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Willie Towers

Staff picture: Willie Towers
Environmental and Biochemical Sciences
Environmental and Biochemical Sciences
Honorary Research Associate
+44 (0)344 928 5428 (*)

The James Hutton Institute
Aberdeen AB15 8QH
Scotland UK


Willie is a soil scientist who has made a significant contribution to the Scottish soil map coverage and the Institute soils database, both of which are recognised as two of the Institute's key corporate assets. Willie has over 200 published outputs covering peer reviewed papers, conference papers and abstracts, consultancy reports and a range of knowledge exchange and awareness raising tools. He advises and works closely with policy colleagues in the Scottish Government on diverse issues such as CAP reform, LFA redefinition and delineation and soil policy and has contributed to enquiries (written and verbal) at the House of Lords and the Scottish Parliament in this capacity. He was lead author of 'Scotland's Soil Resource - Current State and Threats' in 2006 for the Scottish Government and which has proved to be a seminal work in the development of the Scottish Soil Framework (Scottish Government 2009); Willie undertook a short term secondment to the Scottish Government to advise on, and contribute to its development. With others, he has developed a range of novel mechanisms to raise awareness of the role and value of soils to society and chairs a Europe wide group, financed by the JRC in Italy, to develop European initiatives on soil education and awareness.

Current research interests

Willie's research interests are primarily related to the role of soils in environmental and ecological research. He has developed and applied a number of modelling approaches to assess a range of diverse land use options, including the potential for native woodlands, land suitability for sewage sludge recycling and for new housing and other built development. Process based information has also been incorporated into parametric rule-based models, for example examining the behaviour of heavy metals in soils. His current interests focus on developing the concept of soil multifunctionality within landscapes, exploring methods of examining trade-offs between them and seeking to explicitly identify the role of soils in the delivery of ecosystem services. Willie also contributes to new interdisciplinary research areas in the Institute including risk assessment and soil valuation in its widest sense. Much of his work capitalises on his in-depth understanding of the data sources used to characterise soils and their functions.


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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.