Centre for Health and Bioinformatics


Dr Julia Cooper

Lecturer in Soil Science



I am a soil scientist by training and I study nutrient cycling in agroecosystems with the goal of increasing efficiency of nutrient use and crop productivity. I am particularly interested in organic/ecological approaches to nitrogen management and have conducted field research on the use of organic amendments for N supply as well as impacts of diverse crop rotations on nutrient dynamics. Since nutrient supply from organic sources is so dependent on microbial processes, I have developed a keen interest in soil biodiversity and study it in our long-term field experiments using a range of techniques. I am not just satisfied with understanding the impact of soil management practices on soil biodiversity, I also want to know how soil biodiversity impacts on essential soil functions like nutrient cycling and C sequestration. My ultimate goal is to use this understanding to design innovative cropping systems that use nutrients efficiently, minimise impacts on the environment and ensure sustainable production of food.


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: https://blogs.ncl.ac.uk/juliacooper/  

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

  • SolACE (Solutions for improving Agroecosystem and Crop Efficiency for water and nutrient use) is a new H2020 project (http://www.solace-eu.net/). I am part of the Executive Committee for this project and lead WP5: Co-assessment of novel crop genotypes and management innovations in farmers' networks
  • I was recently awarded a NERC CASE studentship in: Using spatially explicit soil mapping and modelling to understand and mitigate nitrate leaching in an agricultural catchment In this project we will work with Northumbrian Water and the Environment Agency to study nitrate leaching in an agricultural catchment to the north of Newcastle.

I also have Phd students working on a range of topics relating to soil health and ecology. 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)
  • Naila Sumreen Hina - "Using spatially explicit soil mapping and modelling to understand and mitigate nitrate leaching in an agricultural catchment" (2017-2021)

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.


Undergraduate Teaching

I am module leader on two, second year soils modules: ACE2063 - Managing soils in agricultural systems  and ACE2062 Soils - Mapping and managing properties and processes are closely linked with the former targeting students in agriculture programmes and the latter directed at students in environmental sciences.

I also deliver lectures in the first year  module ACE1008 Environment and Land Resources and ACE1041Investigating Agri-Food Systems from Farm to Folk.

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 the module on Soil and Land Resources - Assessment and Management (ACE8028) and contribute to ACE8101 Food Security: Sustainable Food Production systems. 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.

Every year I supervise a number of MSc level dissertation projects in the areas of soil biodiversity and sustainable agriculture.