Spray, Chris


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1975 …2023

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Personal profile


Environmental Sustainability in Practice - 4th year undergraduate 

International Water Law / National Water Law modules for LLM


Professor Chris J Spray MBE, FRSA, MA (Cantab), PhD, MCIEEM is a Senior Research Fellow in Geography & Environmental Science, and holds an Emeritus professorship in Water Science & Policy at the Centre for Water Law, Policy & Science under the auspices of UNESCO. During 2016/17, he also held a NERC Knowledge Exchange Research Fellowship with Welsh Government. Before joining the university in 2009, I had over 20 years of practical experience of integrated water resource management from a number of distinct perspectives - including regulation and policy (Director of Environmental Science for the Scottish Environment Protection Agency); river basin management and planning (chair of Tweed River Basin Management Planning Area Advisory Group); wetland ecosystem services (co-author of UKNEA chapter on water and wetlands); Ecosystem Approach delivery (project board for national Scottish Land Use Strategy pilot in the Borders); water science and catchment restoration (principal investigator for the Eddleston Water Restoration project, and a series of other catchment projects); participatory environmental NGOs (Tweed Forum, RSPB director/trustee); and associated research, dissemination and advisory roles for governments (e.g. ACRE) and agencies (e.g. Scottish Natural Heritage board's Science Advisory Committee). I currently chair the UK Government's Special Protection Area/Ramsar Scientific Working Group, and am a board member of the Loch Lomond & the Trossachs National Park Authority. I utilise this range of experience in both my teaching and research collaborations, including contributions to undergraduate teaching in courses on environmental sustainability in practice, as well as cross-disciplinary contributions to International and National water Law courses.

Academic and Professional Posts held since graduation:

2018 - current: Senior Research Fellow (p/t) Geography & Environmental Science, University of Dundee

2015-16: NERC Knowledge Exchange Research Fellow - part-time post with Welsh Government in Cardiff

2009 - 2018: Chair of Water Science & Policy - UNESCO Centre for Water Law, Policy and Science, University of Dundee

2004-09:  Director of Environmental Science - Scottish Environment Protection Agency

1991-2004: Director of Environment (previously Conservation Manager) - Northumbrian Water Group

1990-91: Conservation Manager - National Rivers Authority (Anglian region)

1984-89: Recreation & Conservation Manager - Anglian Water Authority

1978 -84: Post-doctoral Research Fellow, Zoology - Aberdeen University

1974-78: NERC PhD studentship in Zoology - Aberdeen University

Other related Posts:

Chair of UK Government's Special Protection Area/Ramsar Scientific Working Group 2017 -

Board member of Loch Lomond & the Trossachs National Park Authority 2018-2022

President of Institute of Ecology & Environmental Management (2004-6)

Member of NERC College 2010 -

Member of UK Government Advisory Committee on Releases to the Environment (1999-2002)

Past member of England Biodiversity Group and then Scotland Biodiversity Group

Chairman of Freshwater Biological Association 2010 - 2014

Chairman of participatory catchment NGO, Tweed Forum (1992-5) and currently Trustee. Previous Chair of cross-border Area Advisory Group for River Basin Management Planning.

Trustee/Director, or past Trustee of RSPB, Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust, British Trust for Ornithology, River Restoration Project, Scottish Wildlife Trust, Durham Wildlife Trust, etc..


Synopsis of Current Research Interests

My research interests focus on wetland ecosystems, particularly how emerging research on wetland ecosystem services can be translated in to policy, legislation and action on the ground. This includes bio-physical aspects such as flood risk management, water quality improvements, habitat restoration and conservation, as well as linked social systems. I work to investigate how to link an ecosystem services approach to operational practice, and the delivery of multiple benefits from and for the wetland environment and the stakeholders who depend on it. Within this, I am exploring how such issues are communicated to and from key stakeholders, including the role of non-governmental organisations in participatory management and stakeholder dialogue. Much of the focus of my work is on the Tweed, an UNESCO HELP Basin on the Scottish:English border, and I work closely with Tweed Forum in this respect.


  • PI for the Eddleston Water Restoration project - a major Scottish Government funded project, which began with a scoping study in 2009 and, now in Phase III is undertaking a detailed investigation of the impact of restoring the Eddleston Water catchment to improve riverine habitats and reduce the risk of flooding to local communities. The Eddleston Water was so dramatically straightened and engineered some 200 years ago that it is currently classed as being of 'bad' ecological status, while the communities of Peebles and Eddleston now suffer from flooding from the river. Having installed a detailed hydrometric network and undertaken focussed pre-intervention ecological studies, the effects of using a variety of biophysical measures and interventions are being explored, and their costs and benefits measured, in terms of flood risk reduction, habitat improvement and ecosystem service delivery


  • Science Co-Ordinator (PI) for EU Interreg Building with Nature project - working for Scottish Government to coordinate the delivery of work by country partners around the North Sea on catchment restoration, for which Eddleston Water is the Scottish case study. 2017 -


  • PI for project on protection of Drinking Water Catchments - a 2 year Scottish Government project investigating the potential use, value and regulation of catchment management to deliver drinking water quality in Scotland. Partnership project with CREW, and CEH and Westcountry Rivers Trust. 


  • PI for project on Land management for increased flood resilience - a 2 year Scottish Government funded project exploring the attitudes of land managers and owners to natural flood risk management measures, their introduction and implementation via existing or new policy instruments, and the impact on farm business plans.


PI for two recent connected Research projects for Scottish Government and SEPA on:

  • Optimising Water Framework Directive River Basin Management Planning using an Ecosystem Services Approach (2013); and
  • Implementation of Fully Integrated Catchment Management Planning (2012)

These provided syntheses, and recommendations for piloting an ecosystem approach within catchment management, based on an in-depth review of catchment organisations and practices across the UK, EU and globally through the UNESCO HELP River Basin network.

Chris has further extended this to be working with the Scottish Government using an Ecosystem Approach to take forward a national pilot of implementation of the Rural Land Use Strategy for Scotland, in the Borders Region (2013-1015)

  • Co-PI for the Managing Borderlands project (2010/11), working with Newcastle (RELU), Durham and York Universities on an investigation of stakeholder knowledge and attitudes to flooding in different institutional settings and areas across the borderlands of the Tweed between England and Scotland.


  • PI for Scottish Universities Insight Institute study on the role of Participatory Catchment Organisations (2011). Working with NGO participatory catchment Organisations (PCOs) from Canada, New Zealand, Scotland and the English Borders to explore the role of PCOs as 'trusted intermediaries' between state and civic society.

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 3 - Good Health and Well-being
  • SDG 6 - Clean Water and Sanitation
  • SDG 7 - Affordable and Clean Energy
  • SDG 9 - Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure
  • SDG 11 - Sustainable Cities and Communities
  • SDG 13 - Climate Action
  • SDG 14 - Life Below Water
  • SDG 15 - Life on Land

Education/Academic qualification

Doctor of Philosophy, The territorial behaviour of Carrion Crows in relation to food supply: and experimental study., University of Aberdeen

Award Date: 1 Jan 1978

Master of Arts, University of Cambridge

Award Date: 1 Jan 1974


  • Q Science (General)
  • Ecology
  • Catchment Management
  • Wetland Ecosystem Services
  • Conservation
  • Fresh Water Biology
  • Land Use Strategy
  • Ecosystem Approach


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