1995 …2021

Research activity per year

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Personal profile

Biography

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.

Teaching

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. 

Supervision

SUPERVISED POSTGRADUATE STUDENTS:

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)

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