SRUC Chief Executive and Principal Professor Bob Webb recently recognised the long service of five members of staff based in Edinburgh.
In 1987 Brian Pool moved from his native Ayrshire to work at the Bush Estate, splitting his time between the East of Scotland College of Agriculture (ESCA) and the University, working on propagating raspberry stocks and field trials. Brian joined the Horticulture Department full time in 1992 where he also became an expert in micro-propagation of soft fruit.
By the 2000s he was also working with other units like Engineering where his many tasks included scanning the back fat on giant mice and treating potato tubers with a laser to control post harvest diseases. Moving to Crop and Soils, he turned his hand to isolating fungi from leaf samples, extracting DNA and operating the gene gun firing gold particles at mycorrhizal fungi. Today Brian still contributes to field work, covering most of Scotland taking soil and crop samples, and spraying crops from carrots to raspberries, broccoli and barley.
Dr Bob Rees gained a Biology degree at the University of Exeter in 1981, before moving north to the Soil Science Department of the University of Aberdeen where he gained a PhD in Soil Science and worked on nitrogen processes in forest soils and acid rain. Bob started with ESCA as a lecturer in 1987, specialising in soil biology, contributing both to the college and University of Edinburgh.
Around the Millennium Bob took over the Study Directorship of the MSc in Environmental Protection and Management and helped to firmly establish this course as one of the flagship Masters in the School of GeoSciences. During this period, he developed his research interests in greenhouse gas emissions, aided and abetted by his wife Dr Ute Skiba from the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology. He has been instrumental in gaining several large contracts for SRUC, from the EU and DEFRA. He was appointed Reader and Head of the Carbon Management Centre in 2010.
Robert Ritchie also joined ESAC in 1987 and has worked on many projects, including soil compaction, soil temperature measurement, gaseous emissions and environmental monitoring of water, soil and gas. Some early work for the Forestry Commission and HGCA involved analysing traffic impacts on soil and crop responses. As a result, work has been done elsewhere to build equipment to maximise benefits in reducing traffic compaction, increase yields, reduce costs and increase field work days.
From 1994 to 2003 Robert worked within the Environment Division on projects involving soil organic matter and emission of greenhouse gases, precursors to the SAC (now SRUC) work on climate change which helps inform Scottish Government policy on Climate Change. Since 2003 Robert has been an integral part of the Environment and Design team where his technical expertise is utilised on various land based projects including topographic surveying and material. He also plays a key role in the initial investigations for drainage work projects.
For Sandra Sey 1987 meant becoming a part time secretary at Rathcluan House, Advisory office in Cupar. It was the year in which SAC was starting to charge for its services. At this time, David Grant was the Senior Area Adviser, with Sandy Wynd and a young Matthew Brown. Full time since 1980 Sandra played a key role in the 1992 move to 33 Castlefield where SAC Consulting still works. In 1994 Matthew Brown took over as Senior Area Adviser and since then Sandra has worked with Derek Hanton, Steve Wallace, Mary Munro, Eric Anderson, George King, Gavin Hill and a good few others and finally with Hugh Ironside and Neil Melville. While the Cupar office has become busier with the introduction of IACS and all the grant schemes, the farms and farmers in the area have not changed that much, although Sandra is now on 2nd generation and occasionally 3rd generation of the families.
For Stephen Stewart work with SRUC began in 1986 at Auchincruive on a Clerical YTS scheme, moving on to the Accounts Department a few months later. In those days the West of Scotland Agricultural College had shops in the Poultry, Dairy school and Horticulture Departments, as well as a till in the canteen. After a variety of responsible roles in Accounts Stephen to the HR Department in 1994, taking on pensions administration and management of the weekly payroll.
He started studying for his professional qualification for the CIPD in 1999, becoming an HR Adviser in 2001, with a “minor” distraction when Stephen became part of a team working on a foot and mouth vaccination project in Dumfries. Following the merger of three colleges to form SAC Stephen took the opportunity to move through to Edinburgh in 2004 as Payroll and Pensions Manager before changing roles again in 2009 and becoming HR Business Partner.
Photo: L-R Front row Bob Rees, Stephen Stuart, Sandra Sey, Brian Pool and Robert Ritchie