John S Rowan

John Rowan John Rowan

Professor of Physical Geography

  • Tel: +44 (0)1382 384024
  • Email:
  • Geography, School of Social Sciences, University of Dundee, Perth Rd, Dundee, DD1 4HN


Research Interests

My research has an emphasis on water and sediment dynamics, and more generally the sensitivity and resilience of environmental systems to perturbations including climate change. The most significant contributions range from new conceptual frameworks linking lake behaviour to landscape setting; use of innovative modelling approaches including Bayesian, data-based mechanistic and minimum information models; use of environmental radionuclides for sediment fingerprinting and dating long-term landform development, and more recently new hydromorphological assessment and decision-support tools. A conscious move towards systems-based approaches is reflected in current projects which explore the utility of ecosystem-based adaptation the ecosystem services concept with respect to natural flood management; development of cross-sectoral indicators of climate change adaptation; exploring the linkages between soil erosion and biodiversity in agro-ecosystems, and elucidating the biophysical linkages between hydromorphological pressures and ecological response – increasingly using remote sensing techniques. Funding exceeding £2.5 M has been won a range of sources including research councils UK, the EU, Government, environment and conservation agencies and industry. As of June 2015 my group in Dundee comprises two PostDocs and six full-time PhD students – all externally funded.

Current Research Group

Research Fellows

  • Dr Anna Moss ‘Development of policy-relevant indicators of climate change adaptation for Scotland’. Funded by the ClimateXChange.
  • Dr Eirini Politi ‘GloboLakes: Global observatory of lake responses to environmental change’. Funded by the Natural Environment Research Council.

PhD Students

  • Karen O’Neil Sustainable land use management for the conservation of the Freshwater Pearl Mussel (Teagasc Walsh Fellowship).
  • Nandan Mukherjee Assessing the utility of ‘Loss & Damage’ in relation to water resource management (Hydro Nation Scholarship).
  • Ashley Goram Soil erosion, seedbanks and biodiversity in agro-ecosystems. (JHI/UoD Scholarship).
  • Oana Iacob Evaluating natural flood management as an ecosystem-based adaptation strategy (ClimateXChange Scholarship).
  • Sophie Sherriff Erosion and sediment fingerprinting in intensively managed agricultural landscapes (Teagasc Walsh Fellowship).
  • Martin Muir Climate change and its impacts of the conservation value of Scottish lochs (SNH/SEPA Studentship). 

Illustrative Recent Grants (Univ. Dundee) 

  • € 88 k Sustainable land use management for the conservation of the Freshwater Pearl Mussel. PI, Walsh Fellowship funded by Teagasc (2015-2019).
  • €120 k Delivering food security on limited agricultural land (DEVIL). Co-I, funded by the Belmont Forum under the aegis of the Scottish Food Security Alliance-crops (2015-2018, total award € 1.3 M, PI Pete Smith, Univ. of Aberdeen).
  • £148 k Integrated river basin management framework through the lens of ‘Loss and Damage’. PI, funded by Hydro Nation Scholarship Programme (2014-2018).
  • £487 k Global observatory of lake responses to environmental change (GloboLakes). Co-I, funded by the Natural Environmental Research Council (2012-2016, total award of Consortium Grant £2.9 M; PI Andrew Tyler, University of Stirling).
  • £504 k Development of national climate change adaptation indicators for Scotland. PI, funded by the Scottish Government through the Centre of Expertise on Climate Change (2011-2016, total award of Adaptation Workstream £4.2 M).
  • €88 k Land use, climate change and sediment flux on agricultural catchments in Ireland. PI, Walsh Fellowship funded by Teagasc (2011-2015).
  • £5 k Mapping the loss of honeybees in Scotland to local geographical features. CI, funded by BBSRC Sparking Impact Award (2014-2015, PI Chris Connolly, Univ. Dundee).
  • £7 k Response Options for the National Ecosystem Assessment Follow-On. Co-I funded by DEFRA (2012-2014, total award £120k, PIs Paula Harrison, Univ. of Oxford and Iain Brown, JHI).
  • £20 k Assessing the legacy of historic mining on the hydromorphology and ecology of the Loch Fitty catchment. PI, funded by Scottish Coal (2010-2011).
  • £142 k Development of a method of Lake Habitat Survey. PI, funded by the Scotland and Northern Ireland Forum for Environmental Research (SNIFFER) (2004-2010).
  • £45 k Development of decision-making frameworks for managing alterations to the morphology of lakes. PI, funded by SNIFFER (2005-2009).


