Professor David Hopkins

Professor of Soil Science


Professor of Soil Science


BSc, PhD (Newcastle), CBiol, FRSB

Contact details



Tanya Eyre

Tel: 01285 652531


University Roles and Responsibilities

  • Director of Education and Academic Development
  • Member of the University Executive
  • Member of the Academic Board
  • Member of the University Policy and Resources Committee
  • Member and Deputy Chair of the University Research Committee
  • Member of the University Occupational Health and Safety Committee
  • Member of the University Inclusivity, Equality and Diversity Committee
  • Member of the Board of RAUEL (Royal Agricultural University Enterprises Ltd)
  • Contributions to the University’s Learning and Teaching, Research, Consultancy and Professional Training programmes and to its leadership and management

External Roles

  • Member of the Board of the Moredun Research Institute, Edinburgh
  • Chair of the UK National Committee on Antarctic Research
  • Member of Advisory Committee on Releases in to the Environment (UK Government Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) 
  • Member of the panel of experts for Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council
  • Past President of the British Society of Soil Science
  • Unofficial convenor of the UK heads of soil science group
  • Former member of the Natural Environment Research Council peer review college
  • Specialist advisor (Soil Science) in 2008 UK Research Excellent Framework (REF2008)
  • External examiner BSc Agriculture, University of Essex (Writtle College)
  • External examiner MSc Sustainable Agriculture, University of Exeter
  • Multiple PhD and MSc (research) external examiner roles in UK, Australian, Canadian, New Zealand and South African Universities
  • Editorial Board member, Biology & Fertility of Soils
  • Editorial Board member, Plant & Soil

Career History

2014 - PresentProfessor, The Royal Agricultural University
2011 - 2014Professor and Head of the School of Life Sciences, Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh
2006 - 2011Director of Science, Scottish Crop Research Institute, Dundee
1999 - 2006Professor, University of Stirling (Head of School 2002 - 2006)
1990 - 1999Lecturer then Senior Lecturer, University of Dundee
1988 - 1990Postdoctoral Research Associate, University of Newcastle upon Tyne
1988PhD Soil Science, University of Newcastle upon Tyne
1985BSc Honours (1st class) Biological Sciences, Manchester Polytechnic
1983HND Applied Biology, Manchester Polytechnic

Honorary and Visiting Appointments

  • Hector and Andrew Smith Memorial Lecturer, Institute of Agriculture, University of Western Australia 2015
  • Visiting Professor, Heriot-Watt University
  • Adjunct Professor, University of Canterbury, Christchurch, New Zealand
  • Adjunct researcher, North West Agriculture and Forestry University, Yangling, China
  • Former Visiting Professor, University of Newcastle upon Tyne
  • Former OECD Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada
  • Former Royal Society of Edinburgh Personal Research Fellow
  • Former Rothamsted Fellow
  • Former Erskine Visiting Fellow, University of Canterbury, Christchurch, New Zealand


  • Research on soil biology and biochemistry applied to advancing ecological understanding in cold (polar) and hot deserts, and applied to improved understanding and management of fertility, soil organic matter turnover and nutrient dynamics in agricultural systems, including comparison of till and no-till practices, the decomposition of residues from GM crops, and soil changes in long-term experimental plots.
  • Extensive field work experience in both polar regions (Antarctica and the Arctic), and in hot desert and agricultural systems in southern Africa (including Namibia, Mozambique and Zimbabwe) and China
  • Consultancy work on management of soil fertility and agricultural sustainability in Africa (Ghana and Mozambique).


  • At the Royal Agricultural University: Contributions to undergraduate and postgraduate modules on aspects of soil science, soil biology, soil fertility and soil management; special topics on GM crops, weather and climate, food security; dissertation supervision
  • At previous Universities: Extensive experience in teaching and examining in environmental sciences (including soil science, biogeochemistry and polar environments), ecology, environmental microbiology, plant biology (especially agricultural botany)


