Day one, 4 July 2023

 11:00 - 11:15  Welcome and scene setting by members of the conference organisation team 

Bill Bloss, Interim Head of College, Life and Environmental Studies, University of Birmingham

Andrew Plackett introduction to BIFoR conference on behalf of committee members  Jason Hilton, Bruno Cintra, Sabrine Dhaouadi, Deanne Brettle, Samantha Dobbie and Rob Mackenzie, University of Birmingham,

2023 conference sponsors Conference Sponsors 
2023 The TIme Domain DiagramThe time domain graphic above is also available to download. 

11: 15 - 12:15 Session 1 - Records of change in fossils and DNA
Session chair - Jason Hilton 
Paul Kenrick, Natural History Museum, London

The origin and early evolution of trees.  

Paul Kenrick Biography

Dr Paul Kenrick, Natural History Museum, London, is a palaeobotanist whose scientific research focuses on the early evolution of life on land and its broader impact on key Earth Systems (e.g., Carbon Cycle). Current interests include the development of soil ecosystems, the origin and evolution of plant organs and tissues, and the co-evolution of plants and fungi.
2023 Paul Kenrick
Christopher Cleal, University of Bristol This is the Forest Primeval! Life and times in the late Carboniferous swamps forest.   
Chris Cleal, University of Bristol

Christopher Cleal Biography 

Dr Christopher J. Cleal - I was formerly Head of Botany at Amgueddfa Cymru - National Museum Wales, and since retirement in 2021 have been a Research Associate at Bristol University. For over 50 years I have been researching the palaeobotany of Palaeozoic wetlands with special reference to the taxonomy of medullosalean pteridosperms, marattialaean ferns and spenophytes. I have also been investigating changes in species diversity and size of swamps, and how this responded to changes in climate and landscape.  I have been active in promoting the public understanding of Palaeozoic wetlands via museums and field geoheritage resources. 

Estrella Luna Diez, University of Birmingham                                  Understanding memory of forest trees to environmental stress. 

Estrella Luna Diez Biography  

Dr Estrella Luna-Diez (University of Birmignham) is a plant pathologist working in the UK since early 2009. Her work is aimed towards plant protection and biosecurity. Dr Luna-Diez studies the sophisticated immune system of plants in order to exploit their resistance capacity to a maximum.
2023 Estrella Luna Diez
Questions and answers   


13:15  - 14:30 Session 2 - Plant traces in time  
Session chair - Andrew Plackett
Jason Hilton, University of Birmingham

Forests and dramatically rising temperatures: Evaluating changing patterns and processes from past hyperthermal intervals in Earth History.

Jason Hilton, BIFoR

Jason Hilton 

Prof. Jason HiltonUniversity of Birmingham, is a research focused palaeobotanist and evolutionary plant biologist with interests in palaeoenvironments and palaeoecology. His underlying goals are to increase the quantity of paleobotanical data included into evolutionary analyses and to provide a more detailed understanding of the past environments and climates in which fossil plants lived.  He has a broad background in Geobiology and Earth Systems Science, and is an active researcher across a number of fields closely allied to his specialisation.  Jason is an Editorial Advisor for the Journal of Palaeogeography, and a Fellow of the Linnean Society of London. 

2023 Jason Hilton v2
Bridget Warren, Open University /  University of Birmingham     A molecular isotopic look at an early Eocene terrestrial ecosystem.

Bridget Warren Biography

Bridget Warren, Open University / University of Birmingham investigates both the effects of enhanced CO2 on leaf waxes in past, present and future. Bridget has recently submitted (January 2023) and has secured a 3-year position as Research Associate in Organic Geochemistry or Palaeoclimate Science in the Faculty of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics at the Open University. Bridget delivered a Lapworth Lecture: A tale of scale: how do we know about forest response to climate change, October 2022.
2023 Bridget Warren
Peter Hopcroft, University of Birmingham    Climate and land-use change over the Holocene.

