Professor Louise Heathwaite

Distinguished Professor

Research Overview

Expertise and published research

Louise is a hydrochemist and Distinguished Professor in the Lancaster Environment Centre, Lancaster University. She has published > 250 peer-reviewed articles with over 13,500 citations and an H-index of 64 (data from Google Scholar). She was appointed Executive Chair of the Natural Environment Research Council, UKRI in March 2024 on secondment from Lancaster University. Prior to this she was Pro-Vice Chancellor Research and Enterprise from 2019 to 2024. In 2023, Louise was elected Fellow of the Royal Society in recognition of her sustained scholarship in environmental science and outstanding contribution to science leadership. In 2018, she was awarded a CBE in the Queen’s Birthday honours list for services to scientific research and scientific advice to government. Earlier honours include her election in 2015, as Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh in recognition of the distinguished contribution she has made to hydrological science and to science-policy engagement. 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 8,000 members across 130 countries worldwide; between 2017-2022 she was President of the Freshwater Biological Association. Prior to this, in 2004, Louise founded and was first 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, which is her departmental home in Lancaster University. Louise is an active scientist supported by 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 nutrient pollution and degradation of 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.

External Roles

UK Science Capability: Louise’s long experience in ‘solutions science’ and demonstrable expertise in building science capacity means she is a sought-after leader in the critical analysis of UK science capability across a wide range of scientific domains. Following her term as a Chief Scientific Advisor Rural Affairs, Food and Environment in the Scottish Government, where 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, Louise was invited to chair an independent review of the decision by the Scottish Funding Council to invest £500 million over 15-years in multi-university research pools of STEM disciplines across Scotland. Her 2019 Report: ‘Independent Review of the Scottish Funding Council’s Research Pooling Initiative’ offered real insight into what can (and cannot) be achieved and sustained through large, multi-university, discipline-based research pools, and directly informed the Scottish Funding Council strategy for the future of Scotland’s college and university system published in 2021. From July 2021 to June 2024, Louise held a ministerial appointment as Chair of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) Science Advisory Council, which provides independent expert advice to the Defra Chief Scientific Adviser and helps guide Defra’s scientific priorities and planning. In April 2022, Louise was appointed an independent commissioner of the Geospatial Commission.

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

Executive chair of NERC appointed

New independent commissioner appointed by geospatial commission

Science advisory council

finding common ground: the urgent need for better land use data

Professor Louise Heathwaite

Lancaster professor leads Scottish funding council research pooling review

Queen's honour for Lancaster science professor

Selected publications (recent)

Heathwaite, A. L., Heppell, C. M., Binley, A., Byrne, P., Lansdown, K., Trimmer, M., Ullah, S. and Zhang, H. (2021) Spatial and temporal dynamics of nitrogen exchange in an upwelling reach of a groundwaterfed river and potential response to perturbations changing rainfall patterns under UK climate change scenarios. Hydrological Processes. 10.1002/hyp.14135

Heathwaite, A. L. and Bieroza, M. (2021) Fingerprinting hydrological and biogeochemical drivers of freshwater quality. Hydrological Processes, 35: 1-17.

Bieroza, M., Heathwaite, A. L., Bechmann, M., Kyllmar, K. and Jordan, P. (2018) The concentration-discharge slope as a tool for water quality management. Science of the Total Environment, 630: 738-749.

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

Heathwaite, A. L., Wood, J., Rowlands, D., Thornton, S., Ward, R., Wastling, J. (2017) Report to Defra Ministers by the Defra Science Advisory Council (SAC) sub-group on Foot and Mouth Carcass Burial.

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.

