Science Outlook Conference 2022- delegate information

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Session chair & speaker bios

SESSION ONE - Leading Innovations to enhance sustainability and circularity within the NI agri – food industry

CHAIR: Professor Elizabeth Magowan Director of Sustainable Agri-Food Sciences Division:

Prof Elizabeth Magowan Elizabeth completed a PhD in dairy nutrition from Queen’s University, Belfast (with DARD Science Service and ARINI) in 2004 and joined AFBI as a pig research scientist in 2003. Elizabeth developed the AFBI pig research programme until April 2017 after which she took up the post as Director of Sustainable Agri-Food Sciences Division.

Elizabeth’s research focused on optimising pig production performance through management and nutritional strategies whilst reducing environmental impact. Elizabeth worked extensively on industry/academic collaborative studies and presented her work across the UK and at international conferences as well as publications in journals.


Professor Sinead Waters, Animal & Bioscience Research Department, Teagasc

Prof Sinead Waters Sinead completed a PHD at National University of Ireland, Maynooth in Gut microbiology: Biotechnology. Sinead’s research programme is in the area of Animal Nutrition and focuses on the improvement of nutrient digestion and utilisation from feed (e.g., feed efficiency and compensatory growth), particularly on pasture based systems as occurs in Ireland.

Sinead leads a research programme in the application of genomics technologies to address key issues in agriculture, particularly in the role of the rumen microbiome in improving nutrient utilisation from feed and reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from ruminant (particularly enteric methane) and it’s manipulation via animal breeding and dietary supplementation. Ultimately data from tis research will lead to a reduction in feed costs and reduce environmental footprint of agriculture enhancing both economic and environmental sustainability.

Sinead’s interests in genomics and microbiome based research led to a focus on understanding the genetic basis for bovine respiratory disease (a major cause of morbidity and mortality in young calves). The data will contribute to understanding and breeding for resistance to BRD in the Irish herd. 

TITLE OF PRESENTATION: “Evaluation and development of feed additives to reduce enteric methane emissions from ruminants”


Dr David Patterson (Livestock & Production Sciences Branch):

Dr David Patterson David graduated from Queen’s University with a degree in Agriculture and also obtained a PhD on grass/clover sward dynamics.

David then worked for QUB as the Turfgrass Breeder at Loughgall before taking up a Grassland Technologist post at Greenmount College. After working in various roles within DANI, DARD and then DAERA I finally came ‘back to grass’ in January 2018 to take up the post of AFBI Grassland Agronomist based at Hillsborough.

Currently David has a number of projects underway: defoliation management of over-wintered silage swards; a review of the impact of flooding on grassland; the uptake of fertiliser N within multi-cut silage systems; effect of autumn defoliation on silage yield & quality; with some others projects still at the proposal stage. I’m also helping to develop an AFBI Grassland Research strategy.

TITLE OF PRESENTATION: “Pastoral Farming – turning over a new leaf”


Mr Chris Johnston (Agri-Environment Branch):

Chris Johnston Chris began working at AFBI in August 2012. His role is Project Leader in Environment & Renewable Energy research based at AFBI Hillsborough. Whilst the research programme that he manages is within Agri-Environment Branch, Chris is based at AFBI Hillsborough where the majority of the facilities for Environment and Renewable energy reside.

Many of his daily activities involve communication with industry and environment sectors especially to develop research funding bids to further the work area and disseminate the results they generate. Much of what the Agri-Environmental Technologies are currently doing resonates strongly with commercial opportunities Chris was working on his previous private sector role and as such he envisage a number of commercialisation opportunities in the future.



Dr Steven Morrison (Livestock & Production Sciences Branch):

Dr Steven Morrison Upon completing his Agriculture degree and PhD studies in dairy cow nutrition, Steven started work on a short term contract leading a project investigating the role of wood chip as a bedding material for beef cattle on the AFBI Hillsborough site. Soon after, he took up the role of research scientist leading projects in the area of dairy youngstock rearing but also assisting in projects related to dairy cow genetics and utilisation of industry data.

Steven was appointed to the role of Senior Scientific Officer covering a wide range of research areas including dairy calf nutrition, carbon footprinting, greenhouse gases, animal genetics and the development of the Bovine Information System (BovIS). In 2013, Steven was appointed to the role of Head of Sustainable Livestock Systems research which included developing youngstock, sheep, GHG, genetics and industry database programmes of work.

