Programme & Speaker Information
19th - 20th June 2024

19th June 2024 11:00 - 19:00 (GMT)

Welcome from the Birmingham Institute of Forest Research (BIFoR) and the College of Life and Environmental Sciences (LES) 

Session 1 - Communicating Forests 11:10 - 12:10

Ms Clare Hewitt, University of the West of England

Everything in the forest is the forest: Visualising oak trees to inspire human connection.

Clare Hewitt Biography

Clare Hewitt is a photographer based in Birmingham. Clare’s practice often focusses on ideas relating to loneliness, isolation and collaboration. In Everything in the forest is the forest, she has worked with a community of 12 oak trees at the BIFoR FACE research woodland to visually understand how they thrive through connection and communication, to inspire similar behaviour amongst human beings. 

Dr Dion Dobrzynski, Bath Spa University and Prof John Holmes, University of Birmingham, BIFoR

Interdisciplinary forest research and education at Ruskin Land

Dion Dobrzynski & John Holmes Biographies

Dion Dobryzynski I am an environmental humanities scholar interested in literary responses to ecology and environmental crises. My PhD, funded through BIFoR's Forest Edge programme, explored forest ecology in fantasy fiction through immersive walks and workshops at Ruskin Land in the Wyre Forest. I am now working on projects which seek to expand BIFoR's interdisciplinary educational resources and develop the College of Arts and Law's wider relationship with BIFoR. 

John Holmes I am Professor of Victorian Literature and Culture at the University of Birmingham and the representative for the College of Arts and Law on the BIFoR board. In addition to my work in environmental humanities with BIFoR at Ruskin Land, I am President of the Commission on Science and Literature, researching the relationship between the arts and sciences from the nineteenth century onwards.

Dr David Wallace-Hare, University of Exeter

Applications of humanities research to issues of tree planting in climate change: MEMBRA's catalogue of terms.

David Wallace-Hare Biography

David Wallace-Hare (PhD University of Toronto) is an environmental historian of ancient and medieval beekeeping, mining, and forest management in western Europe. He is currently a Postdoctoral Research Associate at the University of Exeter on the NERC-funded project MEMBRA (Understanding Memory of Treescapes for Better Resilience and Adaptation).


Session 2 - Key species within forest communities 13:10 - 14:25

Dr Joshua Larsen, University of Birmingham, BIFoR  

Disturbing forests with ecosystem engineers - what is 'natural' for riparian forest communities?

Joshua Larsen Biography

Dr Joshua Larsen is a Senior Lecturer in Physical Geography. His research interests include:  Hydrology, ecohydrology, biogeochemistry, water quality, and palaeohydrology. 

Dr Andrew Hacket Pain, University of Liverpool

Untangling the response of forest seed production to climate change. 

Andrew Hacket Pain Biography 

I am an ecologist focused on understanding and predicting the impact of global environmental change on forests. I work on forest and tree growth, using tree rings to monitor forest responses to climate change, and to predict the resilience of forests to drought and other stresses. I also work on tree reproduction and forest regeneration, particularly the ecology of seed masting. Read more

Gemma Baker, University of Birmingham, BIFoR

The diets of lemurs for conservation and investigating the impact on Malagasy forests. 

Gemma Baker Biography  

Gemma Baker is a third PhD student at the University of Birmingham studying the diets of lemurs for conservation and investigating the impact on Malagasy forests. 

Dr Bruno Barcante Ladvocat Cintra, MEMBRA Project (UK Treescapes), University of Birmingham, BIFoR 

Sharp decline in tree recruitment in old growth forests from Great Britain.

Bruno B L Cintra Biography

Bruno Barcante Ladvocat Cintra is an Ecologist interested in forest dynamics, carbon and hydrological cycles and climate change. He specialises in forest monitoring, tree rings and stable isotopes in ecological and climate reconstruction studies.

He is part of the MEMBRA project: We know that trees retain a record of history - but do they have a memory? Did trees also retain a functional memory of the 1976 drought?  If they did, how? How long can such memories persist given that trees can live for 100’s of years? Do these memories enhance tree responses to future drought events? Can they be passed on to progeny via seeds? MEMBRA is an interdisciplinary research project that aims to answer such questions.

Session 3 - Forest networks 14:45 - 15:45 

Dr Aileen Baird, Plantlife 

Using fungal eDNA to influence woodland management and woodland creation.

