1997 …2024

Research activity per year

Personal profile


Dr John Holland is an upland ecologist based at the SRUC Hill and Mountain Research Centre at Kirkton and Auchtertyre Farms, near Crianlarich in Perthshire.  He has always had an interest in ecology and natural history, particularly in mountain environments.  He went to Durham University where he gained a BSc (Honours) degree in Botany and Geography in 1989.  He then worked for a number of conservation and environmental organisations including English Nature and ADAS, before joining SAC (the former name of SRUC) in 1994.  He studied for his PhD on ‘Plant herbivore interactions within a complex mosaic of grassland, mire and montane communities’ at SAC and Glasgow University.

He is an active bird and plant recorder.  He is also a trustee of the Farm Woodland Forum (a charity whose objective is to advance public education in all aspects of the science and practice of farming with trees in the UK and elsewhere). 

Research interests

I am an upland ecologist based at the SRUC Hill & Mountain Research Centre. My main research interests are:

  • The impact of grazing on vegetation composition and structure.
  • The impact on biodiversity of declining livestock numbers in the hills and uplands.
  • Upland land-use management scenarios and their impacts on biodiversity and greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Grazing management on upland designated sites.
  • Ecosystem services in the hills and uplands.
  • The grazing behaviour of sheep and cattle on upland vegetation.
  • Sensor technology and Low Power Wide Area Networks.
  • Agroforestry and farm woodlands.


PhD student (2013-2017) “Carbon and nitrogen cycling in Scottish upland grassland soils and the influence of excretal returns”. University of Edinburgh and SRUC.


Guest lecturer for several undergraduate and postgraduate courses (Countryside Management, Wildlife and Conservation Management, Environmental Management, Ecological Surveying, Environmental Protection and Management, Agriculture) giving lectures at the Riverside and Edinburgh campuses, online and to visiting students to the Hill & Mountain Research Centre.

Previous employer

1992-1994 - Research Officer, ADAS, Resource Planning Team, Leeds

1991-1992 - Scientific Officer (Phase 1 habitat mapping team), English Nature, Preston, Lancashire

1991-1991 - Assistant Scientific Officer, ITE, Biological Records Centre, Monks Wood, Cambridgeshire

1990-1990 - Peatland Vegetation Surveyor, Lincolnshire and South Humberside Trust for Nature Conservation



  • 2021 - ClimateXChange. The potential for an agroecological approach in Scotland.
  • 2017-2021 - BBSRC. Livestock's role in food system resilience in remote, upland regions (ResULTS).
  • 2016-2021 - Scottish Government Strategic Research Programme. Research projects within Work Packages 2.3 Agricultural Systems and Land Management (RD 2.3.6; RD 2.3.8; RD 2.3.11) and 1.3 Biodiversity and Ecosystems (RD 1.3.2).

Previous (selected):

  • 2020-2021 - ClimateXChange. Evidence Review - Understanding the potential for carbon sequestration in upland habitats.
  • 2020 – SEFARI. SEFARI Virtual Farm Tours.
  • 2017-2020 - ERA-NET SusAn. Steering animal production systems towards a sustainable future (AnimalFuture).
  • 2016 - Scottish Government. Meeting the challenge of wild deer research to support delivery of sustainable deer management in Scotland.
  • 2011 - Scottish Natural Heritage. An Analysis of the Impact on the Natural Heritage of the Decline in Hill Farming in Scotland.
  • 2010 - Scottish Natural Heritage. Developing guidance for managing extensive upland grazing where habitats have differing requirements.

Education/Academic qualification

PhD, Plant herbivore interactions within a complex mosaic of grassland, mire and montane communities, University of Glasgow

Award Date: 10 Jul 2001


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