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Erika Whiteford

Senior Lecturer

School of Science & Technology

Staff Group(s)


Dr. Whiteford is a lecturer on the CIEEM-accredited Ecology and Environmental Management pathway of BSc (Hons) Biological Sciences. Dr Whiteford is the Course Leader for the MRes Environmental Management and MSc (Res) Environmental Management.

She teaches on the following modules:

  • BIOL10341 Life on Earth
  • BIOL10371 Natural Ecosystems
  • BIOL10381 People and the Environment
  • BIOL14406 Living Systems
  • BIOL22391 Ecotourism
  • BIOL22181 Molecular Ecology – Module Leader
  • BIOL30001 Research Project (60)
  • BIOL33411 Atmospheric Pollution
  • BIOL33511 Environmental Forensic Assessment
  • BIOL40191 Research Project (120)

Erika is an active researcher in terrestrial and freshwater ecology, in particular investigating biogeochemical cycling and nutrient stoichiometry of low nutrient systems in the Arctic. She is a member of the Under-ice ecology project, Aquatic Transitions working group, and Kangerlussuaq cross-system international working group.

Career overview

2014 – 2016: Postdoctoral Research Associate, Loughborough University. NERC funded multidisciplinary project investigating the role of dissolved organic matter (DOM) in regulating microbial and algal diversity, community structure and the cycling of organic carbon in arctic lakes.

2013 – 2017: Postdoctoral Research Associate, Loughborough University. NERC funded multidisciplinary project studying sediment records from Arctic lakes in Greenland, Alaska and Norway to determine vegetation changes associated with past climate warming events and how these have impacted on lake structure and function.

2010 – 2013: Postdoctoral Research Associate, Loughborough University. NERC funded multidisciplinary project investigating the effects of long range nitrogen deposition on arctic lake ecology.

2010: Postdoctoral Research Associate, OPAL (Open Air Laboratories) and The British Lichen Society.  Analysing public participation data from the air quality survey, running outreach sessions on lichen identification and lichens and air pollution, producing educational resources.

2009 – 2010: Postdoctoral Research Associate School of Biology, The University of Nottingham. CARBONorth project.  Investigating the effects of nitrogen enrichment and temperature on tree seedling growth at the Russian treeline.

2005 – 2009:   Ph.D School of Biology, The University of Nottingham. Thesis entitled ‘Nitrogen-phosphorus relationships in lichens’.

Research areas

Dr Whiteford's research interests focus on:

  • the impacts of environmental change on aquatic and terrestrial ecology, with a particular focus on whole organism biochemistry and physiology.
  • the mechanisms which enable lichen forming fungi to tolerate extreme, nutrient poor habitats, how they can be used as biological indicators and what role they play in shaping low resource ecosystem structure and function.
  • the effects of changes in the biogeochemical cycling of nutrients (carbon, nitrogen and phosphorus) on the structure and function of low-resource habitats, especially the Arctic.
  • taking palaeoecological and contemporary ecological approaches, undertaking limnological surveys, growth bioassays, nutrient analyses and using multiproxy palaeoecological techniques.

Erika's areas of expertise are:

  • in the analysis of lake sediments for fossil diatom assemblages and algal chlorophyll and carotenoid pigments to reconstruct environmental change impacts on lakes over time.
  • in the analysis of water, algal, plant and soil samples for chemical composition and extracellular enzyme activity associated with nutrient acquisition.  This combination of skills means she can apply knowledge from field observations, contemporary studies and experimental bioassays from both aquatic and terrestrial systems to help interpret environmental change from palaeoecological reconstructions in high latitude ecosystems.
  • investigating cross-system linkages and biogeochemical transfers between key ecosystems at the landscape scale.

Dr Whiteford is currently involved in a NERC funded multidisciplinary research project which aims to examine the influence of aeolian derived elements on the water chemistry and microbial nutrient limitation of oligotrophic freshwater lakes in West Greenland.

Her current research interests include:

  • The ecophysiology of nitrogen sensitive and tolerant lichens
  • The desiccation resistance of diatoms
  • The effect of nutrient availability on Arctic periphyton colonisation rate and community structure
  • The composition of benthic algal mats and response to nutrient supply in Arctic lakes
  • The physiological response of lichens to nitrogen enrichment in the Arctic
  • The relationship between lake morphometry and diatom community structure

External activity

She is a member of the Under-ice ecology project, Aquatic Transitions working group, Kangerlussuaq cross-system international working group and the British Ecological Society.

