Rachael Osguthorpe

Rachael Osguthorpe


Project Background

There are a growing number of organic sheep farms in upland areas, but it is not known whether this sheep farming method has any impact on key soil functions, and therefore on ecosystem service provision.  There is potential for soil physical and chemical properties to vary between organically and conventionally managed sheep farming systems, due to differences in factors such as grazing intensity, fertiliser application and the use of veterinary treatments, which in turn can impact soil hydrological function, nutrient cycling and soil fauna communities. 

It is therefore the aim of this project to improve our understanding of the role of upland sheep grazing management in maintaining and enhancing the key soil functions of UK organo-mineral soils in upland areas, with a focus on physical and chemical properties, hydrological function and earthworm communities.  Findings could potentially deliver benefits upstream and downstream in flood and drought resilience and good water quality.  This knowledge can then be used by Natural England and other organisations to determine ways that enable grazing management in these communities to continue and thrive while at the same time reducing dependence on, for example, energy-costly manufactured fertilizers and veterinary treatments, whilst protecting valuable soil functions.

The approach is both fieldwork based and experimental, involving laboratory analysis of samples collected from organic and conventional upland sheep grazed farms in the North of England, and manipulation experiments in the laboratory to investigate the mechanisms behind any differences in soil properties between the two management systems.


NERC DTP CASE studentship with Natural England


  • 2013-2017 MEnvSci Environmental Science, University of Sheffield
  • 2016-2017 Research Assistant (placement), Department of Geography, University of Sheffield
  • 2016: University of Sheffield Alice Garnett Prize for best performance in 3rd year dissertation
  • 2017: University of Sheffield Alice Garnett Prize for best performance in masters thesis

Research groups and institutes

  • water@leeds
  • River Basin Processes and Management