Coronavirus (COVID-19) update

For latest Covid-19 information click on the link below.

Coronavirus (COVID-19) update.

Frances Ryan

PhD Student
Soil Science and Systems
Crop and Soil Systems

Research interests 

My PhD is focused on the nutrient management of agricultural systems in Scotland. Inefficient use and management of nutrients is economically and environmentally efficient. In the UK, the EU Nitrates Directive (1991) led to the designation of Nitrate Vulnerable Zones (NVZ). Working at the agricultural parish scale, changes between 1983 and 2014 are assessed within the Ythan catchment, Aberdeenshire. This catchment is part of an NVZ. The potential reasons for such change will also be explored.

I have broad interests within the environmental sciences. Prior to arriving at SRUC, I completed a dissertation concerned with Pyrollizidine alkaloids, and their decomposition during the composting stage. These alkaloids are found within ragwort, and the focus on the composting of green waste, had led to concerns by Defra about such alkaloids in the environment. The masters thesis focused on the role of sustainable corporate practice within rice farming in India.

Whilst completing the BSc in Environmental Science and the MSc in Environmental Management, I also worked as a Pollen Assistant at the York station, collecting pollen in the field and identifying pollen grains in the laboratory as part of a project led by Dr K Selby. Such data were used by the University of Worcester and latterly the Met Office to formulate the daily pollen forecast, over the spring and summer months.

I am very keen on the communication of science and as such have designed three different activities which have been displayed at agricultural science shows or science festivals in Scotland.

PhD title

  • Rethinking Nutrient Assessment: Methods for investigating Nutrient Management in Scotland
    The assessment of nutrient management in Scotland and understanding reasons for change between 1983-2014, and the opportunities for future management.


  • Principles of Ecology (semester 1, 2014, 2015, 2016)
  • Human Geography, (semester 1, 2014, 2015 & 2016)
  • Physical Geography (semester 2, 2014 & 2015)
  • Environment, Society and the Environment (semester 2, 2016)

All of the above courses are run by the University of Edinburgh.

PhD supervisors

Dr Kairsty Topp (Crop & Soil Systems, SRUC)
Prof Christine Watson (Crop & Soil Systems, SRUC)

Frances Ryan

PhD Student

Address: Crop & Soil Systems, Scotland's Rural College (SRUC), Peter Wilson Building, Kings Buildings, West Mains Road, Edinburgh, EH9 3JG

Telephone: 01315354168