Sponsors and collaborators

  • NERC-funded effect of glacially derived dust on Arctic lakes (DUSTY) project: Loughborough University, The University of Nottingham, British Geological Survey.
  • Kangerlussuaq cross-system international working group involving 28 international research institutes including: University of Maine, Loughborough University, Penn State University, University of Alaska, The University of Nottingham, Cardiff University, Queen’s University Belfast, University of California.
  • NERC-funded Dissolved organic matter of Arctic lakes (DOM) project: Loughborough University, The University of Essex
  • NERC-funded Lakes and Arctic Carbon (LAC) project: Loughborough University, The University of Nottingham, University College London, The University of Southampton
  • NERC-funded Nitrogen deposition in the Arctic project: Loughborough University, The University of Nottingham, University College London, University of East Anglia
  • OPAL (Open Air Laboratories) funded by the Big Lottery Fund and involving 13 partner organisations for the UK project including The University of Nottingham, Imperial College London, The University of York and the Field Studies Council.
  • The British Lichen Society.
  • EU funded CARBONorth project which involved 15 participants including The University of Nottingham, The Met Office, University College London, Ensis Ltd and Copenhagen University amongst others.


Functional attributes of epilithic diatoms for palaeoenvironmental interpretations in South-West Greenland lakes. McGowan S, Gunn HV, Whiteford EJ, Anderson NJ, Jones VJ, Law C, Journal of Paleolimnology, 2017, 1-26

Spatial variations in snowpack chemistry and isotopic composition of NO3- along a nitrogen gradient in West Greenland. Curtis CJ, Kaiser J, Marca A, Anderson NJ, Simpson GL, Jones V, Whiteford EJ, Published for discussion Biogeosciences, 2017

The Arctic in the 21st Century: Changing biogeochemical linkages across a paraglacial landscape of Greenland. Anderson NJ, Saros JE, Bullard JE, Cahoon SP, McGowan S, Bagshaw EA, Barry C, Bindler R, Burpee B, Fowler RA, Fritz SC, Giles M, Hamerlik L, Law AC, Mernild SH, Northington RM, Osburn CL, Pla-Rabès S, Post E, Telling J, Whiteford EJ, Yallop M, Yde JC, Bioscience, 2017, 67, 118-133

Ecology under lake ice. Hampton SE, Galloway AE, Powers SH, and the UNDER ICE ECOLOGY TEAM. Ecology Letters, 2017, 20: 98-111

Seasonal and regional controls of phytoplankton production along a climate gradient in South-West Greenland during ice-cover and ice-free conditions. Whiteford EJ, McGowan S, Barry C and Anderson NJ, Arctic, Antarctic and Alpine Research, 2016, 48,139-159

Long-term perspectives on terrestrial carbon cycling using palaeolimnology. McGowan S, Anderson NJ, Edwards ME, Langdon PG, Jones VJ, Whiteford EJ, Wiik E, van Hardenbroek M, WIREs Water, 2015

Nutrient limitation of periphyton growth in arctic lakes in south-west Greenland. Hogan EJ, McGowan S and Anderson NJ, Polar Biology, 2014, 37, 1331-1342

The effect of the reproductive state on the growth rate of Cladonia portentosa. Hogan EJ and Crittenden PD, The Lichenologist, 2014, 46(3), 483-487

Looking forward through the past: identification of 50 priority research questions in palaeoecology. Seddon AW, Mackay AW, Baker AW and PALAEO50 TEAM, Journal of Ecology, 2014, 102(1), 256-267

Response of Cyclotella species to nutrients and incubation depth in Arctic lakes. Saros JE, Strock KE, McCue J, Hogan E and Anderson NJ, Journal of Plankton Research, 2014, 36(2), 450-460

Metabolite profile shifts in the heathland lichen Cladonia portentosa in response to N deposition reveal novel biomarkers. Freitag S, Feldmann J, Raab A, Crittenden PD, Hogan EJ, Squier A, Boyd K, Thain S, Physiologia Plantarum, 2012, 146: 160-172

Effects of nitrogen enrichment on phosphatase activity and nitrogen : phosphorus relationships in Cladonia portentosa. Hogan EJ, Minnullina G, Smith RI and Crittenden PD, New Phytologist, 2010, 186: 911-925

Response of phosphomonoesterase activity in the lichen Cladonia portentosa to nitrogen and phosphorus enrichment in a field manipulation experiment. Hogan EJ, Sheppard L, Leith I and Crittenden PD, New Phytologist, 2010, 186: 926-933

See all of Erika Whiteford's publications...