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Jessica Underwood


Areas of interest

  • Soil spectroscopy and carbon
  • Sustainable agriculture
  • Ecosystem services

Research projects

Using simple spectral technology to engage farmers in building soil health to enhance environmental outcomes.

In England and Wales soil degradation costs £1.2 billion. The UK has a new Environmental Land Management Scheme (ELMS) which seeks to make payments for public goods e.g. ecosystem services Managing soil organic matter is central to supplying ecosystem services e.g. climate mitigation.. Developing cost-effective methods to measure soil health is vital to monitor impacts of the new scheme. My project partners and co-sponsors Affinity Water (other sponsor: NERC) have been working with farmers in the River Lea catchment for the past 10 years. I will use this farmer network in conjunction with spectral analysis and statistical methods to determine the soil carbon and soil health indicators.

The two key research questions are:

  1. Can spectral data provide robust high quality information on soil properties beyond soil carbon that can evaluate soil health?
  2. Can spectral tools provide farmers and water companies with the appropriate information to improve catchment management?

Lead Supervisor:

Professor Chris Collins (University of Reading)


Dr Alister Leggat (Affinity Water) 

Dr Aiden Keith (UK Centre for Ecology and Hydrology)


I hold a BSc in Biochemistry from the University of Exeter. My research project focused on investigating the decomposition of potential H2S donors. I have six years of experience communicating with members of the public, from my work at Brightlingsea Harbour. I have a special interest in sustainable agriculture, and prior to starting my PhD did an internship at Spains Hall Estate, where they are trialling new methods, such as agroforestry.



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