• Auchincruive Estate, SAC Consulting, JF Niven Building

    KA6 5HW Ayr

    United Kingdom

1992 …2022

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Personal profile

Personal profile

After completing my PhD on the feeding ecology of the red-billed chough in 1990, I first worked on an investigation into the relationships between moorland vegetation and upland invertebrates at the University of Newcastle. 

I then moved to the Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC) where I helped highlight the nature conservation importance of High Nature Value (HNV) farming systems throughout Europe.

I joined SRUC in 1995 and input to a wide variety of national and international projects which aim not only to assess the relationships between farming systems and farmland biodiversity but to also highlight the likely implications of agri-environment and wider Common Agricultural Policy reform.

I took on the role of Head of SRUC’s Hill & Mountain Research Centre in 2013. Much of the Centre’s research is focused around SRUC’s Kirkton & Auchtertyre Research farms, near Crianlarich, which we are developing to be a platform for agricultural, environmental and agro-forestry research and demonstration.

I took on the role of Head of the Department of Integrated Land Management in SRUC’s South & West Faculty in 2019. This Department brings together research, education and consultancy expertise with an aspiration of ensuring that land-based sector students – irrespective of the primary focus of their qualification – will obtain a much better understanding of the constraints and opportunities facing other land use sectors.

At a wider European level, I am involved in a range of research and demonstration projects investigating the economic, social and environmental resilience of upland livestock systems and seeking to understand the trade-offs associated with changes to those systems.

Research interests

I study farming and wildlife interactions and have been working on agricultural and agri-environmental policy at a national and international level for 30 years. I was one of the founders of the High Nature Value farming concept and much of my research over the years has been into the challenges and opportunities facing High Nature Value farming systems across Europe.

I have been Head of SRUC’s Hill & Mountain Research Centre since 2013 and Head of SRUC’s wider Integrated Land Management Department since 2019. The Centre provides a platform for upland agricultural, environmental and – increasingly – agro-forestry research and demonstration.

In addition to managing the Centre and wider Department, I manage or provide input to a range of national and international research, consultancy and knowledge exchange projects requiring farmland biodiversity expertise. I also supervise a number of PhD students and provide agricultural ecology input to undergraduate and postgraduate courses.



  • BBSRC Food Systems Resilience 2 (2017-2021).  The role of livestock in food system resilience in remote, upland regions (RESULTS).
  • Defra (2017-2020) Animal future: steering animal production systems towards a sustainable future
  • Scottish Government Strategic Research Programme (2016-2021). Assessing the supply and flow of ecosystem services and biodiversity from semi-natural habitats in upland areas under different management
  • Scottish Government Strategic Research Programme (2016-2021). Assessing the overall sustainability of alternative upland sheep systems.
  • Scottish Government (2016-2017). Meeting the challenge of wild deer research to support sustainable management of wild deer in Scotland.


I am currently primary or co supervisor for the following PhD projects:

  • 2019-2023. Causes of lamb losses on Highland farms and crofts. PhD funded jointly by SRUC and Scottish Natural Heritage and registered at the University of Edinburgh’s Vet School and involves close collaboration between SRUC, The Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies, NatureScot and SAC Veterinary Services
  • 2020-2024. Use of large domestic herbivores for biodiversity and ecosystem management in Mediterranean systems. PhD funded by the Portuguese FCT (Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia) to the Instituto Superior Técnico, University of Lisbon and involving supervisors from the Instituto Superior Técnico, Terraprima Ambiental and SRUC.
  • 2017-2021. Quantitative assessment of supplementary feeding as an adaptive conservation management strategy for red-billed choughs. PhD funded by a NERC Case PhD Studentship to the School of Biological Science at Aberdeen University and involving supervisors from Aberdeen University, University of Glasgow, SRUC, SNH and the Scottish Chough Study Group.

I have been principal or co supervisor for an additional 9 PhD projects since 2000 and have been external examiner for 15 national or international PhD projects since 2005.

Education/Academic qualification

PhD, Factors affecting the availability of invertebrate food for the chough, Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax L , University of Glasgow



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