Nottingham ESRC Doctoral Training Centre

Image of Stephen Jones

Stephen Jones

ESRC DTC PhD Candidate, Faculty of Social Sciences



Stephen is a PhD candidate working in the departments of Geography and Biosciences at the University of Nottingham. His project aims to take a transdisciplinary approach to the study of soil quality in the East Midlands of England by using methods from both social and soil science disciplines, as well as drawing upon academic and none academic bodies of knowledge. This involves interviews with farmers, participatory exercises and observation as well as soil quality analysis using a range of physical, chemical and biological indicators. His interest in soil, the environment and inter/transdisciplinary research comes from an MSc in Environmental Management (University Of Nottingham) and a BSc in Human and Physical Geography (University Of Reading).

Research Summary

Current Status

PhD (full-time) - currently registered

Research Topic Title

A transdisciplinary approach to the study of soil quality within the context of arable farming in the East Midlands of England

Research Summary

Soil quality is of vital importance to a number of environmental issues facing the world today. Food security, energy provision, climate change, ecosystem service delivery, biodiversity preservation and water security are all dependent on the quality of our soils.

In the UK 70% of the land area is used for agriculture, this makes farmers' the key stakeholder in terms of fighting the decline of soil quality in this country. However research into UK farmers' knowledge and understanding of soil quality is lacking.

This project aims to use a transdisciplinary approach to investigate how UK farmers' manage and assess the quality of their soil. The methodology will combine techniques traditionally associated with both social and soil science to achieve this through a 3 stage process:

Stage 1: Use semi-structured interviews and other ethnographic techniques to get an idea of how farmers' manage and assess soil quality and what the drivers behind these practices are. As part of the interview the participating farmers also identify areas of "better" and "worse" soil on their land.

Stage 2: The areas of soil identified by the farmer in stage 1 are tested using a scientifically established method of soil quality analysis, combing a range of biological, chemical and physical indicators.

Stage 3: The results of the assessment made in stage 2 are presented back to farmer and discussed in a second semi-structured interview to see how the farmers' understand, interpret and react to the results.

Research Supervisors

Carol Morris - Associate Professor of Rural Environmental Geography, Faculty of Social Sciences

Susanne Seymour - Associate Professor in Geography, Faculty of Social Sciences

Sacha Mooney - Professor in Soil Physics & Head of Division of Agricultural & Environmental Sciences, Faculty of Science

Primary Funding Source/s

ESRC Doctoral Training Centre

Nottingham ESRC Doctoral Training Centre

University Park

telephone: +44 (0) 115 748 4507