School of Agriculture, Food and Rural Development

Staff Profile

Dr Julia Cooper

Lecturer in Soil Science



BSc Agr 1986 University of Guelph, Ontario, Canada
Major: Soil Science, Minor: International Agriculture
MSc Biology 1994 Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada
PhD Biology 2007 Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada

To find out more about me, why not check out my blog:  

And follow me on Twitter @JuliaSoilsister

My Google Scholar link is here


Research Interests

My main areas of research interest are soil C and N cycling in agroecosytems, with particular emphasis on: reductions in N losses via leaching and denitrification; greenhouse gas emissions; and C sequestration. I am also interested in soil biodiversity and the link between biodiversity and soil function. These research interests extend into the realm of agro-ecology and the design of farming systems that address challenges in food security, while maintaining the integrity of the local environment. I am particularly interested in "ecological intensification" as a strategy to meet the challenge of global food security.

Other Expertise

I have worked for many years in the area of organic farming in both a research context and as part of the organic production sector in Canada. Since moving to the UK I have worked on various projects involving organic research institutions across Europe. 

Current Work

I was previously affiliated with the Nafferton Ecological Farming Group and maintain a strong interest in the long-term organic versus conventional field trials established at Nafferton farm.  I have a PhD student and various MSc students who use these trials to conduct studies on soil quality, nutrient cycling, and soil ecology. I am interested in how crop management affects naturally occurring populations of beneficial soil organisms. Previously I had a PhD student (Caroline Orr) who studied the impact of crop management on free living N fixing bacteria in potato production systems. Currently I have two students who are studying the impact of crop management and genotype on colonization of wheat and potato by mycorrhizal fungi.

I also have two PhD students who are based at Science Advice for Scottish Agriculture and work in the area of biofumigation as a control method for potato cyst nematodes. 

I am in the process of developing a Soil Health and Ecology research group and welcome inquiries from students and researchers who would like to collaborate.

Future Research

I plan to build my expertise and team strength in soil health and ecology focusing on studies in agricultural systems. I will be collaborating with fellow ecologists on ecological network analysis using the long-term field trials at Nafferton. I also plan to build up links with colleagues who work in tropical environments working at the micro, field and landscape scale to optimise agroecoystem function.

Postgraduate Supervision

I currently supervise:

Nada Salloom Mohammed - "Effect of agronomic practices on arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi root colonisation, inoculum density and species diversity in the soil in different cultivars of spelt wheat" (2014-2018)

Claire Wood - "Working towards and understanding of the inhibitory effects of plant derived isothiocyanate compounds on the potato cyst nematodes (PCN)" (2013-2017)

David Hodgson - "Characterisation of myrosinase producing microorganisms and their potential exploitation in biofumigation systems" (2016-2020)

Salisa Suchitwarasan - "Potential for growth enhancement by arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi in potato" (2016-2020)


Undergraduate Teaching

I co-teach on a number of undergraduate modules in the area of environment, nutrient cycling and climate change. 

I also am a co-leader of the new second year undergraduate soils module: ACE2062 - which includes Mapping and managing soil properties and processes and Managing soils in agricultural systems.

Postgraduate Teaching

I am the degree programme director for the MSc in Sustainable Agriculture and Food Security as well as the MSc in Agriculture and Environmental Science.

I lead modules in Food Security (ACE8101) and soil science (ACE8028) at the post-graduate level. I also contribute to modules on organic farming at post-graduate level covering topics in standards and certification and cropping systems design, nutrient management, and modelling.