My research interests include understanding the processes and microorganisms involved in carbon, nitrogen and sulphur cycling in natural and engineered environments with a particular focus on anaerobic processes and the associated microbial communities.
Utilisation of organic residues for biogas production. Colleagues associated are Dr Michele Stanley and Professor Angela Hatton (now NOC).
Funded by EU H2020 research and innovation programme.
Past highlight projects
1. Understanding methanogenesis in sedimenting material (MISM)
Focused on understanding the processes and microorganisms (particularly methanogenic Archaea) involved in methane production in the upper oceans.
Professor Angela Hatton, Dr Kevin Purdy and Dr Mark Hart. Funded by NERC 2010-15
2. Unravelling the ocean methane paradox
Colleagues associated were Drs Angela D Hatton, David Green, Kevin Purdy & Mark Hart. Funded by NERC 2007-10.
Investigating the microbial populations involved in anaerobic digestion of seaweed. Funded by EU Interreg 2010
4. Microbiological analysis of deep subsurface petroleum reservoirs (University of Newcastle). Funded by the Bacchus consortium 2002-06
Sherry, A, Gray ND, Ditchfield AK, Aitken CM, Jones DM, Roling WFM, Hallmann, C, Larter SR, Bowler BFJ, and Head IM. 2013 Anaerobic biodegradation of crude oil under sulphate-reducing conditions leads to only modest enrichment of sulphate-reducing taxa. International Biodeterioration & Biodegradation 81:105-113.
Aitken CM, Jones DM, Maguire MJ, Gray ND, Sherry, A, Bowler BFJ, Ditchfield AK, Larter SR, and Head IM. 2013 Evidence that crude oil alkane activation proceeds by different mechanisms under sulphate-reducing and methanogenic conditions. Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta. 109:162-174.
Ditchfield (nee Rowan), A.K, Wilson , ST, Hart, MC, Purdy, KJ, Green, D H, and Hatton, AD. 2012 Identification of putative methylotrophic and hydrogenotrophic methanogens within sedimenting material and copepod faecal pellets. Aquatic Microbial Ecology. 67:151-160.
Hubert CRJ, Oldenburg TBP, Fustic M, Gray ND, Larter SR, Penn K, Rowan AK, Seshadri R, Sherry A, Swainsbury R, Voordouw G, Voordouw JK, and Head IM. 2012 Massive dominance of Epsilonproteobacteria in formation waters from a Canadian oil sands reservoir containing severely biodegraded oil. Environmental Microbiology. 2:387-404.
Gray ND, Sherry A, Grant RJ, Rowan AK, Hubert CRJ, Callbeck CM, Aitken CM, Jones DM, Adams JJ, Larter SR, and Head IM. 2011 The quantitative significance of Syntrophaceae and syntrophic partnerships in methanogenic degradation of crude oil alkanes. Environmental Microbiology. 13(11):2957-2975.
Oldenburg, T.B.P, Larter S.R., Adams J.J., Rowan A.K., Brown A., Head I.M., Grigoriyan, A.A., Voordouw G., Fustic M. and Hubert C. 2009 Methods for recovery of microorganisms and intact microbial polar lipids (IPLs) from oil-water mixtures lab experiments and natural well-head fluids. Analytical Chemistry, 81(10), 4130-4136.
*D.M. Jones, I. M. Head, N. D. Gray, J.J. Adams, A. K. Rowan, C.M. Aitken, B. Bennett, H. Huang, A. Brown, B.F.J. Bowler, and S.R. Larter. 2008. Crude oil biodegradation via methanogenesis in subsurface petroleum reservoirs. Nature, 451, 176-180.
*Organic Geochemistry Division Best Paper Award for 2008 Gray, N.D., Brown, A, Nelson, D.R., Pickup, R.W., Rowan, A.K. and I.M. Head. 2007. The biogeographical distribution of closely related freshwater sediment bacteria is determined by environmental selection. The ISME Journal. 1(7):596-606.
