John S Waterhouse

Emeritus Professor

Faculty:Faculty of Science and Engineering

Department:Life Sciences

Location: Cambridge

Areas of Expertise: Life sciences

John taught organic chemistry at Anglia Ruskin from 1981 to retirement in 2007 and was Director of the former Environmental Sciences Research Centre. He currently helps in supervising research students.


John maintains his research interests in the use of stable isotopes in tree rings for environmental reconstruction, and chemical communication in mammals.

Research interests

  • Isotopic dendroclimatology concerns the measurement of the ratios of the stable isotopes of carbon, oxygen and hydrogen in the cellulose of tree rings. The precise values of these ratios depends upon the climatic conditions under which the tree ring was laid down, and so tree rings can provide a record of past climate in their record of isotope ratios. The great advantage of tree rings over other proxy climate records lies in the unambiguous annual resolution that the rings provide. The isotope ratios in living trees have also provided evidence for the ways in which trees are responding to the present increases in the level of atmospheric carbon dioxide. Work has been carried out at an international level with several institutions across the UK and Europe. Funding for projects has been obtained from NERC, the Leverhulme Trust and the European Commission.
  • Mammalian semiochemistry refers to the study of chemical communication between mammals. Social interaction is often mediated by olfactory communication, which can provide information on matters such as social and sexual status, emotional state, and territoriality. The organic compounds necessary for this communication are usually volatile, so that they can be detected at a distance. Urine, faeces and glandular secretions are all used to transmit chemical information. Knowledge of olfactory communication can be a great help in understanding animal behaviour, and may be used to develop environmentally acceptable methods of control and in the conservation of endangered species.


  • PhD Organic Chemistry, Durham University
  • BSc Chemistry, Durham University

Memberships, editorial boards

  • MRDC, CChem

Research grants, consultancy, knowledge exchange

  • 1997-8 £22,100 from the Leverhulme Trust for High resolution climatic change from stable isotope measurements in oak
  • 1999-2000 £24,094 from NERC for Climatic and hydrological variability over the last century in the flood plain of the Lower Ob River, Western Siberia
  • 2002-2005 €179,000 from the European Commission as part of ISONET: 400years of annual reconstructions of European climate variability using a high resolution isotopic network
  • 2008-2012 €85,000 from the European Commission as part of MILLENNIUM: European climate of the last millennium

Selected recent publications

D.C. Frank1, B. Poulter, M. Saurer, J. Esper JS Waterhouse et al. (2015). Water use efficiency and transpiration across European forests during the Anthropocene. Nature Climate Change (in press) Published on-line 11th May 2015 | DOI: 10.1038/NCLIMATE2614.

Saurer M., Spahni R., Frank D.C., Loader N.J., Waterhouse J.S. et al. (2014) Spatial variability and temporal trends in water-use efficiency of European forests. Global Change Biology (in press). DOI: 10.1111/gcb.12717.

Loader N.J. and Waterhouse J.S. (2014) An extractor device for stuck or broken increment borers. Tree Ring Research, 70, 157-160. DOI:10.3959/1536-1098-70.2.157

Boettger, T, Haupt, M, Friedrich, M, Waterhouse, JS. (2014) Reduced climate sensitivity of carbon, oxygen and hydrogen stable isotope ratios in tree-ring cellulose of silver fir (Abies alba Mill.) influenced by background SO2 in Franconia (Germany, Central Europe), Environmental Pollution, 185, 281-294. DOI: 0.1016/j.envpol.2013.10.030

JS Waterhouse, S. Cheng, D. Juchelka, N.J. Loader, D. McCarroll, V.R. Switsur and L. Gautam (2013). Position-specific measurement of oxygen isotope ratios in cellulose: isotopic exchange during heterotrophic cellulose synthesis. Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta 112, 178-191. DOI: 10.1016/j.gca.2013.02.021.

Ellen Mwenesongole, Lata Gautam, Sarah Hall, John Waterhouse and Michael D. Cole (2013). Simultaneous detection of controlled substances in waste water. Analytical Methods 3248-3254. DOI: 10.1039/c3ay40655e.

Bodin P.E., Gagen M., McCarroll D., Loader N.J., Jalkanen R., Robertson I., Switsur V.R., Waterhouse J.S., Woodley E.J., Young G.H.F., and Alton P.B. (2013) Comparing the performance of different stomatal conductance models using modelled and measured plant carbon isotope ratios (d13C): implications for assessing physiological forcing. Glob. Change Biol, 19, DOI: 10.1111/gcb.12192.

K.T. Rinne, N.J. Loader, V.R. Switsur, J.S. Waterhouse (2013). 400-year May-August Precipitation Reconstruction for Southern England Using Stable Oxygen Isotope Ratios (δ18O) of Tree Rings. Quaternary Science Reviews 60, 13-25. DOI: 10.1016/j.quascirev.2012.10.048.

K.T. Rinne, N.J. Loader, V.R. Switsur, K.S. Treydte, J.S. Waterhouse (2010), Investigating the influence of sulphur dioxide (SO2) on the stable isotope ratios (d13C and d18O) of tree rings, Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta 74, 2327–2339

McCarroll D, Gagen MH, Loader NJ, Robertson I, Anchukaitis KJ, Los S, Young GHF, Jalkanan R, Kirchhefer, A and Waterhouse J S. (2009). Correction of tree ring stable carbon isotope chronologies for changes in the carbon dioxide content of the atmosphere, Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta, 73, 1539-1547

Waterhouse JS, Langley B, Weldon PJ, (2008) Volatile Components in Dorsal Gland Secretions of the Chacoan Peccary, Catagonus wagneri Volatile Components in Dorsal Gland Secretions of the Chacoan Peccary, Catagonus wagneri, Zeitschrift für Naturforschung C, 63, 769-772.