Dr Jessica Davies

Lecturer in Sustainability

Research Overview

Jess joined the Pentland Centre for Sustainability in Business as a lecturer in sustainability in 2015. She has a background in environmental science and engineering, which she brings together in her research where she develops computer models of the plant, soil and water systems to help understand environmental change and inform sustainable decision-making.

She holds a prestigious Early Career EPSRC Living with Environmental Change Fellowship, focused on understanding the value and resilience of soils.

Current Research

Her current research focuses on sustainable soils and land-use. Improving our understanding of soil sustainability and our management of soils is critical to meeting society’s needs for food and water, for protecting communities from floods and droughts, for supporting our natural environment and regulating climate. Jess’s research aims to advance our scientific understanding of how land use change, soil degradation and altered nutrient cycles influence the sustainability of soils and the multiple services they provide.

In her EPSRC Living With Environmental Change Fellowship Jess mixes engineering and environmental science to further our understanding of soils as a critical infrastructure that supports our societies: providing us with food, filtering and buffering flows of water, and regulating the carbon cycle. We need to better understand the value of this infrastructure to society and its resilience to changing management and climate.

Sustainable soils and business

Jess is engaging with corporations to co-design more sustainable solutions for businesses, societies and our planet. Businesses are key actors in soil management: agricultural industries directly influence soil, but many major corporations indirectly influence soils through acquisition of raw materials in their supply chains. How supply chains influence soil sustainability and its links to food, water, climate and ecosystems is a complex and critical knowledge gap for science, business and governance.

To find out more, read her Nature comment on the business case for soils.


Prior to joining the Pentland Centre, Jess was a researcher in Lancaster Environment Centre and a visiting researcher at the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology. Her research contributed to the Long-Term Large-Scale NERC Macronutrients project, where she collaborated with atmospheric scientists, biogeochemists, ecologists, limnologists, hydrologists, and soil scientists to create an integrated model of carbon, nitrogen and phosphorus cycles to simulate the effects of the last 200 years of industrialisation, agricultural intensification, and urbanisation on the UK’s atmosphere-plants-soil-water systems. She also worked with Professor Keith Beven developing the Multiple Interacting Pathways model – a novel approach to modelling water flow and transport using random particle tracking techniques. Jess has a PhD in Control Systems Engineering attained at Loughborough University, and she is interested in applying control theory and multi-agent concepts to environmental problems.

Selected Publications Show all 17 publications

The business case for soil
Davies, J. 16/03/2017 In: Nature. 543, 7645, p. 309-311. 3 p.
Journal article

Long-term increases in soil carbon due to ecosystem fertilization by atmospheric nitrogen deposition demonstrated by regional-scale modelling and observations
Tipping, E.W., Davies, J., Henrys, P.A., Kirk, G.J.D., Lilly, A., Dragosits, U., Carnell, E.J., Dore, A.J., Sutton, M.A., Tomlinson, S.J. 15/05/2017 In: Scientific Reports. 7, 11 p.
Journal article

Long-term P weathering and recent N deposition control contemporary plant-soil C, N, and P
Davies, J.A.C., Tipping, E., Rowe, E.C., Boyle, J.F., Graf Pannatier, E., Martinsen, V. 20/02/2016 In: Global Biogeochemical Cycles. 30, 2, p. 231-249. 19 p.
Journal article

150 years of macronutrient change in unfertilized UK ecosystems: observations vs simulations
Davies, J., Tipping, E., Whitmore, A. 1/12/2016 In: Science of the Total Environment. 572, p. 1485-1495. 11 p.
Journal article

Integrated modeling of flow and residence times at the catchment scale with multiple interacting pathways
Davies, J., Beven, K., Rodhe, A., Nyberg, L., Bishop, K. 5/08/2013 In: Water Resources Research. 49, 8, p. 4738-4750. 13 p.
Journal article

Comparison of a Multiple Interacting Pathways model with a classical kinematic wave subsurface flow solution
Davies, J., Beven, K. 2012 In: Hydrological Sciences Journal. 57, 2, p. 203-216. 14 p.
Journal article

A discrete particle representation of hillslope hydrology: hypothesis testing in reproducing a tracer experiment at Gardsjon, Sweden
Davies, J., Beven, K., Nyberg, L., Rodhe, A. 15/11/2011 In: Hydrological Processes. 25, 23, p. 3602-3612. 11 p.
Journal article