  • Beniston, J.W., Shipitalo, M., Lal, R., Dayton, E.A., Hopkins, D.W., Jones, F, Joynes, A. & Dungait, J.A.J. (2015) Carbon and macronutrient losses during accelerated erosion under different tillage and residue management.European Journal of Soil Science 66, 218-225.
  • Condron, L.M., Hopkins, D.W., Gregorich, E.G., Black, A. & Wakelin, S.A. (2014) Long-term irrigation effects on soil organic matter under temperate grazed pasture. European Journal of Soil Science 65, 741–750. 
  • Karhu, K., Auffret, M., Dungait, J.A.J, Hopkins, D.W., Prosser, J.I., Singh, B.K., Subke, J.A., Wookey, P.A. Ågren, G.I., Sebastià, M.T., Gouriveau, F., Bergkvist, G., Meir, P., Nottingham, A.T., Salinas, N. & Hartley, I.P. (2014) Temperature sensitivity of soil respiration rates enhanced by microbial community response. Nature 513, 81-84.
  • Sun B., Dennis, P.G., Laudicina, V.A., Ord, V.J., Rushton, S.P., O’Donnell, A.G. &K. Newsham & D.W. Hopkins (2014) Biogeochemical responses to nutrient, moisture and temperature manipulations of soil from Signy Island, South Orkney Islands in the Maritime Antarctic. Antarctic Science 26, 513-520.
  • Cowan, D.A., Makhalanyane, T.P., Dennis, P.G. & Hopkins, D.W. (2014) Microbial ecology and biogeochemistry of continental Antarctic soils. Frontiers in Microbiology, 5, Article 154, doi: 10.3389/fmicb.2014.00154.
  • Sun, B., Roberts, D.M., Dennis, P.G., Caul, S., Daniell, T.J. and Hopkins, D.W. (2014) Microbial properties and nitrogen contents of arable soils under different tillage regimes. Soil Use & Management 30, 152-159.
  • Tilston, E.L., Halpin, C. & Hopkins, D.W. (2014) Simultaneous down-regulation of enzymes in the phenylpropanoid pathway of plants has aggregated effects on rhizosphere microbial communities.  Biology & Fertility of Soils 50, 455-463.
  • McCormack, S.A., Ostle, N., Bardgett, R.D., Hopkins, D.W. & Vanbergen, A.J. (2013) Biochar in bioenergy cropping systems: impacts on soil faunal communities and linked ecosystem processes. Global Change Biology Bioenergy 5, 81-95.
  • Tilston, E.L., Halpin, C. & Hopkins, D.W. (2013) Decomposition of tobacco roots with modified phenylpropanoid content by fungi with contrasting lignocellulose degradation strategies. Biology & Fertility of Soils 49, 304-311.
  • Dennis, P.G., Sparrow, A.D., Gregorich, E.G., Novis, P.M., Elberling, B., Greenfield, L.G. & Hopkins, D.W. (2013) Microbial responses to carbon and nitrogen supplementation in an Antarctic Dry Valley soil. Antarctic Science 25, 55-61.
  • Dennis, P.G., Newsham, KK., Rushton, S.P. Ord, V.J., O’Donnell, A.G. & Hopkins, D.W. (2013) Warming constrains bacterial community responses to nutrient inputs in a southern, but not northern, maritime Antarctic soil. Soil Biology & Biochemistry 57, 248-255.
  • Fraser, F.C., Hallett, P.D., Wookey, P.A., Hopkins, D.W. (2013) How do enzymes catalysing soil nitrogen mineralization respond to changing temperatures? Biology & Fertility of Soils 49, 99-103.
  • Greenfield, L.G., Gregorich, E.G., van Kessel, C., Baldock, J.A., Beare, M.H., Billings, S.A., Clinton, P., Condron, L., Hill, S., Hopkins, D.W., Janzen, H.H. (2013) Acid hydrolysis to define a biologically-resistant pool is compromised by carbon loss and transformation. Soil Biology & Biochemistry 64, 122-126.
  • Hartley, I.P., Garnett, M.H., Sommerkorn, M., Hopkins, D.W. & Wookey, P.A. (2013) The age of CO2 released from contrasting ecosystems during the extended Arctic winter. Soil Biology & Biochemistry 63, 1-4.
  • 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 & Biochemistry 60, 195-201.
  • Swanson, M.M., Reavy, B., Makarova, K.S., Cock, P.J., Hopkins, D.W., Torrance, L., Koonin, E., Taliansky, M. (2012) Novel bacteriophages containing a genome of another bacteriophage within their genomes. PLoS One 7, e40683.
  • Hartley, I.P., Garnett, M.H., Sommerkorn, M., Hopkins, D.W., Fletcher, B.J., Sloan, V.L., Phoenix, G.K. & Wookey, P.A. (2012) A potential loss of carbon associated with greater plant growth in the European Arctic. Nature Climate Change 2, 875-879.
  • Dennis, P.G., Rushton, S.P., Newsham, K.K., Laudicina, V.A., Ord, V.J., Daniell, T.J., O’Donnell, A.G. & Hopkins, D.W. (2012) Soil fungal community composition does not alter along a latitudinal gradient through the maritime and sub-Antarctic. Fungal Ecology 5, 403-408.
  • Dungait, J.A.J., Hopkins, D.W., Gregory, A.S. & Whitmore, A.P. (2012) Soil organic matter turnover is governed by accessibility not recalcitrance. Global Change Biology 18, 1781-1796.