New doctoral programme will reinvigorate forest research

The Birmingham Institute of Forest Research (BIFoR) will introduce its new cohort of forest PhD researchers at its annual meeting today (30 January). The researchers are set to reinvigorate forest research in the UK through BIFoR’s doctoral training programme, Forest Edge.

Funded by the Leverhulme Trust, the £1 million programme will enable researchers to tackle topics as wide-ranging as how forests can balance the brain, and to how best to conserve mangroves.

Professor Nicola Spence, Director of BIFoR and UK Chief Plant Health Officer said:

“The risk to our trees from pests and diseases is real and increasing, for example from potential threats like Xylella fastidiosa and Emerald Ash Borer. Meeting the many challenges posed by pests and diseases requires a variety of experts, working together on the scientific and socio-economic aspects of each threat.

“The investment in world-leading forest research scientists at BIFoR and the Institute’s commitment to fostering the next generation of researchers exemplifies the renewed vigour of this vital part of UK science”.

Professor Rob MacKenzie, inaugural BIFoR co-director, says:

“Understanding how forests work on our behalf to clean air and slow flood waters, as well as their role as cultural resources, is vital underpinning for all sustainable approaches to land management.

“At the Birmingham Institute for Forest Research, we use the challenge of big, difficult, questions to enthuse and inspire new generations of scientists from GCSE to PhD.”

Professor Spence and BIFoR have also led some game-changing education initiatives, now being embedded in the GCSE curriculum. Future work will include developing electronic ‘dashboards’ which can be accessed by schools and the public to give a ‘live window’ on an outdoor ‘sci-fi forest’ laboratory in Staffordshire.

Researchers are also working closely with urban professionals to show how green infrastructure can play a role in air quality management. Working with large organisations such as Transport for London, researchers are developing software to help local planners and urban designers evaluate the future benefits of proposed ‘greening initiatives’.