Peter Hopcroft Biography 

Dr Peter Hopcroft , University of Birmingham, is interested in understanding and predicting climate change in both the past and future. Peter specialises in using Earth System models, particularly as applied to the periods prior to industrialisation.
2023 Peter Hopcroft
John Holmes, University of Birmingham       'Dreams of Trees': Animated Trees in European Poetry from Orpheus to the Ents.
John Holmes

John Holmes Biography

Prof. John Holmes, University of Birmignham, joined the Englishe department in 2015 as Professor of Victorian Literature and Culture. His research focuses on the relationship between scientific ideas and cultural forms in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, including poetry, architecture and the visual arts. 
2023 John Holmes
Questions and answers   


14:50 - 16:00 Session 3 - Experiments in future forests  
Session Chair - Bruno Cintra 
Sami Ullah, University of Birmingham  Carbon and nutrient cycling responses to seven years of elevated atmospheric CO fumigation at BIFoR-FACE.
Sami Ullah

Sami Ullah Biography

Dr Sami Ullah is academic lead for the BIFoR FACE research facility in Staffordshire. His research is mainly focused on the biogeochemistry of nitrogen and its linkages to carbon and phosphorus cycling under global change in soils under forest, peatland/wetland, grassland, and agricultural crops. The impetus of his research is to advance mechanistic understanding of the response of key microbial functions such as denitrification, nitrogen and carbon mineralization, biological nitrogen fixation, greenhouse gas fluxes and soil enzyme activity to land-use and climate change at catchment scale.
2023 Samil Ullah
Neil Loader, Swansea University    Low-impact analysis of tree-ring stable isotopes.

Neil Loader Biography 

Dr Neil Loader, Swansea University, is a physical geographer with expertise in the development and application of stable isotope techniques for studying contemporary and palaeoenvironmental change. He specialises in the interrogation of natural archives (tree rings, peat, pollen etc.) to reconstruct climatic change beyond the period of instrumental observations and in the development of tree-ring isotope series for precision dating. He leads the UK Oak Project, an inter-disciplinary research consortium dedicated to the scientific investigation of oak trees for precision dating, palaeoclimatology and an improved understanding of forest response to contemporary and future environmental change.
2023 Neil Loader
William Hagan Brown, University of Plymouth  Thermal imaging of forest canopy temperatures. 

William Hagan Brown Biography 

William Hagan Brown is a PhD student in environmental science at the University of Plymouth. His research focuses on forest canopy temperatures at BIFoR FACE and Ghana's tropical moist semi-deciduous forest. At these sites, he seeks to understand the role of species traits and environmental factors in controlling tree canopy temperature
2023 William Hagan Brown
Questions and answers 

Keynote / public lecture 

16:00 - 17:30 two 30-minute talks followed by a panel discussion 
Session chair - Rob MacKenzie 
Jenny McElwain, Trinity College Dublin   Discovery of Greenland's forested past at the dawn of the Jurassic.

Jenny McElwain Biography 

Prof. Jennifer (Jenny) McElwain holds the 1711 Chair of Botany at Trinity College Dublin's School of Natural Sciences. She is currently the Head of Botany within the School and Director of Trinity Botanic Gardens. Over the past 20 years her research and teaching have focused on the development and use of palaeobotanical methods (proxies) that use fossil plants to reconstruct the evolution of Earth's atmospheric composition and climate on multimillion year timescales. Her research team use both fossil plants and modern experimentation to investigate how fluctuations in atmospheric composition and climate have influenced plant evolution and ecology throughout Earth history.
2023 Jenny McElwain
Jo Bradwell, University of Birmingham  Increased carbon sequestration in woodlands with complex intimate mixtures of species.
AR Bradwell

Jo Bradwell Biography

Prof. Jo Bradwell  is owner and director of Norbury Park. He has been instrumental in setting up the Birmingham Institute of Forest Research (BIFoR), increasing woodland cover and transforming the farmland from crops to mob grazing with cattle. Winner of 2018 RFS Sylva trophy and 2018 Peter Saville award
2023 Jo Bradwell
Panel discussion

