventions in health and social care settings: A systematic review using realist synthesis,
  • Alejandre, J.C.; Chastin, S.; Irvine, K.N.; Georgiou, M.; Khanna, P.; Tieges, Z.; Smith, N.; Chong, Y-Y.; Onagan, F.C.; Price, L.; Pfleger, S.; Helliwell, R.; Singleton, J.; Estandarte, A.; Smith, E.S.; Curran, S.; Helwig, K. (2022) Investigating the contextual factors and mechanisms associated with implementing Blue Prescription Programmes in health and social care settings: a systematic review using realist synthesis, The Lancet Planetary Health, 6, S9
  • Alejandre, J.C.; Irvine, K.N.; Chastin, S.; Price, L.; Pfleger, S.; Singleton, J.; Helliwell, R.; Helwig, K. (2021) Investigating the viability of a blue green prescribing strategy in the Scottish health system research protocol, World Water Day Conference 2020
  • Adams, K.; Metzger, M.; Helliwell, R.; Pohle, I.; Macleod, C.J.E. (2021) Understanding knowledge needs for Scotland to become a resilient Hydro Nation., World Water Day Conference, 22nd March 2021.
  • Glendell, M.; Helliwell, R.C.; Hutton, C.; Gimona, A.; Akoumianaki, I.; Halliday, S.; Allan, A. (2019) Modelling the risk of water pollution impacts on ecosystem services in the Ramganga Basin, India., 6th Biennial Symposium of the International Society for River Science, Riverine Landscapes as Coupled Socio-Ecological Systems, Vienna, Austria, 8-13 September 2019. Book of Abstracts, Session SP07, p301.
  • Donnelly, D.; Helliwell, R.; May, L.; McCreadie, B. (2019) An assessment of the performance of the PLUS+ in suppporting the evaluation of Water Framework Directive (WFD) compliance in Scottish standing waters., Scottish Alliance for Geoscience, Environment and Society (SAGES) Conference, Global Climate Challenges for a Blue Green Economy, John McIntyre Conference Centre, 27-28 November 2019. Book of Abstracts, p25. (Poster)
  • Helliwell, R.C.; Glendell, M.; Zhang, Z.; Dodd, N.; Beier, S.; Ferrier, R.C.; Stutter, M.I. (2019) Working at the science-policy interface: Lessons from CREW on emerging issues and innovative approaches to monitoring and management in Scotland., India UK Water Centre Workshop, Science and Innovation for Catchment Management, University of Warwick, Coventry, 8-10 May 2019.
  • Troldborg, M.; Buvaneshwari, S.; Nowak, W.; Ruiz, L.; Helliwell, R.C.; Ferrier, R.C.; Sekhar, M. (2019) Stochastic inverse modelling of groundwater flow and nitrate pollution in the Berambadi catchment., EGU General Assembly 2019, Vienna, Austria, 7-12 April 2019. Geophysical Research Abstracts, 21, EGU2019-16477.
  • Pohle, I.; Helliwell, R.C.; Aube, C.; Spezia, L.; Gibbs, S.; Spencer, M. (2018) Assessment of long-term changes in hydrology and river temperature to inform mitigation measures to enhance resilience of river systems., IUKWC Workshop: Advancing Drought Monitoring, Prediction, and Management Capabilities, Lancaster, 18-20 September 2018. (Poster)
  • Pohle, I.; Helliwell, R.C.; Aube, C.; Spezia, L., Gibbs, S.; Spencer, M. (2018) Citizen science evidence from the past century shows that Scottish rivers are warming., Climate Week 2018, Victoria Quay, Edinburgh, 1-5 October 2018. (Poster)
  • Pohle, I.; Helliwell, R.C.; Aube, C.; Spezia, L.; Gibbs, S.; Spencer, M. (2018) Can citizen science, conventional monitoring and inferred data be used to investigate the impact of hydrology on river temperatures in a rural catchment in Scotland?, European Geosciences Union General Assembly 2018 (EGU 2018), Vienna, Austria, 8-13 April 2018. EGU2018-14732. (Poster).
  • Pohle, I.; Glendell, M.; Stutter, M.I.; Helliwell, R.C. (2017) An approach to predict water quality in data-sparse catchments using hydrological catchment similarity., European Geosciences Union General Assembly 2017 (EGU 2017), Vienna, Austria, 23-28 April 2017. EGU2017-9837 (Poster).
  • Helliwell, R.C.; Donnelly, D.; Bowes, J.; Jackson-Blake, L.; Sample, J.; Hallard, M. (2017) A preliminary assessment of the performance of the PLUS+ (Phosphorus Land Use and Slope) model to evaluate WFD compliance in Scottish standing waters., LuWQ 2017, International Interdisciplinary Conference on Land use and Water Quality, Effect of Agriculture on the Environment, The Hague, The Netherlands, 29 May - 1 June 2017. Abstract No. 164.
  • Adams, J.; Tipping, E.; Bryant, C.; Helliwell, R.C.; Toberman, H.; Quinton, J. (2016) Aged riverine particulate organic carbon in four UK catchments., Geophysical Research Abstracts, 18, EGU2016-4590-1.
  • Helliwell, R.C.; Tipping, E.; Davies, J.; Naden, P.; Bell, V.; Dragosits, U.; Dore, A; Sutton, M.; Whitmore, A.; Muhammed, S.; Boyle, J.; Quinton, J.; Stuart, M.; Rose, N.; Ullah, S. ; Smart, S.; Rowe, E.; Jarvis S.; Chaplow, J.; Jackson-Blake, L. (2016) Oxford - Futures., Final NERC Macronutrient Cycling Programme Event.
  • Posch, M.; Aherne, J.; Moldan, F.; Evans, C.DM.; Forsius, M.; Larssen, T.; Helliwell, R.C.; Cosby, B.J. (2015) Dynamic modeling and target loads of sulfur and nitrogen for surface waters in Finland, Norway, Sweden and the United Kingdom., Proceedings of Acid Rain 2015: 9th International Conference on Acid Deposition, Successes Achieved and Challenges Ahead, Rochester, New York, 19-23 October 2015. Poster Session, No. 26, p310.
  • Jackson-Blake, L.; Helliwell, R.C.; Wade, A.; Skeffington, R. (2015) A model evaluation checklist for process-based environmental models., EGU General Assembly, Vienna, Austria, 12-17 April 2015.
  • Jackson-Blake, L.; Helliwell, R.C. (2015) How does higher frequency monitoring data affect the calibration of a process-based water quality model?, EGU General Assembly, Vienna, Austria, 12-17 April 2015.
  • Martin-Ortega, J.; Balana, B.; Cooksley, S.; Dunn, S.M.; Helliwell, R.C.; Jackson-Blake, L.; McKee, A.; Perni, A.; Slee, B. (2014) A transdisciplinary approach to the economic analysis of the water framework directive., Well-being and Equity within Planetary Boundaries. Biannual Conference of the International Society for Ecological Economics, University of Iceland, 13-15 August 2014.

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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.