Forest Edge 

The Forest Edge Doctoral Scholarship programme offered 18 Leverhulme Doctoral Scholarships at the University of Birmingham from 2018 - 2021. We are continuing the legacy of this Doctoral Scholarship by offering that any new Doctoral researchers who have forest related research interests and who are not part of a Doctoral Training Programme the opportunity to join our Forest Edge team. If you'd like to get involved please contact 

Meet the Leverhulme Forest Edge Doctoral students 

"It's been interesting coming together as the Forest Edge cohort to learn about such diverse approaches to research on forested landscapes. We are able to share knowledge from across the social and physical sciences and are challenged to explain our research to each other in understandable and straightforward ways."

 *Denotes these students are completing their research at the BIFoR FACE facility 

Cohort 1 (commenced 2018) 

Ben Howard:
Supervisors: Prof Stefan Krause, Dr Nick Kettridge, Dr Sami Ullah and Ian Baker (Small Woods Association)
PhD: Coppice management to reduce nutrient loads in forest streams
Further information: Poster 2021

Polly Jarman:
Supervisors: Prof Peter Kraftl and Dr Sophie Hadfield-Hill
PhD: Young people’s experiences of and learning in urban woodlands. 
Further information: Poster 2022

Jenny Knight:
Supervisors: Dr Steve Emery and Dr Simon Dixon
PhD: Exploring the desirability of forest landscapes in a natural flood management context.
Further information: Poster 2022

*Bridget Warren:
Supervisors: Dr James Bendle 
PhD: Development and application of novel ecological and environmental proxies based leaf wax lipids.
Further information: Poster 2021  Video 

Eszter Toth: 
Supervisors: Dr Ali Mazaheri and Dr Jane Raymond
PhD: Focus on Cognition: Can forests balance the brain? 
Further information: Poster 

Cohort 2 (commenced 2019)

Bradly Deeley:
Dr Natalia Petrovskaya and Dr Rosemary Dyson
PhD: Biological invasion of plant species poses a major threat both to the ecosystem and the economy. My research involves developing a mathematical and computational model of biological invasion, to predict how invasive plants will be spreading when the landscape conditions in the forest are changed by building a road. The main hypothesis I investigate is that roads provide an ideal environment for invasive species to spread.  
Further information:
 Poster 2022

*Nine Douwes Dekker:
Vincent Gauci, Rob MacKenzie, E Pendall (Western Sydney), Sami Ullah, and Sirwan Yamulki (Forest Research)
PhD: “I will look at the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from soil and unravel the role of the soil microbial community.  The GHGs considered are primarily methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O). We hypothesise that thresholds of soil water, nitrogen and carbon contents will determine the net fluxes of GHGs, and that the spatio-temporal dynamics of hydrological conditions will play a key role in predicting the ultimate global warming potential of forests with climate change.” 
Further information:
Poster 2023

Maria Teresa González: 
Supervisors: Prof David Maddison, Dr Allan Beltran Hernandez 
PhD: Forests are a terrestrial carbon sink, a home to biodiversity, provide clean air etc. Forest fires threaten these ecosystem services and also pose physical danger to households located on the vicinity. The high and increasing economic costs of forest fires can be reduced if we have a better understanding on the factors shaping the perceived risk of households. By using satellite and house price data our research will identify the size and persistence of the impact of pure information effect on the perception of forest fire risk.Forests are a terrestrial carbon sink, a home to biodiversity, provide clean air etc. Forest fires threaten these ecosystem services and also pose physical danger to households located on the vicinity. The high and increasing economic costs of forest fires can be reduced if we have a better understanding on the factors shaping the perceived risk of households. By using satellite and house price data our research will identify the size and persistence of the impact of pure information effect on the perception of forest fire risk.
Further information: Poster 2022

*Laura James:
Dr Christian Pfrang, Dr R Girling (Reading) and Prof Rob MacKenzie 
PhD: Trees function as highly sensitive and responsive communication hubs within ecosystems; transmitting, receiving and responding to critical information from the environment, often by means of volatile organic compounds (VOCs). “I will be exploring the potential effects of elevated CO2 and pollutants, such as ground-level ozone (O3), on the chemical communication between trees and other organisms, by examining qualitative and quantitative changes to VOCs released by trees.”
Further information: Poster 2023  
Laura's mini lecture

Cohort 3 (commenced 2020) 

Harriet Croome:
Supervisors: Brock Bersaglio (International Development Department (IDD)), Fiona Nunan (IDD)
PhD title: Investigating how changing interactions between humans and elephants affect forest socio-ecological systems in drylands. 
PhD: As dryland forests are made venues for wildlife conservation, interactions between human and nonhuman forest users can change. Focusing on interactions between Maasai pastoralists and African elephants in Laikipia, Kenya, my project aims to understand how elephant behaviours have changed with wildlife conservation initiatives in Mukogodo Forest and what affect these changes have had on FSES. By relying on the experiences, observations, and understandings of Maasai pastoralists who embody generations of knowledge about Mukogodo Forest, this project will provide insights into how changing human-nonhuman interactions associated with wildlife conservation initiatives in FSES can affect the material and ontological existence of dryland forests.
Further informationPoster 2023

Dion Dobrzynski:
John Holmes (English), Jon Sadler (Geography Earth and Environmental Science (GEES))
PhD draft title: Forest Ecology in Fantasy Fiction: Mobilising the Imaginative Resources of Fantasy Fiction for Living with Forests 
PhD: This project explores the various representations of forest ecology in the fantasy fiction of William Morris, J. R. R. Tolkien, and Ursula K. Le Guin. In collaboration with Ruskin Land, situated in Wyre Forest, this project will experiment in combining literary ecocritical and social science methodologies in order to investigate the ways in which fantasy fiction might intellectually, emotionally, and ethically engage the public in real forests.
Further informationPoster 2022   
Dion's mini lecture

