Harry Barrat

Name: Harry Barrat

Project title: Influence of historical management and soil moistureon N2O emissions from grasslands 

Where based: Rothamsted Research, North Wyke and Bangor University


I studied Environmental Science at Plymouth University which included a year working for Natural England as part of a professional placement. My placement advisor was Rob Parkinson a now retired soil scientist; I was quickly involved in several projects relating to the United Nations International Year of Soils. I fell in love with the fields fascinating breadth and importance, eventually basing my undergrad thesis on the impact of wood ant nests on woodland soil properties. Now I’m pursuing a PhD in the hopes of learning, communicating and contributing to soil science and society.

Project description:

Soils are a crucial sink and source in numerous biogeochemical cycles including the nitrogen cycle – an element that’s integral to complex life and crop growth. Nitrous oxide (N2O) is of particular interest because it is a powerful greenhouse gas (approximately 300 times more potent than carbon dioxide) and it depletes ozone in the stratosphere. Microbial activity is predominantly responsible for its release and the factors that impact these communities such as land use and soil moisture have been studied within short time frames. However, my project explores how historical soil moisture (weeks-months) and management (years-decades) might influence the microbial response to fertiliser application and the resulting N­2O emissions. The ultimate goal is to understand how these emissions can be reduced through changing agricultural practices.

Additional personal information: 

I grew up in suburban Manchester, but I would regularly visit my grandparents in Kent which is the source of my outdoor love. My family now reside in London, which is fantastic because I now have easy access to some of the world’s best museums. As a keen naturalist I like to walk in the woods, forage for fungi and identify flowers and insects. My partner is Canadian, so occasionally I get to visit some of earths wilder areas.