Dr Catriona Willoughby


At the University of Leeds, I work on two international projects which aim to build the evidence base for how best to manage agricultural soils: NOVASOIL is Horizons funded and I have led in the implementation of a systematic review of soil health improving technologies and practices and associated acceptance rates, developing recommendations to overcome societal and economic barriers to adoption. Furthermore, I have contributed to future soil carbon research roadmaps in the Bestmap project, which is H2020 funded and seeks to accurately map and predict soil carbon dynamics. 

I completed my PhD in farming systems management that was a collaboration between, SRUC, NIAB, and the University of Aberdeen. During this time I conducted work developing the tools for sustainable agriculture through assigning nutritive value to yields, carrying out nutrient budgeting of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium, assessing the links between soil health indicators and yield and investigating the quantification of SOM accumulation and losses due to farm management practices. During this time I utilised long-term field experiments and was additionally able to develop and utilise networks of farmers on commercial feilds. I have spoken at several international conferences regarding farming systems management, including the European Society of Agronomy 2022 Congress in Potsdam, the World Congress of Soil Science 2022 in Glasgow, and COP26.

Work conducted during my undergraduate and master’s degrees has included surveying illicit whisky stills in the Cairgorms National Park and assessing the soil biological community of contaminated spoil heaps undergoing phytoremediation. I have travelled extensively to study soils and farming systems in diverse landscapes, from Morocco to Alaska.

Research interests

My research interests fall in the area of sustainable landscape management, with a particular focus on the ongoing health and function of agricultural soils. This encapsulates many interactions across a range of scales, from plots to fields to whole farming systems. I am particularly interested in:

  • The future of soil carbon management across multiple scales
  • Finding novel and innovative land management practices, and their soil health implications
  • Remediation and management of soil pollution
  • Understanding soil in the context of social and economic networks

I have worked across multiple fields in environmental sciences, geography and soil science in my career and strive to bring a holistic understanding to all of the work which I do.

<h4>Research projects</h4> <p>Any research projects I'm currently working on will be listed below. Our list of all <a href="https://environment.leeds.ac.uk/dir/research-projects">research projects</a> allows you to view and search the full list of projects in the faculty.</p>


  • BSc (Hons) Environmental Geography, University of Stirling
  • MSc Soils and Sustainability, University of Edinburgh
  • PhD Plant and Soil Science, University of Aberdeen

Professional memberships

  • British Society of Soil Science
  • Association of Applied Biologists