TITLE OF PRESENTATION: “Agricultural sustainability: Challenge and Opportunity- Greenhouse Gas Emissions and beyond”


Prof Sharon Huws (Institute of Global Food Security, QUB), Dr Rosemary Agnew (DAERA), Mr William Irvine (UFU)

SESSION TWO - The role of animal health in achieving our environmental goals

CHAIR: Dr Alastair Douglas (Director of Veterinary Sciences Division (VSD)

Dr Alastair Douglas Dr Alastair Douglas completed a PhD in peptide chemistry from Queen’s University Belfast in 1988.  Following a postdoctoral appointment in the Chemistry Department of the University of California San Diego, he joined the Veterinary Sciences Division as a Veterinary Research Officer in 1990.  Between 1990 and 2009 he worked in the Virology Branch, firstly in a research role, focusing on immune responses to veterinary viruses and then latterly establishing and running the Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathy (TSE) unit.

In June 2009, he was appointed as a Senior Veterinary Research Officer and Head of the Immunodiagnostics Branch, with responsibility for a range of statutory progammes on veterinary diseases including brucellosis, BSE, enzootic bovine leucosis, Aujeszkys disease, avian influenza, bluetongue virus and testing in support of trade guarantees.  In addition, he is the VSD co-ordinator for emergency response for epizootic diseases.  In 2012, he took on additional responsibility for food safety programmes including veterinary drug residues, chemical contaminants and marine biotoxins.

In July 2020 Alastair was appointed to the post of Director of Veterinary Sciences Division leading the AFBI programmes of animal health and food safety


Dr Philip Skuce (Moredun Research Institute):

Dr Philip Skuce Peter is a Principal Scientist at Moredun Research Institute in Edinburgh, having worked there for the past 25 years on various aspects of sustainable control of helminth parasites (worms & fluke) in livestock. His research interests are in parasite diagnostics, detection in the environment, vaccination studies and the detection and management of anthelmintic resistance. He also have interests in conservation grazing, the impact of climate change on helminth parasite epidemiology and the impact of endemic disease on the carbon footprint of livestock production. He is also the SEFARI (Scottish Environment, Food and Agriculture Research Institutes) Gateway Knowledge Broker for Livestock.

TITLE OF PRESENTATION: “Linking animal health to environmental footprint”


Dr Barry McInerney (Disease, Surveillance & Investigations Branch)

Dr Barry McInerney Originally from Co. Clare, Dr Barry McInerney qualified as a veterinary surgeon from University College Dublin in 1996. After 10 years in large animal (mostly beef and dairy) private veterinary practice in Co. Limerick, he then returned to UCD to compete a full time Master’s degree in Bioprocess Engineering Technology (first class honours). On completion of the Master’s degree he then took up a PhD position in UCD looking at food and food animal safety and traceability in particular in the poultry food chain.

Following successful completion of his PhD and a short post graduate contract he then joined Norbrook Laboratories GB Ltd as GB and then European Technical Veterinary Adviser, providing veterinary technical support and advice, and product training not only internally to Norbrook sales and marketing teams, but also to Norbrook distributors, customers and product end users throughout the UK and Europe. Dr. McInerney then took up a role at Norbrooks Global HQ in Newry Co. Down as Head of Clinical Development, leading the successful delivery of numerous pivotal clinical studies for various territories including UK, EU and US.

Dr. McInerney was also Deputy Qualified Person for Pharmacovigilance during this time, helping the global QPPV to deliver a robust PV reporting system, ensuring completion of a number of regulatory authority audits. DR McInerney has particular interests in diagnosis, treatment and prevention of mastitis in dairy cattle and the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of parasitic disease in production animals, particularly in light of current concerns regarding the development of anthelmintic resistance.

TITLE OF PRESENTATION: “Animal disease control: an AFBI perspective"


Prof. Ilias Kyriazikas (Institute of Global Food Security, QUB)

Prof Ilias Kyriazakis Ilias Kyriazakis is the Professor of Animal and Veterinary Science at the Institute for Global Food Security of Queen’s University Belfast. He is a veterinarian by training who specialises in the effects of animal management on their performance, the ability to cope with challenges, such as pathogens, and their environmental impact. He has worked with a variety of animal species ranging from mice to cows, but more recently his research has focused on beef cattle, pigs and poultry. His team was responsible for benchmarking the environmental impact of UK pig and poultry systems, and for developing mitigations to reduce the impact of these systems. They currently focus on the methodological issues of quantifying the environmental impact of livestock health issues. He was a co-author of the CIEL reports on Net Zero Carbon & UK Livestock. Professor Kyriazakis is the recipient of several awards, including the Leroy Award by European Federation of Animal Sciences (EAAP) for International Excellence in Animal Science, and Fellow of national and International bodies.

TITLE OF PRESENTATION: “What do we need to know to quantify the effect of animal health on environmental footprint?”


