Professor Louise Heathwaite FRSA, FRSB, FRSE


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.

Selected Publications Show all 266 publications

A catchment-scale model to predict spatial and temporal burden of E. coli on pasture from grazing livestock
Oliver, D.M., Bartie, P.J., Heathwaite, L., Reaney, S.M., Parnell, J.A., Quilliam, R.S. 03/2018 In: Science of the Total Environment. 616-617, p. 678-687. 10 p.
Journal article

Report by SAC sub-group on Foot and Mouth Carcass Burial
Heathwaite, A.L., Wood, J., Rowlands, D., Thornton, S., Ward, R., Wastling, J. 2017 DEFRA.
Commissioned report

Design of a decision support tool for visualising E. coli risk on agricultural land using a stakeholder-driven approach
Oliver, D.M., Bartie, P.J., Heathwaite, A.L., Pschetz, L., Quilliam, R.S. 07/2017 In: Land Use Policy. 66, p. 227-234. 8 p.
Journal article

Animal and Plant Health in the UK: Building our science capability
Walport, M., Boyd, I., Heathwaite, A.L. 2014 Government Office for Science.
Commissioned report

Characterization of the key pathways of dissimilatory nitrate reduction and their response to complex organic substrates in hyporheic sediments
Lansdown, K., Trimmer, M., Heppell, C., Sgouridis, F., Ullah, S., Heathwaite, L., Binley, A., Zhang, H. 03/2012 In: Limnology and Oceanography. 57, 2, p. 387-400. 14 p.
Journal article

Increases in lake phytoplankton biomass caused by future climate-driven changes to seasonal river flow
Jones, I.D., Page, T., Elliott, J.A., Thackeray, S.J., Heathwaite, A.L. 05/2011 In: Global Change Biology. 17, 5, p. 1809-1820. 12 p.
Journal article

Multiple stressors on water availability at global to catchment scales: understanding human impact on nutrient cycles to protect water quality and water availability in the long term
Heathwaite, A.L. 01/2010
Literature review

Measurement of colloid mobilization and redeposition during drainage in quartz sand.
Bridge, J.W., Heathwaite, A.L., Banwart, S.A. 1/08/2009 In: Environmental Science and Technology. 43, 15, p. 5769-5775. 7 p.
Journal article

Modelling and managing critical source areas of diffuse pollution from agricultural land using flow connectivity simulation
Heathwaite, A.L., Quinn, P.F., Hewett, C.J.M. 10/03/2005 In: Journal of Hydrology. 304, 1-4, p. 446-461. 16 p.
Journal article

Characterising phosphorus loss in surface and subsurface hydrological pathways
Heathwaite, A.L., Dils, R.M. 5/05/2000 In: Science of the Total Environment. 251-252, 1, p. 523-538. 16 p.
Journal article

A conceptual approach for integrating phosphorus and nitrogen management at watershed scales
Heathwaite, L., Sharpley, A., Gburek, W. 2000 In: Journal of Environmental Quality. 29, 1, p. 158-166. 9 p.
Journal article

Phosphorus management at the watershed scale: a modification of the phosphorus index
Gburek, W.J., Sharpley, A.N., Heathwaite, L., Folmar, G.J. 2000 In: Journal of Environmental Quality. 29, 1, p. 130-144. 15 p.
Journal article

Modelling the impact of land use change on water quality in agricultural catchments
Johnes, P.J., Heathwaite, A.L. 15/03/1997 In: Hydrological Processes. 11, 3, p. 269-286. 42 p.
Journal article