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Project Leaders

Dr Niall McNamara – Centre for Ecology & Hydrology

Consortium Leader and WP2 Leader

Niall is a Senior Scientist at CEH Lancaster, UK, and leads the Plant-Soil Interactions group. He has over 15 years research experience in ecosystem biogeochemistry, soil-atmosphere greenhouse gas exchanges (CO2, CH4 and N2O) and soil microbial diversity and function. His experience includes the use of 13C stable isotopes, molecular biomarkers (PLFA), and the measurement of greenhouse gas fluxes in a range of ecosystems. His research covers both natural (Swedish boreal forests, Peruvian altitudinal gradients, European peatlands) and managed UK agro-ecosystems (forest, grassland, bioenergy crops). Data generated from Niall’s studies are derived from both ecosystem surveys (greenhouse gas budgets, soil carbon stocks) through to more mechanistic process orientated laboratory / plot-scale manipulative experiments (hydrology, drought, nutrients, warming). Since 2008 a major focus of his research has been on the sustainability of bioenergy crop systems with respect to soil carbon stock conservation.

Jonathan Oxley – Project Manager

Jonathan is a chemist by training, with an interest in sustainability and the bioenergy sector.  He is currently on secondment from BP, where he has worked in a variety of technical, team leader and project management roles across BP’s principal research centres in the UK and France.  Latterly these roles have included leading multi-disciplinary teams on biofuel and syngas conversion related projects on a scale ranging from small laboratory-based equipment through to multi-million dollar demonstration units.  He has significant experience in working with dispersed teams and those which include a range of third-parties and stakeholders.

Dr Jon Finch – Lead Investigator & WP3 Leader

Jon is a senior scientist at the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, Wallingford.  His skills in geophysics and hydrogeology have been applied in many countries across the world in this role, and have expanded to include aspects of remote sensing and GIS during his time at CEH.  More recently, he has taken an interest in land surface/atmospheric interactions and how they vary in the landscape, with an emphasis on groundwater recharge.  He is currently concerned with understanding and predicting the water, energy and carbon balances of the land surface with an emphasis on how these processes vary in time and space in the landscape. Jon is leading Work Package 3, coordinating the Eddy Covariance and soil chamber GHG measurements across the 6 ELUM field sites.

Professor Pete Smith -Lead Investigator & WP4 Leader

Pete joined Aberdeen in 2001 after working within what was MAFF and Rothamsted Research.  He became Professor of Soils and Global Change in 2005.  His main areas of expertise are in modelling greenhouse gas / carbon mitigation, bio-energy for fossil fuel offsets, and biological carbon sequestration. He is co-leader with Dr Jo Smith of the Environmental Modelling Group, and is Science Director of Scotland's Climate Change Centre of Expertise. Pete is a Royal Society-Wolfson Research Merit Award holder (2008-2013), Royal Society Research Fellow (2008-2013), Fellow of the Society of Biology (FSB; elected 2008), Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh (FRSE; elected 2009), and a Rothamsted Research Fellow (2010-2013). Pete leads the Work Package 4 modelling effort, where Land-Use Change data arising from the literature work (WP1) and the field experimentation (WP2 & WP3) are combined to provide a predictive meta-model for bioenergy crops in the UK.

Professor Gail Taylor – Lead Investigator & WP1 Leader

Gail is Professor of Plant Biology at the University of Southampton, and has a long-standing interest in the use of woody plants as sources of renewable energy.  Gail’s team activities also span plant genetics, and include the development of molecular breeding tools, understanding the genetic basis of yield and the links between genes, the environment and long-term adaptation to climate change.  The team is also actively studying the complete life cycle analysis (LCA) for bioenergy chains and in the environmental impact of these largely unexplored crops. Gail is leading Work Package 1, where the Southampton team are evaluating published information for Bioenergy-related Land-Use Change through a unique review and meta-analysis of the existing literature.  The WP1 activities also include a review of the often less-well studied ecosystem services associated with bioenergy crops.