Aileen Baird Biography 

Aileen Baird is the Senior Conservation Officer for Fungi at Plantlife. She completed her PhD with BIFoR looking at future fungi - fungi exposed to elevated levels of carbon dioxide at the BIFoR FACE Facility.
Harriet Croome, University of Birmingham, BIFoR 

Hiding in the forest: exploring multispecies entanglements in Mukogodo Forest, Kenya.

Harriet Croome Biography

Harriet Croome is a PhD student in the International Development Department. Her research explores changing interactions between pastoralists and other-than-human nature in one of Kenya’s few remaining dryland forests. Her supervisors are Professor Fiona Nunan and Dr Brock Bersaglio.

Nicholas Cork, University of Birmingham, BIFoR 

Corridors for transport and nature. 

Nicholas Cork Biography 

Nicholas Cork is a PhD student in the School of Engineering. His research focuses on optimised stewardship of Green Infrastructure along linear transportation corridors under changing climatic conditions. He is supervised by Dr Emma Ferranti, Dr Rachel Fisher and Prof Andrew Quinn and started his PhD in 2022, temporarily breaking in 2023 for an 8-month research post looking at Climate Risk and Vulnerability Mapping for West Midlands Combined Authority.


Public Lecture - Dimensions of Communities 16:00 - 17:30

Session chaired by Prof Jeremy Pritchard, University of Birmingham, BIFoR


Manon Rumeau, University of Birmingham, BIFoR

Nitrogen cycling in forest soils under elevated CO2: repsonse of a key soil nutrient to global change. 


Manon Rumeau Biography 

Manon Rumeau is in the fourth year of her PhD study, looking at the effect of elevated CO2 on nitrogen cycling at the BIFoR FACE facility in Staffordshire. 


Prof Jean-Christophe Domec, Bordeaux Sciences Agro 

Accounting for plant hydraulics in large-scale and land surface models. 

Jean-Christophe Domec Biography

I am interested in a variety of topics associated with physiology and ecology of forested ecosystems, such as the discovery of knowledge in plant water relations, ecosystem ecology and ecohydrology, with special focus on 1) Drought tolerance and avoidance, and 2) Patterns of changes in structural and functional traits within individual plants.

My goal as a researcher is to improve the fundamental science understanding of how plants and terrestrial ecosystems respond to climate changes, and to provide tree breeders with policy-relevant information. I have carried out research on interactions between soil water and plant water use in contrasting ecosystems, in cooperation with scientists at INRA, Duke University, Oregon State University, N.C. State University and the USDA Forest Service.

Dr Joe He, University of Birmingham, BIFoR
Sounding out the oak epigenome. 

Joe He Biography

I did my undergraduate degree in Genetics and master's degree in Systems Biology, both at the University of Cambridge. My PhD was at the University of Reading, supervised by Richard Harrison and Mike Shaw, where I focussed on deploying genomic selection in strawberries. After my PhD, I worked for a private company as a statistical geneticist designing experiments and deploying genomic selection models for wheat, maize, barley and oilseed rape. I joined the University of Birmingham in late 2023 as a Research Fellow specialising in bioinformatics of tree epigenomics. 

Poster session 17:30 - 19:00 (in person only)

To express your interest in having a poster please visit our Posters 2024 page

20th June 2024 9:30 - 15:30 (GMT)

Session 4 - Forest communities under pressure 09:40 - 10:40 

Dr Adriane Esquivel Muelbert, University of Birmingham, BIFoR 

Forest communities under global change. 

Adriane Esquivel Muelbert Biography 

Adriane Esquivel Muelbert investigates how forests respond to different global change forces and what the implications of these responses are on biodiversity and global biogeochemical cycles. Her work demonstrates the importance of drought tolerance in shaping diversity and composition across Neotropical tree communities and provides evidence that Amazonian forests are changing as a result of the increase in water stress and atmospheric CO2. More recently, she has focused on tree mortality and how tree death varies across large geographical scales.

Prof Jo Bradwell FICFor (Hons), Norbury Park Estate

Grey squirrel control at Norbury Park.

Jo Bradwell Biography 

Prof Jo Bradwell FICFor (Hons) 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.

Dr Mingkai Jiang, Zhejiang University 
Confronting models with data: carbon-phosphorus interactions under elevated COin a mature forest ecosystem (EucFACE).

Mingkai Jiang Biography

Mingkai Jiang is currently a principal investigator at the University of Zhejiang. He has research interests in global change ecology, terrestrial carbon cycling, plant-soil interaction, data-model integration and carbon neurtralization. 