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

Leading a stakeholderdriven approach to manage microbial pollution risk
Heathwaite, A.L. 08/2018 Science Impact Ltd.
Other report

Concentration-discharge slope as a robust tool for water quality management
Bieroza, M.Z., Heathwaite, A.L. 10/04/2018
Conference paper

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

STFC IAA: Impact Acceleration Account 2023
01/04/2023 → 31/03/2024
Research

EPSRC CORE Equipment 2022 - Lancaster University
03/01/2023 → 03/07/2024
Research

EPSRC CORE Equipment 2022 - Lancaster University
03/01/2023 → 03/07/2024
Research

EPSRC CORE Equipment 2022 - Lancaster University
03/01/2023 → 03/07/2024
Research

EPSRC CORE Equipment 2022 - Lancaster University
03/01/2023 → 03/07/2024
Research

EPSRC CORE Equipment 2022 - Lancaster University
03/01/2023 → 03/07/2024
Research

EPSRC CORE Equipment 2022 - Lancaster University
03/01/2023 → 31/03/2023
Research

Industrial CASE Account 2022
01/10/2022 → 30/09/2027
Research

GCRF and Newton Consolidation Accounts Lancaster University
01/04/2022 → 31/03/2023
Research

Mathematical Sciences RA
01/04/2021 → 31/12/2023
Research

STFC IAA: Impact Acceleration Account 2021
01/04/2021 → 31/03/2022
Research

STFC IAA: Impact Acceleration Account 2020
01/04/2020 → 31/03/2022
Research

ESRC NPIF (National Productivity Investment Fund) Accelerating Business Collaboration DTP/IAA
13/02/2020 → 31/03/2021
Research

Atomic Layer Deposition for Lancaster Quantum Technology Centre Cleanroom
29/11/2019 → 28/05/2021
Research

ESRC IAA Funds
01/04/2019 → 31/03/2023
Research

Visualising Pathogen & Environmental Risk: transition to a user-ready toolkit (ViPER II)
01/05/2017 → 31/10/2018
Research

Visualising Pathogen & Environmental Risk (ViPER) : an innovation platform to bridge science and decision-making in catchment microbial dynamics
01/10/2014 → 31/03/2015
Research

Landscape burden and storm driven delivery of E.coli from land to water in a headwater catchment
12/03/2012 → 29/02/2016
Research

Delivering Healthy Water: building the science-policy interface to protect bathing water quality
01/10/2011 → 31/03/2013
Research

Catchment Modelling Strategies for Faecal Indicator Organisms: Options Review and Recommendations
01/09/2010 → 01/03/2011
Research

Nutrient biogeochemistry (Phosphorus dynamics in groudwater-fed rivers)
01/06/2010 → 31/01/2015
Research

Implications of groundwater surface water connectivity for nitrogen transformations in the hyporheic zone
01/01/2009 → 30/04/2012
Research

Phosphorus dynamics in groundwater fed rivers
01/11/2008 → 31/10/2013
Research

Delivery of Phosphorus and Faecal Indicator Organisms from Agricultural Sources to Watercourses
01/07/2008 → 31/12/2013
Research

Lost in Translation: Cross - disciplinary analysis of knowledge exchange and effectiveness in animal disease management
01/07/2008 → 30/11/2011
Research

Modelling effects of changing discharge patterns on lake phytoplankton
01/05/2008 → 31/03/2009
Research

FP6: Governat
01/10/2006 → 30/09/2010
Research

Evaluation of mitigation options for reducing nutrient emission to surface water and groundwater at the river basin scale.
30/03/2006 → …
Research

Phosphorus Uncertainty Fellowship
20/12/2005 → 31/05/2012
Research

Reimagining research practices: towards a sustainable, ethical and inclusive future
01/01/1900 → …
Research

Geospatial Commission (External organisation)
Membership of committee

Science Advisory Council (External organisation)
Membership of council

Invite only Royal Society workshop: digital technologies & green economy
Participation in workshop, seminar, course

The Royal Society: Air quality, past, present and future
Invited talk

Natural Capital Initiative Summit 2019. Valuing our life support systems.
Invited talk

The Royal Society: Research culture: changing expectations conference
Invited talk

The Royal Society, Research Culture: Changing Expectations Conference
Invited talk

