Dr Kevin O'Donnell

Head of Potato, Plant Health
& Wildlife

Telephone Number
+44(0)131 244 8924

Email Address


Research interests/Areas of expertise

  • Plant pathology
  • Crop certification
  • Genetic conservation
  • I have a general interest in all aspects of work at SASA but have been particularly involved with plant health. My current interests include two cross-cutting areas – the use of IT to transform the delivery of SASA’s services and the development of the science/policy interface.
  • Successful IT projects, using our Agile/Open Source approach, have included the introduction of SPUDS to seed potato classification, replacing an intensively paper-based system and joining up SASA, Area Offices and growers – as well as systems making pesticide usage and variety description data available online.
  • I have codified the successful ‘plant health model’ for scientists, inspectors and policy-makers working together and work to apply this across SASA’s work. This model replaces the old-fashioned “scientists on tap, not on top” approach with one based on partnership around common goals. 


  • I obtained a BSc in Microbiology at The University of Aberdeen, followed by a PhD at the University of Bangor: Studies on the behaviour of  catabolic plasmid pWW15. I then worked in the R&D department of Mars Ltd, mainly on aspects of cocoa fermentation.
  • Joined SASA in 1993, as head of the newly-created DMB Section.  I became head of the then Potato & Plant Health Division in 2000 with responsibility for all of SASA's Potato and Plant Health related work.
  • From 2008 I was Head of Rural Scientific Services.  This marshalled responsibility for potato and true seed certification together for the first time
  • I have been Acting Head of SASA since March 2014
Publications - Kevin O'Donnell