Paul is President-Elect of the British Society of Soil Science. He is a Soil Physicist working on solutions to food and environmental security, mainly focussed on the interactions between plants, microorganisms and the physical behaviour of soil.
Before joining the University of Aberdeen in 2013 as Professor in Soil Physics, he was Theme Lead of Sustainable Production Systems at the James Hutton Institute, and the Head of the Plant-Soil Interface group at its predecessor, the Scottish Crop Research Institute where he worked since 1997.
His work spans from understanding the fundamental processes driving changes in soil physical properties by biology, through to applied research examining soil degradation and the underlying causes. Recent projects have studied new soil sensor technologies, the capacity of different plant root traits to physically engineer soil, a Critical Zone Observatory network across China, the use of vegetation to mechanically stabilise engineered slopes, and the better use of organic resources in Ethiopia to improve soils and their capacity to produce food. Over £5M of funding from UKRI and other sources have supported this research, which has included the coordination of large interdisciplinary networks of researchers outside soil science. The research has been applied to tackle practical challenges such as soil compaction, tillage and physical degradation, supported by Defra, AHDB and the Scottish Government. He has published >160 refereed papers.
Paul helped organise the science programme of the World Congress of Soil Science in Glasgow as the vice chair of the International Union of Soil Science (IUSS) Division 2: Soil properties and processes. He is a Core Panel Member of the NERC Peer Review College, Associate Editor of the European Journal of Soil Science and Technical Editor of Soil.
He is the programme tutor of the only remaining MSc Soil Science in the UK at the University of Aberdeen, where he also co-ordinates postgraduate research training of over 150 PhD students in the School of Biological Sciences.