NERC (External organisation)
Membership of council

Speech at Oxford Water Network Seminar Series - Assessing the Potential of Naturel Flood Management: Scale, Process and Modelling Considerations
Invited talk

REF2021 (External organisation)
Membership of committee

Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ) Scientific evaluation, Chair Water Resources and Environment panel
Examination

The Royal Society (External organisation)
Membership of committee

UKRI Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund (External organisation)
Membership of council

Environment Agency (External organisation)
Membership of committee

University of Helsinki Faculty of Agriculture and Forestry, Opponent
Examination

Research Councils Research & Innovation Strategy Advisory Board, Grand Challenges
Invited talk

GERC/UK Future Earth Agenda-setting Workshop, Natural Resources and Human Health, panelist
Invited talk

UK Agri-Tech Driving innovation in Scottish Agri-Food, Edinburgh
Invited talk

Agri-Food Technology Council Food and Farming Innovation, Edinburgh
Invited talk

RCUK (External organisation)
Member of Advisory Panel

NERC Honorary guest speaker, Into-the-Blue Stakeholder Reception, Manchester.
Invited talk

EPSRC Keynote: Advising on scientific evidence in an uncertain world SECURE Network for Modelling Environmental Change, Annual Conference
Invited talk

European Society for Agronomy Opening Speech Growing landscapes: Cultivating innovative agricultural systems, XIV Annual Congress, Edinburgh.
Invited talk

Quadrennial Ozone Symposium Opening speech: Scotland’s national capability in the atmospheric sciences.
Invited talk

British Academy keynote: Creating effective research-policy partnerships: Challenges and Opportunities in new funding landscapes.
Invited talk

Keynote speech - A perspective on our current understanding of managing catchments, Freshwater Biological Association Annual Scientific Meeting, Windermere, Cumbria
Invited talk

Scottish Environment Protection Agency and Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC) keynote: Using catchment science to achieve sustainable solutions for freshwater quality in farmed environments, Biennial conference, Edinburgh.
Invited talk

Scottish Natural Heritage, Marine Scotland and Joint Nature Conservation Committee: Dealing with uncertainty in the marine environment – assessing impacts of renewables developments, 3rd Sharing Good Practice Event.
Invited talk

British Ecological Society Annual Conference, opening speech - Land use, biodiversity and natural capital
Invited talk

United Nations Environment Programme (External organisation)
Other Membership

Centre for Ecology and Hydrology (External organisation)
Membership of committee

The Royal Society of Edinburgh (External organisation)
Membership of committee

Keynote speech - ClimateXChange Annual Meeting, The Centre of Expertise Model: wider context and application
Invited talk

Edinburgh Science Festival Public Oration, The Edinburgh Medal 2014, Prof Mary Abukutsa-Onyango, Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology, Kenya
Public Lecture/ Debate/Seminar

Keynote speech - Science for Rural Affairs and the Environment – strategic priorities for Scotland. The 15th Dundee Conference, Crop Protection in Northern Britain Annual Conference
Invited talk

Keynote speech - The importance of the science-policy interface in building resilience for livestock health, in the presence of HRH The Princess Royal. Challenges in the Prevention and Control of Livestock Disease in a Changing Climate
Invited talk

Distinguished Women Scientists Seminar, Towards Sustainable Use of Natural Resources.
Invited talk

Department for Business Innovation & Skills (External organisation)
Other Membership

NERC (External organisation)
Membership of council

Scottish Government (External organisation)
Member of Advisory Panel

UKCDS (External organisation)
Membership of board

DEFRA (External organisation)
Member of Advisory Panel

Fellow of the Royal Society of Biology
Election to learned society

Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh
Election to learned society

Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts (invited)
Election to learned society

President of the Freshwater Biological Association
Appointment

Vice President (elected) International Association of Hydrological Sciences (IAHS)
Election to learned society

Fellow of the Royal Society
Election to learned society

  • Environmental and Biogeochemistry
  • Improving global stewardship
  • Sustainable Catchments