Poster session  

17:30 - 19:00  
 Please click through to  'Posters 2023' to see some of the posters   

Day 2, 5 July 2023 

09:30 - 09:45 Welcome 
Session chair - Jason Hilton 
09:45 - 10:45 Session 4 - Re-setting the clock: Fire 
Claire Belcher, University of Exeter    Understanding flammability, past, present and into the future. 
Claire Belcher

Claire Belcher Biography

Prof. Claire Belcher, University of Exeter, is an Earth scientist specialising in the study of natural fires in the Earth system. Her research seeks to understand the impact of fires on ecosystems and the longer-term functioning of our planet. Claire is PI of the wildFIRE Lab a European Research Council Funded Experimental wildFIRE Laboratory see The wildFIRE Lab teams works across the fire sciences building new  understanding of the impacts of fire behaviour on ecosystems via new quantitative fire severity tools, through to understanding how variations in flammability across scales influences fire adaptations and evolutionary innovations in plants and the ability of wildfires to influence feedbacks to Earth system processes.
2023 Clare Belcher
Kerryn Little, University of Birmingham    Wildfire danger across spatiotemporal scales.                                                        

Kerryn Little Biography 

Kerryn Little is a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Birmingham. Kerryn is interested in understanding the spatiotemporal controls on wildfire danger, towards developing practical applications at meaningful scales. Kerryn’s PhD research with the PyroLife ITN examined the significance of cross-landscape fuel moisture variability in temperate regions such as the UK, where local context is important. 
2023 Kerryn Little
Maria Teresa Gonzalez, University of Birmingham  

 The Near-Miss Effect of Forest Fires.

Maria Teresa Gonzalez Biography 

Maria Teresa is a PhD Candidate in Economics and a Forest Edge Scholar at the University of Birmingham. She is keen on dedicating her work to improve wellbeing by studying the links between people and changes in their social and natural environments. Currently, her research focuses on the economic value of forest fires, as revealed through the property market. Prior to joining us, she worked as project management consultant for The World Bank in Peru. 
2023 Maria Teresa


Questions and answers   


11:15 - 12:15 Session 5 - Re-setting the biological clock
Session chair - Sabrine Dhaouadi 

Juliano Sarmento Cabral, University of Birmingham

Modelling 3D dynamics of forest canopies and communities of vascular epiphytes. 

Juliano Sarmento Cabral

Juliano Sarmento Cabral 

Dr. Juliano Sarmento CabralUniversity of Birmingham,  is one of the world’s experts in mechanistic modelling of eco-evolutionary biodiversity dynamics. He and his team have developed several mechanistic and process-based models for plant populations and communities to demonstrate, for example, how epiphytic communities are structured in the vertical canopy gradient and how multiple environmental change drivers can have complex negative effects on plant biodiversity.
2023 Juliano Sarmento Cabral



Bradly Deeley, University of Birmingham

Biological Invasion In The Landscape With Or Without Roads: A Mathematicians Perspective.

Bradly Deeley

Bradly Deeley Biography

Bradly Deeley is an applied mathematics PhD student in the school of mathematics, funded through The Forest Edge Doctoral Scholarship Program within BIFoR at the University of Birmignham. He is supervised by Dr Natalia Petrovskaya. His research involves developing a mathematical and computational model of biological invasion, to predict how invasive plants will spread when the landscape conditions in the forest are changed by building a road.
2023 Bradly Deeley


Amy Webster, University of Birmingham  A study of disease on the island of St Helena.