Demspsey, M.J., Porto, I., Mustafa, M., Rowan A.K., Brown, A., and I.M. Head. 2006. The expanded bed biofilter: combined nitrification, solids destruction, and removal of bacteria. Water Science and Technology. 54(8): 37-46.
Rowan, A.K., Snape, J.R., Fearnside, D., Curtis, T.P., Barer, M.R. and I.M. Head. 2005. Development of a rapid assay for quantification of ammonia-oxidising bacteria in wastewater treatment plants. Applied and Environmental Microbiology. 71: 8481-8490.
Rowan, A.K., Snape, J.R., Fearnside, D., Curtis, T.P., Barer, M.R. and I.M. Head. 2005. Changes in AOB community structure in full-scale wastewater treatment reactors following a change in wastewater composition. In: Proceedings of the Third Chartered Institute for Water and Environmental Management National Conference 2005. Not peer reviewed.
Rowan, A.K., Snape, J.R., Fearnside, D., Curtis, T.P., Barer, M.R. and I.M. Head. 2003. Composition and diversity of ammonia-oxidising bacterial communities in wastewater treatment reactors of different design treating identical wastewater. FEMS Microbiology Ecology. 43: 195-206.
Rowan, A.K., Moser, G., Gray, N., Snape, J.R., Fearnside, D., Curtis, T.P., Barer, M.R. and I.M. Head. 2003. A comparative study of ammonia-oxidising bacteria in lab-scale industrial wastewater treatment reactors. Water Science and Technology. 48 (3): 17-24.
Rowan, A.K., Snape, J.R., Fearnside, D., Curtis, T.P., Barer, M.R. and I.M. Head. 2002. A comparison of autotrophic ammonia-oxidising bacteria in full-and laboratory-scale wastewater treatment reactors. Water Science and Technology. 46 (1-2): 319-322.
Gray, N.D., Howarth, R., Rowan, A., Pickup, R.W., Jones, J.G. and Head, I.M. 1999. Natural communities of Achromatium oxaliferum comprise genetically, morphologically and ecologically distinct sub-populations. Applied and Environmental Microbiology. 65 (11): 5089-5099
Head, I.M., Larter, S.R., Gray, N.D., Brown, A. , Adams, J.J., Aitken, C.M., Jones, D.M., Rowan, A.K., Huang, H., and Röling, W.F.M. 2010. Hydrocarbon Degradation in Petroleum Reservoirs. In: Timmis, K.N, ed. Microbiology of Hydrocarbons, Oils, Lipids. Heidelberg, Germany: Springer. pp. 3097-3109.
A M. López-Contreras, P. F. H. Harmsen, X Hou, W.J.J. Huijgen, A. K. Ditchfield, B. Bjornsdottir4, O. O. Obata, G. O. Hreggvidsson, J. W. van Hal and A-B. Bjerre. Biorefinery Approach to the Use of Macroalgae as Feedstock for Biofuels in Algal biofuels in press (CRC press)
Marine Science BSc: Module leader for year 3 'Marine Biogeochemical Cycling'
Marine Science BSc: Supervisor for year 3 'Literature Review'
Marine Science BSc: Supervisor for year 4 'Dissertation'
Other teaching responsiblities
Deputy Programme Leader: Marine Science BSc
Year 1 Leader
Personal Academic Tutor
Supervisor for Carnegie Trust summer project (Hanna Ewen, 2016)
Current research students
Susan Evans: Dimethylsulphoxide loss pathways in the oceans: The next big question in DMS biogeochemistry. PhD 2012-17. University of the Highlands and Islands
Ellen Vidin: Microbial epibiota of cultivated seaweed: from hatchery to farm to table? MSc 2016-17. University of St Andrews
Alumni research students
Oluwatosin Obata: Anaerobic Digestion from Marine Materials (European Science Foundation). PhD 2012-15. University of the Highlands and Islands and University of Aberdeen
Neil Clark (NERC Tied studentship): Exploring the Oceanic Methane Paradox. PhD 2010-14. University of the Highlands and Islands and University of Aberdeen
Ashleigh Currie (NERC): Ocean acidification and benthic biogeochemistry. PhD 2011-14. University of the Highlands and Islands and University of Aberdeen
Susan Evans: The impact of Atlantic salmon aquaculture on methane production and mcrA gene expression in marine surface sediment. MSc 2012-13. University of St Andrews
Jo Gosling: Investigating the impacts of Salmon (Salmo salar) fish farming on the methane production and methanogenic community in surrounding sediments. MSc 2013-14. University of St Andrews
Adam Bates: Investigating the impacts of Salmon (Salmo salar) fish farming on inter-annual diversity of bacterial, archaeal and methanogen communities in surrounding sediments. MSc 2013-14. University of St Andrews
Prizes / awards
Prize for Best Scientific Poster at the 1st International Symposium on Applied Molecular Microbiology in Oil Systems (ISMOS) (2007)
Selected to present a poster of my research at Westminster (Annual reception for Britain’s young scientists, engineers and technologists, 2006)
Selected from participants of UK water conference to present at international conference
Awarded the Lebour MSc Prize for the best performance on the MSc Environmental biogeochemistry.
