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Professor Louise Heathwaite FRSA, FRSB, FRSE


Louise Heathwaite

Lancaster University

LEC Building



Tel: +44 1524 510225

Research overview

Expertise and published research

Louise is a hydrochemist and Professor of Land and Water Science in the Lancaster Environment Centre, Lancaster University.  She was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh in 2015 in recognition of the distinguished contribution she has made to catchment science and to science-policy engagement. She is also an invited fellow of the Royal Society of Biology and Royal Society of the Arts. Louise’s long-term contribution to the discipline of hydrology led to her election in 2004 as Vice-President of the International Association of Hydrological Sciences (IAHS), which has over 7,000 members drawn from nearly 200 countries worldwide. Louise was founder and Director of the Centre for Sustainable Water Management in Lancaster University; one of the precursor interdisciplinary research centres that contributed to the formation of the Lancaster Environment Centre.


Louise is an active scientist with over 150 ISI-listed publications (h index = 55), and has had continuous funding from the research councils, government and government agencies. She is recognised internationally as an authority on diffuse environmental pollution and in particular understanding the pathways of nitrogen and phosphorus loss from agricultural land to water, and the implications for freshwater quality. Louise is credited with advancing the Critical Source Areas concept that forms the cornerstone of many models of diffuse pollution risk that are used widely in policy, for example, the EU Water Framework Directive river basin characterisation process, and Defra's Catchment Sensitive Farming project. At a practical level, her work has been used by The Rivers Trust, and in particular, the Eden Rivers Trust where she was a Director of the Board of Trustees from 2008-12. In the past 5 years, she received over £3m total funding for her research from the UK Research Councils.  Her applied science expertise in catchment science and water quality management has been funded by Defra and the Environment Agency. Recent research projects include investigating nutrient dynamics in groundwater-fed rivers and developing innovative approaches to reduce catchment microbial pollution.


External Roles

Louise acted as Chief Scientific Adviser to the Scottish Government on Rural Affairs, Food and the Environment from 2012-17. She was responsible for ensuring the integration and effective use of evidence in policy ranging from climate change to food security, and from land use and biodiversity to animal health. She was a member of Defras Science Advisory Council from 2011-17 and a council member for the Natural Environment Research Council from 2012-17.


Louise is currently on the Steering Board Member, UK Collaborative on Development Science (UKCDS); a member of the Royal Society of Edinburgh Life Sciences Sectional Committee; a member of the Advisory Committee for the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, and a member of the Task Team of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Global Partnership on Nutrient Management (GPNM).


Some recent examples of media coverage of Louise’s work include:

Scientists question worth of natural flood defence schemes


Holyrood's Top 25 Women in the Public Sector


Low incomes put vital technology out of farmers reach


GM crop ban risks backfiring, experts warn


Selected publications (recent)

Dadson, S. J., Heathwaite, A. L. and 14 others (2017) A restatement of the natural science evidence concerning catchment-based ‘natural’ flood management in the United Kingdom. Proc. R. Soc. A 473: 20160706.

Bieroza, M. Z. and Heathwaite, A. L. (2016) Unravelling organic matter and nutrient biogeochemistry in ground-fed rivers under baseflow conditions: Uncertainty in in situ high-frequency analysis. Science of the Total Environment 572: 1520-1533.

Bieroza, M. and Heathwaite, A. L. (2015) Seasonal variation in phosphorus concentration-discharge hysteresis inferred from high-frequency in situ monitoring. Journal of Hydrology 524: 333-347.

Lansdown, K., Heathwaite, A. L. and 5 others (2015) The interplay between transport and reaction rates as controls on nitrate attenuation in permeable, streambed sediments. Journal of Geophysical Research 120: 1093-1109.

Heppell, C. M., Heathwaite, A. L. and 7 others (2014) Interpreting spatial patterns in redox and coupled water-nitrogen fluxes in the streambed of a gaining river reach. Biogeochemistry 117(2-3): 491-509


Selected publications (> 200 citations)

Gburek, W. J., Sharpley, A.N., Heathwaite, A. L. and Folmar, G. (2000) Phosphorus management at the watershed scale. Journal of Environmental Quality 29: 130-44.

Heathwaite, A. L. and Dils, R. M. (2000) Characterising phosphorus loss in surface and subsurface hydrological pathways. Science of the Total Environment 251: 523-38.

Watson, R., Heathwaite, A. L. and 46 others (2011) The UK National Ecosystem Assessment: Technical Report. United Nations Environment Programme, 1464 pp.

Heathwaite, A. L., Sharpley, A. N. and Gburek, W. J. (2000) A conceptual approach for integrating phosphorus and nitrogen management at watershed scales. Journal of Environmental Quality 29: 158-66.

Heathwaite, A. L. Quinn, P. F. and Hewett, C. J. M. (2005) Modelling and managing critical source areas of diffuse pollution from agricultural land using flow connectivity simulation. Journal of Hydrology 304: 446-61. 

Johnes, P. J. and Heathwaite, A. L. (1997) Modelling the impact on water quality of land use change in agricultural catchments. Hydrological Processes 11: 269-86.

Price, J. S., Heathwaite, A. L. and Baird, A. J. (2003) Hydrological processes in abandoned and restored peatlands: an overview of management approaches. Wetlands Ecology and Management 11: 65-83. 

Burt, T. P., Heathwaite, A. L. and Trudgill, S. T. (Eds) (1993) Nitrate: Processes, Patterns and Management, John Wiley and Sons, Chichester, UK, 444pp.


Research Interests

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