Dr Sam Strain (Animal Health & Welfare NI), Dr Maria Guelbenzu Gonzalo (Animal Health Ireland), Dr Mark Little (Fane Valley and Senior Vice President NIVA/BVA NI)

SESSION THREE: Optimising ecosystem services from our land and seas

CHAIR: Pieter-Jan Schön (Director of Environment & Marine Sciences Division EMSD) 

P-J Schon Pieter-Jan Schön was appointed as Director of AFBI’s new Environment and Marine Sciences Division on 1 November 2020. The decision to establish this new Division reflects the increasing importance and amount of scientific work undertaken by AFBI in the agri-environment, environment, marine and aquatic ecosystems areas. This is also in line with the general global and national recognition that the sustainable management, protection and enhancement of the environment and our ecosystems is vital and underpins the prosperity and growth of the economy and societal well-being.

Previously, Pieter-Jan led the Fisheries and Aquatic Ecosystems science programme in AFBI towards delivery on a high impact and quality integrated programme of research towards a holistic ecosystem based approach.

He holds a Masters in Fisheries Science from Rhodes University, South Africa. His science career focussed on environmental, conservation, population dynamics and natural resource management research.

Pieter-Jan joined AFBI in 2003 and has been involved in advice provision to government managers and non-government stakeholders in Northern Ireland and the United Kingdom for more than 15 years. He represents Northern Ireland on ICES (International Council for the Exploration of the Sea) and formerly European Union working and study groups. He is currently the UK member on the ICES Advisory Committee.


Dr Lisa Norton (UK Centre of Ecology and Hydrology)

Dr Lisa Norton Lisa Norton is a senior scientist in the Land Use Group at CEH where she has worked as a plant/landscape ecologist for over 20 years. Her research focuses on monitoring and management of natural capital for ecosystem service (ES) delivery and she works closely with social and economic scientists and stakeholders in interdisciplinary approaches towards sustainable environmental management of farmland.

She led the Countryside Survey programme for 10 years and continues to lead work with Defra on the use of CS data for 25 YEP indicators under a Memorandum of Agreement between Defra and CEH. She is currently leading a range of other projects including the Northern Ireland Countryside Survey, Defra research on the impacts of agri-environment schemes on hedgerows, Innovation work on seed mixtures for permanent grassland and is engaged in national and European research on livestock farming systems and biodiversity science provision to policy.

She was PI on a recently completed Global Food Security funded project; Sustainable economic and ecological grazing systems – Learning from innovative practitioners, which aimed to evidence the practices of Pasture Fed Livestock Association farmers. The research seeks to influence both changes in management by the wider population of livestock farmers and in policies influencing livestock management approaches. More information is available at

TITLE OF PRESENTATION: “Thinking holistically about approaches for future farming and the environment”

AFBI Speakers

Dr Archie Murchie (Grassland & Plant Sciences Branch):

Dr Archie Murchie Dr Archie Murchie is acting head of Grassland & Plant Science Branch in the Agri-Food & Biosciences Institute. He is an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Entomological Society, and Honorary Senior Lecturer at Queen’s University Belfast. His background is in entomology and he has 25 years’ post-doctoral experience of project managing research projects in agriculture and environmental sciences.

His research is concerned with surveillance and monitoring of pests and pathogens of plants, the use of functional biodiversity in sustainable agricultural production and the targeted management of pest species. He has worked on biological control of pests in arable crops, targeting and monitoring of pesticides, integrated pest management, invasive flatworms, earthworms, forestry pests and midges and mosquitoes as vectors of livestock and human diseases.  He believes passionately that sustainable agriculture works in tandem with the natural world to produce a healthy environment for all.

TITLE OF PRESENTATION: “Protecting plant health: healthy plants, healthy environment”


Dr Billy Hunter (Fisheries & Aquatic Ecosystems Branch)

TITLE OF PRESENTATION: Burying Treasure: Carbon sequestration and storage in Northern Irish waters”


Dr Jonathan Holland (Agri-Environment Branch)

With 20 years research experience in soils and crops, Jonathan has highly developed skills in experimental design, fieldwork, data analysis and scientific writing. His previous research has investigated a range of practical management problems for farmers including soil fertility issues, liming, cover crops and waterlogging. He is also interested in precision agriculture and has expertise using geophysical sensors to spatially predict soil properties at the field scale.

Jonathan regularly publishes in high quality peer-reviewed journals and has given oral presentations at international conferences and farmer meetings. In previous positions at the James Hutton Institute (UK), NSW Department of Primary Industries (Australia) and Charles Sturt University (Australia) Jonathan gained a great depth of soil science research experience on widely different UK and Australian soils.

TITLE OF PRESENTATION: “Soil carbon trade-off and synergies associated with the management of grasslands”


Claire Vincent (DAERA), Kevin Duncan (National Trust) Lisa Norton (CEH)