Academic Background

1987-90 PhD University of Exeter, Devon, UK
1986-87 MA Geography, Miami University, Oxford, Ohio, 45056, USA
1981-85 BSc (Hons.) Geography, Glasgow University, UK


YearUniversity Roles
2015 Dean of the School of Social Sciences, University of Dundee, UK
2014 Director MSc Sustainability Programme, University of Dundee, UK
2012 Professor of Physical Geography, University of Dundee, UK
2009 - Founding Director Centre for Environmental Change and Human Resilience (CECHR), University of Dundee
2008 - 2011 Head of the Environmental Systems Research Group (ESRG), in the School of the Environment
2006 - Reader in Physical Geography, University of Dundee
1998-2006 Lecturer & Senior Lecturer in Physical Geography, University of Dundee, UK
1990-98 Lecturer in Environmental Management, Lancaster University, UK


  • CREW Steering Group, Scottish Government’s Centre of Research Expertise on Water (2013 -)
  • ClimateXChange Directorate, Scottish Government’s Centre of Expertise on Climate Change (2011 - )
  • Founding Director of CECHR, Centre for Environmental Change and Human Resilience, a partnership between the University of Dundee and the James Hutton Institute (2009 - )
  • Personal research comprises two PDRAs and six PhD Students (2015 - )
  • Supervised 13 PhD completions to date
  • >£2.5 M research income into Dundee since 2000 from sources including Research Councils UK, EU, Government, environmental agencies and industrial partnerships
  • > 60 peer reviewed papers, h-index of 21 Google Scholar)
  • Visiting Academic - Universities of Chaing Mai (2003); Novi Sad (2007); Newcastle, Australia (2003)

Professional Memberships

  • Scottish Royal Geographical Society (Currently Board of Trustees and Chair of Dundee Centre)
  • European Geophysical Union
  • British Society for Geomorphohlogy
  • Scottish Alliance for Geosciences Environment and Society (SAGES)
  • Scottish Food Security Alliance (Crops)
  • Offshore Renewables Institute
  • Royal Geographical Society-Institute of British Geographers
  • Society for Libyan Studies (British Academy)


Selected Publications

Brown, I., Berry, P., Everard, M., Firbank, L., Harrison, P., Lundy, L., Quine, C., Rowan, J.S. & Wade, R.  2015. Identifying robust response options to manage environmental change using an Ecosystem Approach II: a stress-testing case study for the UK. Environmental Science & Policy (in press).

Politi, E., Cutler, M.E.J. & Rowan, J.S. 2015.  Evaluating the spatial transferability and temporal repeatability of remote sensing-based lake water quality retrieval algorithms at the European scale: a meta-analysis approach. International Journal of Remote Sensing (in press).

Sherriff, S.C., Franks, S.W., Rowan, J.S. Fenton, O. & ÓhUallacháin, D.O.  2015.  Uncertainty-based assessment of tracer selection, tracer non-conservativeness and multiple solutions using synthetic and field data. Journal of Soils and Sediments (in press).

Sherriff, S.C., Rowan, J.S., Melland, A.R., Jordan, P., Fenton, O. & ÓhUallacháin, D.  2015.  Identifying the controls of soil loss in agricultural catchments using ex situ turbidity-based suspended sediment monitoring. Hydrology and Earth Systems Science (in press).

