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Prof Davy McCracken

Head of Department of Integrated Land Management and Head of Hill & Mountain Research Centre

Hill & Mountain Research Centre

Research interests

After completing my PhD on the feeding ecology of the red-billed chough in 1990, I first worked on an investigation into the relationships between moorland vegetation and upland invertebrates at the University of Newcastle. 

I then moved to the Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC) where I helped highlight the nature conservation importance of High Nature Value (HNV) farming systems throughout Europe.

I joined SRUC in 1995 and input to a wide variety of national and international projects which aim not only to assess the relationships between farming systems and farmland biodiversity but to also highlight the likely implications of agri-environment and wider Common Agricultural Policy reform.

I took on the role of Head of SRUC’s Hill & Mountain Research Centre in 2013. Much of the Centre’s research is focused around SRUC’s Kirkton & Auchtertyre Research farms, near Crianlarich, which we are developing to be a platform for agricultural, environmental and agro-forestry research and demonstration.

I took on the role of Head of the Department of Integrated Land Management in SRUC’s South & West Faculty in 2019. This Department brings together research, education and consultancy expertise with an aspiration of ensuring that land-based sector students – irrespective of the primary focus of their qualification – will obtain a much better understanding of the constraints and opportunities facing other land use sectors.

At a wider European level, I am involved in a range of research and demonstration projects investigating the economic, social and environmental resilience of upland livestock systems and seeking to understand the trade-offs associated with changes to those systems.


Selected research projects

  • Assessing the supply and flow of ecosystem services and biodiversity from semi-natural habitats in upland areas under different management
    This project is comparing and contrasting intended and unintended consequences associated with livestock grazing versus rewilding of typical highland glens in Scotland.
  • Assessing the overall sustainability of alternative upland sheep system in terms of production, economic, animal health & welfare and wider environmental impacts
    This research is investigating differences in sheep production, health, welfare and environmental impacts in two contrasting upland management systems in Scotland.
  • Livestock's role in food system resilience in remote, upland regions
    This research is investigating the economic, social and environmental resilience of upland sheep and beef systems in four regions across Scotland and the north of England.
  • Animal Future: Steering animal production systems towards sustainable future
    This research is designing strategies for assessing and enhancing the sustainability of livestock production systems across Europe.

PhD students

  • Sarah Fenn
    This PhD is investigating how an emergency supplementary feeding programme on the island of Islay has impacted on survival rates of young red-billed chough. It is funded jointly by NERC and Scottish Natural Heritage. It is registered at the University of Aberdeen and conducted in association with the Scottish Chough Study Group, University of Glasgow and SRUC.
  • Fiona McAuliffe
    This PhD is investigating causes of lamb loss on Highland farms and crofts within and outwith white-tailed sea-eagle home ranges. It  is funded jointly by SRUC and Scottish Natural Heritage. It is registered at the University of Edinburgh’s Vet School and involves close collaboration between SRUC, The Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies and SAC Veterinary Services. The SNH funding is associated with The National Sea Eagle Stakeholder Group’s Action Plan for 2017-20

Selected publications

See all of Prof Davy McCracken's publications here.

Prof Davy McCracken

Head of SRUC Hill & Mountain Research Centre (HMRC) / Professor of Agricultural Ecology

Address: Future Farming Systems, SRUC, JF Niven Building, Ayr KA6 5HW (HMRC, Kirkton, Crianlarich, Perthshire, FK20 8RU)

Telephone: 01292 525 299

Fax: Mobile: 07712 001267