Professional summary

Research Interests

The aim of my PhD research is to model the impact of an oomycete pathogen, Phytophthora austrocedri, on UK native juniper (Juniperus communis). Juniper is one of few trees native to the UK and is recognised as an important species for biodviersity as it supports large numbers of birds, insects and fungi. Since its discovery in the UK in 2012, many juniper populations are now known to be infected by a pathogenic water mould called Phytophthora austrocedri, first described in 2007 in Argentina. So far, the UK is the only other country where the pathogen is known to infect wild populations of trees in the cypress family. Using a combination of spatially explicit, statistical and epidemiological modelling techniques, I aim to identify juniper populations at lower risk from infection to help target effective measures for juniper conservation. I am investigating how topography, climate, hydrology and community structure favour juniper population persistence and interface with the establishment of the disease at both field and regional scales.

This work is supervised by Beth Purse (CEH), Nik Cunniffe & Chris Gilligan (University of Cambridge), Kate Searle (CEH) and Sarah Green (Forest Research). This PhD is funded by the Scottish Forestry Trust, Scottish Forestry, Forest Research, Scottish Natural Heritage (NatureScot), UKCEH and the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, and is registered at the University of Cambridge Plant Science Department.

Further background information about Phytophthora austrocedri can be found on the Forest Research website: https://www.forestresearch.gov.uk/tools-and-resources/pest-and-disease-resources/phythopthora-austrocedri/

I completed a six week intermission in Sept & Oct 2018 to carry out a secondment at CNR-IPSP & CIHEAM Bari in Italy funded by Marie Skłodowska-Curie Research and Innovation Staff Exchange to learn about Xylella fastidiosa detection, epidemiology and control measures as part of the EU Horizon 2020 CureXF project.

Our first publication "Small scale variability in soil moisture drives infection of vulnerable juniper populations by invasive forest pathogen" is available from Forest Ecology & Management  vol 473: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.foreco.2020.118324

Brief CV

Before starting my PhD, I worked for four years as an Operations Officer for Scottish Natural Heritage covering Uist, Barra and St Kilda. These islands boast diverse natural history, including important populations of breeding and wintering waders, a variety of machair habitats, freshwater lochs spanning different nutrient and pH gradients, intricate coastal geomorphology and impressive geological features. As such I covered a broad range of different topics from providing management advice for a whole range of sites designated under national and european legislation, advising on proposals for planning and development, evaluating agri-environment scheme applications, liaising with crofting communities over wildlife conflicts (particualrly greylag and barnacle goose conflicts as well as white-tailed sea eagles), monitoring and reporting of designated site condition, managing survey contracts and carrying out surveys for a broad range of features from machair and breeding waders to lagoon cockles and off-shore seabird colonies.

I am an active member of the Botanical Society of Britain and Ireland and have contributed to Atlas 2020 recording weeks in the Outer Hebrides as well as Wales, Shetland, Mayo, Kerry and Cumbria, though I'm currently concentrating recording effort in my home county VC105 West Ross. I am interested in biological recording more generally too.

 

Qualifications

M.Sc. Biodiversity and Taxonomy of Plants, University of Edinburgh & Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh

B.Sc. (Hons) Plant Biology, University of Aberdeen

Panels, committees and memberships

Botanical Society of Britain and Ireland, British Ecological Society, British Society for Plant Pathology, Cambridge Philosophical Society