Iacob, O., Rowan, J.S., Brown, I. & Ellis, C. 2014.  Evaluating wider benefits of natural flood management strategies: an ecosystem-based adaptation perspective. Hydrological Research, 45, 774-787.

Brown, I., Harrison, P.A., Ashley, J., Berry, P.M., Everard, M., Firbank, L.G., Hull, S., Lundy, L., Quine, C.P., Rowan, J.S., Wade, R., Walmsley, S., Watts, K. & Kass, G. 2014. Response options: What response options might be used to improve policy and practice for the sustainable delivery of ecosystem services? The UK National Ecosystem Assessment Follow-On Report. UNEP-WCMC, Cambridge, 173 pp.

Baxter, C., Rowan, J.S, McKenzie, B.M. & Neilson, R. 2013.  Understanding soil erosion impacts in temperate agroecosystems: bridging the gap between geomorphology and soil ecology using nematodes as a model organism. Biogeosciences, 10, 7133–7145.

Dungait, J.A.J., Ghee, C., Rowan, J.S., McKenzie, B.M., Hawes, C., Dixon, E.R., Paterson, E. & Hopkins, D.W. 2013. Microbial responses to the erosional redistribution of soil organic carbon in arable fields. Soil Biology and Biochemistry, 60, 195-201. 

Lewis, T.A., Rowan, J.S., Hawes, C. & McKenzie, B.M. 2013.  Assessing the significance of soil erosion for arable weed seedbank diversity in agro-ecosystems. Progress in Physical Geography, 20, 1-20.

Duane, B., Hyland, J., Rowan, J.S. & Archibald, B. 2012. Taking a bite out of Scotland’s dental carbon emissions in the transition to a low carbon future. Public Health, 126, 770-777.

Politi, E., Cutler, M.E.J. & Rowan J.S. 2012. Using the NOAA Advanced Very High Resolution Radiometer to characterise temporal and spatial trends in water temperature of large European lakes.  Remote Sensing of the Environment, 126, 1-11.

Muir, M.C.A., Spray, C.J. & Rowan, J.S. 2012. Assessing the significance of climate change to the ecohydrology and conservation interest of Scotland’s lochs. Area, 44, 411-422.

Dawson, A.G., Gómez, C., Ritchie, W., Batstone, C., Lawless, M., Rowan, J.S., Dawson, S., McIlveny, J., Bates, R. & Muir, D. 2012. Barrier island geomorphology, hydrodynamic modelling, and historical shoreline changes: An example from South Uist and Benbecula, Scottish Outer Hebrides. Journal of Coastal Research, 28, 1462-1476.

Rowan, J.S., Black, S. & Franks, S.W. 2012.  Sediment fingerprinting as an environmental forensics tool explaining cyanobacteria blooms in lakes. Applied Geography, 32, 832-843.

Rowan, J.S., Grieg, S.J., Armstrong, C.T., Smith, D.C. & Tierney, D. 2012.  Development of a hydromorphological classification and regulatory decision-support tool for lakes. Environmental Modelling and Software, 36, 86-98.

Maltby, E. & 30 others including Rowan, J.S.2011.  Freshwaters – openwaters, wetlands and floodplains. In: Watson, R.T. and Albon, S. (Eds). The UK National Ecosystem Assessment Technical Report.UK National Ecosystem Assessment, UNEP-WCMC, Cambridge, pp. 295-360.

Morrison, E., Rodley, D., Lynch, W. & Rowan, J.S.2011. The role of decentralised energy in delivering 'just sustainability' in Northern European cities- a review of theory and practice. In:  Phillips, C. (Ed.), Environmental Justice and Global Citizenship, IDP Press, Cambridge, pp 1-11.

CEN2011.  Comité Européen de Normalisation  (European Standards Agency). Water Quality – Guidance Standard on assessing the hydromorphological features of lakes. EN16039:2011: E, pp. 39. (Rowan lead author)