Public engagement / outreach
STEM ambassador (promoting science to young people)
Involvement in Sharing Science event at Our Dynamic Earth (public engagement event showcasing Arctic research), March 2009. The hands on display also formed part of polar oceans activities for 2009 (International Polar Year 07-08)
Invited speaker: Oban and Lorn Environment Week 2008 (series of public lectures about exciting environmental research coordinated by the Argyll and Bute Regional Environmental Education Forum (ABREEF)
Speaker at local primary schools (Rockfield, Oban & Achaleven, Connel) & Lochaber's University of the 3rd Age group. Title: What do polar bears eat?
Involvement in open days (2008, 2009, 2010), local science fun days (2007) & SAMS Festival of the Sea.
Participation in Ocean Science on Tall Ship initiative: collaboration between the Future Ship project, the jubilee sailing trust (charity that enables participants whatever their physical ability to challenge themselves through the adventure of tall ship sailing) and the Challenger society and aimed to conduct marine research on a low carbon footprint tall ship, and integrate and educate the non-scientists onboard and promote marine science to the general public.
JCR210-Arctic ice chaser cruise
Ice chaser coverage
Reviewer for two scientific journals: Canadian Journal of Microbiology & Microbial Ecology
Since 2016 Deputy Programme Leader for Marine Science BSc. SAMS UHI
Since 2007 Senior Research Associate. SAMS
Since Jan 2016 Macrofuels project
Since May 2013 Risk Assessing Harmful Algal Generated Biotoxin Events
2010-2015 Understanding methanogenesis in sedimenting material
2010 Biomara: Investigating the microbial populations involved in anaerobic digestion of seaweed
2007 – 2010 Unravelling the ocean methane paradox
2002 - 2006 Research Associate. University of Newcastle upon Tyne: Microbiological analysis of deep subsurface petroleum reservoirs. Supervisors: Prof. I. M. Head and Prof. S. R. Larter
2014 An introduction to phytoplankton and harmful algal blooms course. SAMS
2013 Workshop on masters level teaching & learning. SAMS
2013 & 2014 CGR metagenomics course. CGR Liverpool, UK
2011 NERC Science to Policy workshop. London, UK
2011 Standing up for Science - media workshop. University of Glasgow, UK
2011 Mesozooplankton identification course. Marine Biological Association, Plymouth
1999 - 2004 PhD Bio-treatment of wastes, University of Newcastle upon Tyne Ecology of ammonia-oxidising bacteria in wastewater treatment reactors. Supervisors Prof. I M Head, Prof. T P Curtis and Prof. M Barer; Sponsors: AstraZeneca (J Snape) and Yorkshire Water (D Fearnside)
1997 - 1998 MSc Environmental Biogeochemistry, University of Newcastle upon Tyne
1993 - 1997 BSc (Hons) Environmental biogeochemistry 2.1, University of Glasgow