Thomas Kaye: 
Supervisors: Alexandra Harris (English), Matthew Ward (English)
PhD draft title: Reading the Grain: The Patterns of Wood Rewilding Contemporary Prose and Poetry.  
PhD: This project explores how contemporary writers engage with scientific discourse and forest history to re-imagine our relationship with trees, woodlands, and forests. By analysing the major works, Barkskins by Annie Proulx, and The Overstory by Richard Powers – in conjunction with feminist revisions of the typical wilderness narrative, and poetry – Reading the Grain will investigate how the patterns of wood found in imbricated tree-metaphors, woodcraft/wood-economy, and expansive timescales effect an imaginative, literary rewilding. This project will also address how these various re-imaginings trace the often-imperceptible effects of shifting baseline syndrome through their challenging of what one might perceive as ‘natural’. 
Further information: Poster 2022 video 

*Mark Raw:
Supervisors: Estrella Luna Diez (Bio), Scott Hayward (Bio) 
PhD draft title: Priming of defence in an elevated CO2 world
PhD: Priming of defence in an elevated CO2 world  - Rising CO2  levels are a reality of our current world, however the impact of this on plant species is still little understood. Elevated CO2 is believed to result in increased growth in some species however there are reports that elevated levels could negatively impact on plant defence making them more susceptible to pests & diseases. This project aims to understand how elevated CO2 will impact oak defence priming in both juvenile & mature oak trees against the oak pathogen powdery mildew & insect herbivores. This knowledge will allow humans to better assess risks to future forests & allow for better protection of these vital organisms.
Further information: Poster 2022

Bruno Santos: 
Supervisors: Professor Philip Davies; Dr. Joshua Larsen 
Year of study: Second 
Further information: Poster 2022 The experiment being developed consists in a constructed woody wetland where willows will be used, investigating the role of this system on wastewater treatment, biomass production and methane emissions.  Trees can act in a different way from other most used plants in treatment wetlands (for example, macrophytes), since they can remove great amounts of organic matter, Nitrogen, Phosphorus and sequester more carbon that will be imprisoned in their trunks. To minimize CH4 emissions while achieving good nutrient removal, different flow rates will be applied in 6 flumes: steady and intermittent flow; with the last one varying its days of flooded and dry periods. The experiment will start running this spring at the ECOLaboratory. 
Further information: Poster 2023

*Klaske van Wijngaarden: 
Supervisors: Tom Pugh (GEES), Josh Larsen (GEES), Ben Smith (Western Sydney University (WSU)) Belinda Medlyn (WSU)
PhD draft title: From branch to forest to globe: How do trees choices regarding growth affect forest responses to increased carbon dioxide levels? 
PhD: I will look at the woody carbon dynamics of the trees at the BIFoR FACE and eucFACE experiments. A better understanding of the fate of carbon through increased photosynthetic activity and more insight in the response of complete forest stands to elevated CO2 levels will help increase the accuracy of future carbon budget models. This project will explore the use fieldwork data of different woody compartments to determine turnover rate and chemical composition changes in two different ecosystems exposed to elevated CO2 levels.
Further informationPoster 2022  

Cohort 4 (commenced 2021) 

Gemma Baker: 
Supervisors: Sarah Greene (GEES), James Bendle (GEES), Lydia Greene (Duke Lemur Centre, Duke University)
PhD Draft Title: Life on the edge: New tools to track animal-forest trophic interaction across intact to degraded ecosystems
Info: Madagascar is a haven of floral and faunal endemism, with lemurs at the centre of engineering and maintaining the diverse and varied forest habitats the island comprises. There is no such thing as a healthy Malagasy forest without the endemic lemur communities. Forest degradation and loss of lemur communities form a destructive positive feedback loop, causing the loss of large fruiting trees and a shift in forest composition to smaller faster-growing trees less efficient at carbon sequestration. Forest health and function can be monitored through the tracking of changes in the diets of inhabitant lemurs, especially in edge habitats where they are forced to adapt to ongoing changes in resources as a result of degradation. This project aims to use biomarkers, tools used primarily in organic geochemistry for palaeoclimate reconstruction, to investigate the diets of lemurs from faeces, with the aim of developing these techniques to be applied to wild lemurs in the future to monitor forestry changes and forest-lemur interactions.
Further information: Poster 2023

Kieran Clark:
Supervisors: Pola Goldberg Oppenheimer (Chem Eng), Estrella Luna Diez (Bio)
PhD Draft Title: Study and Fabrication of Rapid Engineered Spectroscopic Technology (FoRESTech) for Identification of Filamentous Pathogens in Leaves
PhD: Ash dieback and oak powdery mildew are devastating pathogens, especially for young trees, and there are currently insufficient techniques to diagnose these infections in the early stages. My project aims to use the non-destructive, versatile analytical technique called Raman spectroscopy to probe the biomolecular changes that occur in the wax and cuticle layers of the leaves of Ash and Oak trees during the course of these infections. The primary goal of the project will be to provide insights into the disease mechanisms of both ash dieback and oak powdery mildew, and then design a handheld Raman spectrometer to allow in-field testing and monitoring of these diseases. Additionally, a study into the effect of elevated carbon dioxide on these disease models will take place such that the device can be used in the BIFoR FACE facility following development.
Further information: Poster 2023

Forest Edge 2