School of Biosciences

Helen West

Associate Professor in Environmental Biology, Faculty of Science



Helen is an Associate Professor in Environmental Biology. Her research interests focus on impacts of anthropogenic perturbations on ecological interactions in soil, plant and invertebrate systems.

She has worked on a range of natural and managed assemblages; e.g. contaminated cropland (BBSRC-Link Programme), arctic tundra (NERC GANE Programme), Chinese farming systems (NERC ESPA project; Farmer Innovation Systems in the Loess Plateau, NE/G008280/1), UK beef and dairy farms (Esmée Fairbairn Foundation, 08-3376) and Bangladesh agricultural systems (British Council, INSPIRE SP/112).

Current interests include evaluation (sustainability, ecotoxicology and efficacy) of established and novel wastes derived from sustainable energy systems, effects of animal manures on antibiotic resistance in the soil and nitrogen use efficiency in UK and Brazilian agricultural systems.

Teaching Summary

My teaching interests reflect my research interests: Modules are listed:

Environmental Biotechnology (C136E6)

Writing & Reviewing Research Proposals (C14300 and C14301)

Ecology of Natural and Managed Ecosystems (D211E5)

Dissertation in Environmental Science (C11BE1)

Soil Science (C123E3)

Contemporary Agricultural Systems (D212A2)

BSc Research Project in Environmental Science (D23BE1)

BSc Undergraduate Research Project (D23PRO)

MSci Research Project in Environmental Science (D24BE1)

Research & Professional Skills for Environmental Scientists (D224E5)

Professional Skills for Bioscientists (D224G1)

Research Summary

Current and ongoing research projects (grant funded) include:

EVAL-FARMS: Evaluating the Threat of Antimicrobial Resistance in Agricultural Manures and Slurries. (NERC funded, NE/N019881/1; £1.5M; Helen is leader for the impacts of slurries on soil WP; overall PI is Dov Stekel.)

NUCLEUS: A virtual joint centre to deliver enhanced Nitrogen Use Efficiency via an Integrated Soil-plant Systems Approach for the UK & Brasil. (BBSRC/Newton Fund; BB/N013204/1; £1.3M, PI is Sacha Mooney; Helen is a Co-I.)

Rural Hybrid Energy Enterprise Systems (RHEES) (RCUK-DST; EP/J000361/1). Helen is PI for the Wastes & Residues work-package, £417K. (The full UK grant is £2.7M; lead PI is Michèle Clarke.)

Renewable energy from animal wastes: Benefits for agriculture and society. (British Council Inspire; Project Ref. SP-02; PI.)

Optimising Phosphate Recovery from Community Bioenergy Systems: Low Cost Sustainable Fertiliser Production for Rural Communities. (UKIERI-UGC Thematic Award, UGC86; Co-I.)

Evaluating the potential of bioenergy from weeds. (British Council Pakistan Knowledge Economy Partnership, KEP-039; Co-I.)

Projects coming to a close include:

Options for the Use of Quality Digestates in Horticulture and other New Markets (WRAP, OMK006-007; PI).

Monitoring Farm and Regional Scale Effects of Anthelmintics (Esmée Fairbairn Foundation, 8-3376; PI).

High Throughput Analysis of Cell Growth Data from Phenotype Arrays (BBSRC, BB/J01558X/1; Co-I).

Novel strategies for the recovery of deforested and degraded landscapes in the Amazon region: Sustainable solutions for energy-food-water services. (Newton Fund Brazil EPSRC-CONFAP; Co-I).

Implication of enhanced ecological intensification and resilience for smallholder farming in the Eastern Amazonia region (Newton Fund Brazil BBSRC-CONFAP; Co-I).

Sustainable Soil Management for Improved Food Security and Bioenergy Delivery - International Partnering (with Brazil). (BBSRC, BB/J019933/1; Co-I).

Adaptations to Climate Change: Food Security, Water Resources and Rural Resilience in Western Bangladesh. (British Council, INSPIRE SP/112; Co-I.)

Climate Change, Environmental Degradation, Livelihood Security and Conservation of Tropical Peatland in Central Kalimantan, Indonesia. (British Council Higher Education Research Partnership Award; Co-I.)

Current PhD projects and students:

Alexander Williams - Antibiotic resistance on the farm: Evaluating the risks to soil, crop and human health. (STARS CDT funded; joint project with JHI; Helen is UoN lead supervisor, Lisa Avery is JHI lead supervisor.)

Joseph Palmer - Clostridium in agricultural soils. (Funded by a joint JHI/UoN Scholarship - Helen is UoN lead supervisor; Lisa Avery is JHI lead supervisor.)

Kathryn (Rosie) Brian - Adsorption/desorption kinetics of phosphate in biochars. (BBSRC DTP funded. Lead supervisor.)

Hilda Sanga - Agricultural uses for fly-ash. (Funded by the Commonwealth Commission and a Vice Chancellors (UoN) Scholarship - co-supervisor.)

Jamal Algraeo - Biogas production from agricultural weeds. (Funded by the Libyan Government - lead supervisor.)

William Hawley - Assessment of control measures to reduce contamination of anaerobic digestate from manures. (Funded by the Food & Environment Research Agency (FERA) and BBSRC - lead supervisor).

Asilah Mutalib - Effects of biochar on efficiency of plant-growth promoting microbes. (Funded by the Malaysian Government - lead supervisor.)

Sumyya Razzaq - The influence of biochar on interactions between plants and soil associates (Funded by the Islamic Development Bank - lead supervisor.)

Selected Publications

Helen is an honorary Research Supervisor for MSc Biotechnology Research Students (two years by research) at BSMRA University, Gazipur, Bangladesh (October 2012 to date).

Helen has given several public lectures and contributes to the AgriFood Advanced Training Partnership Continuing Professional Development Course at Cranfield University.

School of Biosciences

University of Nottingham
Sutton Bonington Campus
Nr Loughborough
LE12 5RD, UK

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