Personal profile


Nicola has been working with SRUC for over 25 years. She initially joined as a Research Assistant in the Poultry Department and after 2 years moved to the Hill and Mountain Research Centre at Kirkton as a sheep technician, then researcher.

Nicola’s research focuses on sheep genetics. She is passionate about breeding sheep to fit different production systems – looking at traditional production and reproductive characteristics, as well as new traits that will help to keep sheep production economically and environmentally sustainable.

Research interests

I have been working for 24 years at SAC/SRUC on sheep breeding research projects. Since 1997, I have been closely involved with the work of the CT unit, undertaking a PhD based on CT scanning of breeding hill ewes to assess seasonal tissue changes. The sheep genetic projects that I have been involved in have mainly been associated with breeding for improvements in carcass and meat quality, alongside traditional production and reproductive traits, and have considered both hill and terminal sire breeds. These projects have also involved evaluation of several techniques for measuring carcass and meat quality in live animals and carcasses, including ultrasound, CT, video image analysis and several mechanical, chemical and sensory meat quality tests. I have also been involved in similar projects with beef cattle and pigs.

More recently my research has been concerned with understanding and selecting for new traits in sheep, such as greenhouse gas emissions, disease resistance and feed efficiency. I manage the SRUC CT unit, which has been operating since 1997 and since 2016 has used a new mobile CT scanner. I also manage the sheep feed intake monitoring equipment owned by SRUC and have led preliminary trails with this equipment, since commissioning in early 2018.


I teach on SRUC degree courses, mainly to 3rd year students on Growth and Development, and Breeding and Genetics. I also supervise at least one honours project each year. 



Amer Masri (co-supervisor) – Muscling QTL in sheep (completed 2013)

Claire Donaldson (co-supervisor) – Sheep spine characteristics measured by CT (completed Jun 2014)

Neil Clelland (main supervisor) – Use of CT to predict lamb meat quality (completed Dec 2015)

Ping Zhou (co-supervisor) - Investigation of reproductive and health factors influencing breeding ewe fertility in hill flocks (completed 2020)

Holly Nisbet (co-supervisor) - Improving the efficiency of beef production through the use of precision farming technology and machine Learning Techniques (started 2020)

Kim Hay (co-supervisor) - Genetics of lamb survivial (started 2021)


Current projects (2021)

  • 2019 – 2023 ICT-AGRI call : ‘On novel technologies, solutions and systems to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in animal production systems’ (Defra-funded)     “Grass To Gas: Strategies to mitigate GHG emissions from pasture-based sheep systems” (with INRAE France; AgResearch NZ; Teagasc Ireland; NMBU Norway; INIA Uruguay; Sheep Ireland), €1.2M
  • 2021-2022 Bulgarian Ministry of Agriculture “GREENANIMO: Strengthening research and innovation capacity for grazing livestock meat production in Bulgaria through advanced knowledge transfer” (with Trakia University, Bulgaria; INRAE, France), £60.4K
  • 2018-2022 EU H2020 (ID 772787) SMARTER: Small Ruminant Breeding  for Efficiency and Resilience (with 27 organisations), €7M
  • 2020 – 2024 EU H2020 (Innovative Action No. 862050) “TechCare: Integrating innovative technologies along the value chain to improve small ruminant welfare management” (with 18 other partners from 9 countries), €5.7M
  • 2021- 2023 EU H2020 (Thematic Network No. 101000471) “Sm@RT: Small Ruminant Technologies” (with 10 other partners from 8 countries), €2M
  • 2020 – 2023 EU H2020 (Thematic Network No. 863056) “EuroSheep: European network for interactive and innovative knowledge exchange on animal health and nutrition” (with 11 partners from 8 countries), €2M


Previous projects (5 years prior to 2021)

  • 2019 – 2021 Scottish Government (KTIF) “Beef Marbling in a High Value Supply Chain” (with SAOS; PRDuff), £49K
  • 2017 – 2020 BBSRC/Innovate UK (Agritech) (BB M02833X/1; IUK: 102646) “Carcass trait phenotype feedback for genomic selection in sheep” (with Texel Sheep Society; Anglo Beef Producers) £1.54M
  • 2018-2019 Defra (SCF0213) UK Sheep Genetic Improvement scoping study (with AHDB, NSA, AbacusBio, CIEL), £50K
  • 2017-2020 ERA-Net Susan (funded by Defra) “SusSheP: Sustainable Sheep Production” (with University of Limerick, Teagasc, NSG, University of Oslo, INRAe), €800K
  • 2014-2019 Innovate UK (TSB, Agri-tech IUK: 101917; TS/M000225X/1) “Solutions for sustainable lamb production and breeding for more taste and less waste to increase food security in the UK and beyond” (with Wm. Morrisons; Texel Sheep Society; Anglo Beef Producers) £1,47M
  • 2012-2017 Innovate UK (TSB IUK: 101085; TS/J003115/1) “Gene pool fishing by out-crossing and back-crossing cycles in one Terminal Sire Sheep Breed (Blueprint for Terminal Sire Breeding in the UK and beyond)” (with Meatlinc), £322K

Education/Academic qualification

PhD, An investigation of tissue mobilisation in Scottish Blackface ewes using X-ray computer tomography, University of Edinburgh


Award Date: 1 Jan 2005

Master, Animal Breeding, University of Edinburgh


Award Date: 1 Jul 1999

Bachelor, Environmental Biology, University of St Andrews


Award Date: 1 Jul 1994


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