Amy Webster Biography

Amy Webster  is a second year PhD student at the University of Birmingham studying tree disease on the island St Helena. Her work focuses on the key stone black cabbage trees, as well as many other endemic tree and plant species found that are located in the cloud forest. By monitoring ongoing disease development and using molecular techniques to characterise the plant pathogen(s) identified in the field, management decisions made by the islanders can be helped in the hope of preserving the unique forest. 
2023 Amy Webster



Questions and answers   


13:15 - 14:15 Session 6 - Time for Action Oak 
Session chair - Rob Jackson 
Nicola Spence, Defra   A time for Action Oak.
Nicola Spence

Nicola Spence Biography 

Prof. Nicola Spence is Defra’s Chief Plant Health Officer (CPHO) and is the Head of the National Plant Protection Organisation for the UK and also a Director of BIFoR. The role of CPHO involves advising ministers, industry and others about the risks posed by plant pests and diseases, and ensuring that measures are in place to manage those risks and minimise their impact, as well as leading the operational response in the event of a disease outbreak. Although plant health is a devolved matter; the CPHO co-ordinates the UK response to European and International plant health matters and takes the lead on national plant health emergency response.
2023 Nicola Spence
James McDonald, University of Birmingham  Microbial interactions and their role in oak health and disease.         

James McDonald Biography

Prof. James McDonald, University of Birminghamand his research team apply a combination of cultivation-based and molecular approaches to characterise and engineer both host-associated and environmental microbiomes, to understand their role in host health status, biogeochemical cycling and ecosystem function. Current research focusses on microbiome engineering approaches to address key global challenges such as waste management and sustainable fuel production (using microbiomes to produce biofuels and biogas), and in combating tree disease (engineering microbial communities for disease suppression and health promotion). Prof. McDonald is also interested in integrating knowledge on microbiome engineering and microbiome science across diverse systems (e.g. plants, humans, industrial systems) to identify key scientific principles that underpin microbiome assembly and function.
2023 James McDonald


Louise Gathercole, Centre for Forest Protection
(RBG Kew & Forest Research)  
Population genomics and local adaptation in British oaks.

Louise Gathercole Biography


Louise Gathercole,  is an Action Oak PhD student with Kew and Queen Mary University of London (QMUL)  working on the genomics of oak trees. She is also the Coordinator for the Centre for Forest Protection, a collaboration between Kew and Forest Research focused on the future of forest and tree health through interdisciplinary and innovative science.
2023 Louise Gathercole



Questions and answers   


14:15 - 15:30 Session 7 - A mutually assured future: People and forests   
Session chair - Rob MacKenzie 
Ben Wigley,  independant artist   Film inspired by forest research.
Ben Wigley

Ben Wigley Biography

Ben Wigley is an artist and filmmaker whose work explores the journeys we make in life. His projects are often realised in the space between art and documentary. He is currently interested in how we talk about our lives through the metaphors of the natural world, and in the connections we make between memory and place. He is developing work that allows the viewer to get a sense of both a physical and an experiential journey; interacting, immersing and participating. 
2023 Ben Wigley
Emma Ferranti, University of Birmingham    Biophilic Birmingham: Tree City of the World.

Emma Ferranti

Emma Ferranti Biography

Dr Emma Ferranti leads exciting interdisciplinary research at the intersection of infrastructure, the built environment and green infrastructure at the University of Birmingham. She currently holds an EPSRC Fellowship examining how Nature Based Solutions can deliver infrastructure resilience to extreme weather and climate change. Emma also leads and contributes to a range of projects in the fields of transport, infrastructure resilience, climate adaptation, air quality, and green infrastructure at the University of Birmingham. Emma co-facilitates the national Trees and Design Action Group network, co-organising the online Seminar Series, and co-developing evidence-based resources for built environment practitioner.
2023 Emma Ferranti
Richard Betts, University of Exeter The World’s forest in 2100.    
Richard Betts - link live soon

Richard Betts Biography 

Prof Richard Betts is Chair in Climate Impacts at the University of Exeter and Head of Climate Impacts in the Met Office Hadley Centre. His undergraduate studies were in Physics at the University of Bristol, followed by an MSc in Meteorology and Climatology at the University of Birmingham. For his PhD, he used climate models to assess the role of the world’s ecosystems in global climate and climate change. He has worked in climate modelling since 1992, with a particular interest in the impacts of climate change on ecosystems and the interactions with other impacts of climate change such as on water resources. He is also interested in the wide-ranging effects of land use and land cover change on climate. He has pioneered a number of key developments in the extension of climate models to include biological processes.
2023 Richard Betts