Jane Rickson Image Cranfield University

Professor Jane Rickson, Cranfield University’s Professor of Soil Erosion and Conservation, has received the Andrew Medal award from the Society of Chemical Industry (SCI) for her work in the area of ‘neglected science.’

Professor Rickson said:

“I am honoured and delighted to be recognised by SCI. Working with farmers and land managers; our applied research aims to understand the drivers of soil degradation and generate scientific evidence in support of practical measures that are cost-effective to reverse soil degradation and improve the health of our soils.”

Professor Rickson delivered the SCI Andrew Medal Memorial Lecture 2021 entitled ‘Soil Resources in the UK – overlooked and undervalued

The lecture highlighted the importance of soil resources in delivering diverse benefits to society.

As well as the production of food, fibre, fodder and (bio)fuel, soils regulate water supplies and mitigate climate change through carbon sequestration and storage.

Soils provide habitats for biodiversity and make important contributions to cultural life too.

Increasing demands on this ‘thin layer of earth’ have degraded and damaged this finite, non-renewable natural resource. The economic costs of soil degradation in England and Wales alone are estimated to exceed £1.5 billion every year.

Cranfield University said that its recent analysis of national soil survey data has shown that some soils in England and Wales may become unproductive by 2050 and some may disappear completely by the same date.

The award is named after Dr Sydney Andrew, a chemical engineer working for ICI. He was a long-time SCI member who exemplified the Society’s mission to encourage the application of chemistry and related sciences for public benefit.

He died in 2011 and bequeathed a substantial share of his estate to SCI for the founding of the Andrew Medal Lecture. This is presented every third year on the theme of neglected science.

Sharon Todd, SCI ceo, said:

“SCI is proud to recognise Professor Rickson for her outstanding record of work. She has over 30 years’ experience of research, consultancy and teaching in soil and water engineering, specialising in soil degradation and sustainable land management.

“Her work has focused on better understanding of soil functions and their role in delivering ecosystems goods and services, including agricultural production, water regulation and carbon storage. She is also an excellent role model for the next generation of women in science.

“I am pleased Professor Rickson was also able to describe some solutions to the problems discussed – such as regenerative agriculture.

“SCI promotes the translation of science into business for the public good and soil ‘stewardship’ is exactly that – looking after our land for generations to come.”

Professor Rickson also achieved national success this month being named as a winner in the 2021 Top 50 Women in Engineering.