Lorna Dawson

Professor Lorna Dawson CBE is Head of Forensic Soil Science at the James Hutton Institute, Scotland, UK, and has 30 years’ experience as a soil scientist, delivering impact in areas of agriculture, forensic science and the environment.

A global pioneer of the forensic soil science discipline, Lorna is a Chartered Scientist, a Fellow of the Institute of British Soil Scientists, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, Professor of Forensic Science at Robert Gordon University, Aberdeen, and is an Advisor to the Scottish Government SEFARI Strategic Research Programme.  She is the Chair of the Forensic Geology Group of the British Geological Society and Treasurer of the International Union of Geological Sciences Initiative of Forensic Geology.

Lorna was awarded the Pride of Britain Special Recognition award in September 2017 for her contribution to the development of evidence and communication within the Criminal Justice System and was awarded a Commander of the Order of the British Empire for services to soil and forensic science in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list in June 2018.

Lorna has been engaged as an expert witness in soil science for over 15 years, regularly working with police, agencies, lawyers, defence and prosecuting courts, tribunals and official enquiries. She holds diplomas in both civil and criminal law.

Lorna regularly advises the UK’s National Crime Agency on soil trace evidence provision and has assisted in several high-profile, international cases including cases of murder, rape, contaminated land, food adulteration, food authenticity and food provenance.  Her expertise has also lent itself to the literary world and Lorna regularly consults for crime authors, including Ann Cleeves, author of the Vera and Shetland crime novel series.

The James Hutton Institute is a respected, globally recognised, research organisation encompassing several disciplines that focus on the earth’s natural resources. The Institute combines strengths in crops, soils, land use and environmental research, and makes a major contribution to the understanding of key global issues, such as food, energy and environmental security, developing and promoting effective technological and management solutions to these major issues. It is a leading centre of forensic research, analysis and delivery, with unparalleled experience and expertise in the analysis of soils, land, waters, foods and other ecological/environmental materials.

A world-leading scientific team delivers a range of complementary characterisations in forensic case work.  Specialisms include soil DNA, plant DNA, palynology, volatile organic compounds, mineralogy, foodstuffs and mycology.

The team participates in outdoor crime scene sampling and advice.  Using analytical techniques and a strategy combining organic and inorganic characterisation, the team examines trace evidence, compare samples, provide discrimination of sample characteristics and provides expert opinion evidence.  Environments can also be characterised for interpretation and evaluation.  Geographical Information Systems and Virtual Reality skills are also available in mapping areas for search and sampling, using the wide-ranging databases available at the Institute.

James Hutton Limited is the commercial subsidiary company which uses the science, facilities and intellectual resources of the James Hutton Institute to provide scientific services and solutions to a diverse range of industries and sectors. For example, the business plays a major role in international plant breeding, particularly for potatoes and soft fruits, which is underpinned by scientific research in partnership with government and industry.  It also supports the oil and gas industry through analytical services which are predominantly used by geoscientists and chemists to identify, characterise and quantify components in a variety of mixtures. The business is also home to a dedicated lipid analysis laboratory, Mylnefield Lipid Analysis, which is also internationally recognised for its excellence.

James Hutton Limited is set apart from other analytical service laboratories by the quality of the people and the breadth and depth of the science delivered. Lorna is testament to this.  Scientists at the James Hutton Institute have a wealth of research on hand that can be applied to real world situations and problems and their knowledge and skill sets are specialist, and extremely varied. Expertise, specialisms and techniques are combined to deliver the most accurate interpretation of results and offer the most powerful solutions to clients the world over.

Lorna is one of the world leading scientists from the James Hutton Institute making a global impact through science.