Dr Mike Perks - Lead Investigator, WP3

Mike joined Forest Research in 2001 and has worked for 20 years on tree responses to climate.  Mike is a project leader in the Managing forest carbon and greenhouse gas balances. This research providing the scientific evidence base on UK forest carbon stocks, improving our understanding of forest carbon and GHG balances, assessing how they will be affected by climate change, and recommending appropriate management and policy for the UK forestry sector, including new woodland creation for climate mitigation. Mike applies understanding of tree ecophysiology and forest management practice in the assessment of forest operational impacts and afforestation benefits. Mike has a BSc from LiverpoolJMU, a research MSc and PhD from the University of Edinburgh and has been an Honorary Fellow of the School of Geosciences since 2006.

Professor Iain Donnison - Lead Investigator, WP3

Iain is leader of Bio-renewables & Environmental Change Research Division at the Institute of Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences (IBERS) at Aberystwyth University.  His research interests span the molecular genetics and genome organisation of temperate and tropical grasses, including the study of bioenergy and forage associated quality traits in Miscanthus, Lolium and related species. The main target traits for bioenergy crops are increased yield, conversion efficiency and sustainability. Research tools that have or are being developed include bacterial artificial chromosome (BAC) libraries, genetic, trait and physical maps, the establishment of forward mutation populations, the exploitation of syntenic relationships to associate genotype to phenotype, and the development of high throughput virtual phenotyping methods including the use of infrared spectroscopy for cell wall chemistry.

Kerrie Farrar – Lead Investigator, WP3

Dr Kerrie Farrar is Leader of the Energy Crop Biology research group at IBERS, Aberystwyth University. Within the ELUM consortium Kerrie supervises Alice Massey, whose PhD aims to determine the extent of variation in carbon sequestration potential among diverse Miscanthus genotypes.
Kerrie has been working on energy crop genomics since 2004. Work within her lab focuses on plant developmental biology & genomics, perennial grasses as energy crops, and bacterial endophytes, with the overall aim of increasing Miscanthus yields in order to replace fossil fuel usage, sequester atmospheric carbon, and ultimately contribute to climate change mitigation. She is involved in several large scale research collaborations in the UK and Europe spanning energy crop developmental biology & genomics and plant-soil-microbe interactions.

Dr Saran Sohi – Lead Investigator, WP2

Saran holds a Lectureship in soil science and biochar. His research background is in the elucidation of soil organic matter dynamics, linking measurements (based on physical fractionation) to models (pool-based simulation). Black carbon was another aspect on his post-doctoral work at Rothamsted Research, and on appointment to University of Edinburgh, he co-established the UK Biochar Research Centre (, a multi-disciplinary initiative that evaluates biochar as a carbon storage technology with ancillary benefits to soil. In the ELUM project, Saran is applying his experience of soil fractionation techniques to understand process-level effects of a transition to bioenergy crops, though links with modelling work in Aberdeen.

Professor Phil Ineson – Lead Investigator, WP3

Phil holds the Chair in Global Change Ecology at the University of York. He is an expert on soil biogeochemistry, with a strong research background relating to the relationships between climate and soil carbon stores, the role of soils in producing 'greenhouse gases' and the potential impacts of future atmospheric CO2 levels on soil processes. Stable isotopes are an important tool in Prof Ineson's studies and are currently being used by his group to study biogeochemical cycles and trophic interactions in soils. He has authored/co-authored more than 120 scientific papers and edited 3 books. Over the years, he has been a member of numerous scientific Committees, including evaluations for European Union, NERC RGTAC Terrestrial Life Sciences, Finnish Academy of Sciences, Royal Society, etc.

This project was commissioned and funded by the Energy Technologies Institute

energy technologies institute

The ELUM Consortium is led by the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (CEH) and includes the following organisations:

  • Centre for Ecology & Hydrology
  • University of Aberdeen
  • University of Southampton
  • Forest Research
  • Aberystwith University
  • University of Edinburgh
  • The University of York