Session 5 - Strength in diversity 11:00 - 12:00 

Simon Needle, Strategic Lead for Urban Forestry, Birmingham City Council 

Urban forestry and nature in Birmingham 

Simon Needle Biography  

Simon has worked for Birmingham City Council for over 34 years in a number of roles from  practical hands on land management through to strategy and policy but all related to the natural  environment. 

His current role as the  Strategic Lead for Urban Forestry and Nature contributes to broader planning and development matters relating to the  natural environment as well and considering Climate Adaptation through nature based solutions.

Ongoing work  includes  contributing  to master planning such as for Birmingham’s “Future City Plan”, Smithfield development and of course Biodiversity Net Gain.
Dr Liam Crowley, University of Oxford, Wytham Genome Project 
Monitoring, studying and sequencing woodland invertebrate communities.

Liam Crowley Biography 

I am an entomologist interested in insect diversity, taxonomy and ecology. I am currently working on the Wytham Genome Project, part of the Darwin Tree of Life project, which seeks to sequence the full genomes of +70,000 UK species. My work involves the collection, identification and preservation of arthropod species from Wytham Woods for full genome sequencing, with a particular focus on species of ecological and evolutionary interest. The unprecedented quality and large number of genomes generated across a wide range of taxa will allow us to address evolutionary questions within the ecological context of Wytham Woods.


Prof Jon Sadler, University of Birmingham, BIFoR


Jon Sadler Biography

Prof Jon Sadler is a Professor of Biogeography in the School of Geography Earth and Environmental Sciences. Jon is a biogeographer and ecologist whose research focuses on species population and assemblage dynamics in animals (sometimes plants). His work is highly interdisciplinary, bisecting biogeography, ecology, urban design, riparian management and island Biogeography. 

Session 6 - Healthy communities 12:45 - 13:45

Prof James McDonald, University of Birmingham, BIFoR 

The hidden power of microbial communities for forest health. 

James McDonald Biography

James McDonald and 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.

Katherine Hinton, University of Birmingham, BIFoR 

Comparative genomic analysis of Psuedomonas savastanoi pv fraxini isolated from ash trees in the UK.

Katherine Hinton Biography 

Katherine’s PhD focuses on examining risk of new disease outbreaks in a diseased population using ash as a model.  Supervised by Prof. Robert Jackson (Bio) Dr Megan McDonald (Bio), Prof. Richard Buggs (Kew Gardens). Katherine started her PhD in 2021. 

Dr Sarah Greenham, University of Birmingham, BIFoR 
Introducing the West Midlands climate risk and vulnerability assessment. 

Sarah Greenham Biography

Dr Sarah Greenham is an Impact Fellow in the Urban Design and Green Infrastructure strand of the West Midlands Air Quality Improvement Programme, WM-Air. Her interdisciplinary research background primarily focuses on adapting cities and their infrastructure to the impacts of climate change. The research Sarah undertakes is motivated by the opportunity for knowledge exchange and stakeholder engagement, as well as delivering policy impact; having contributed to or collaborated on projects involving organisations such as Transport for London (TfL), Birmingham City Council, West Midlands Combined Authority, Network Rail, the World Road Association (PIARC) and Asian Development Bank (ADB).
Through her research, Sarah aims to support decision-makers by translating science into practical tools and actions that foster positive change for both people and places.

Session 7 - Communities in action 14:00 - 15:00 

Dr Andrew Plackett, University of Birmingham, BIFoR 
Living slow in the fast-changing world: how will oak reproduction be affected by climate change? 

Andrew Plackett Biography 

Andy Plackett is a Research Fellow tackling one of the remaining great black-boxes in plant evolution, how plants evolved seeds. To do this he is pioneering the use of functional genetic analysis in ferns, the closest seedless relatives of seed-bearing plants, to understand how genetic networks and gene functions changed during the origin of the first seeds compared to their spore-bearing ancestors.

Dr Juliano Sarmento Cabral, University of Birmingham, BIFoR 
Modelling forest dynamics along elevational gradients.

Juliano Sarmento Cabral Biography

Juliano Sarmento Cabral 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 and animal populations, communities, and species ranges to demonstrate, for example, how ecological and genetic traits are both under selection under environmental change and how multiple environmental change drivers can have complex synergetic effects on plant biodiversity.

Prof Peter Kraftl, University of Birmingham, BIFoR 
Voices of the future: collaborating with children and young people to re-imagine treescapes. 

Peter Kraftl Biography 

Professor Peter Kraftl is best known for his research on children’s geographies, focusing on children and young people’s experiences of and interactions with environmental processes – such as sustainable urban design, environmental resources and pollution. He also publishes on geographies of education and architecture. He is currently national co-lead for the Children, Young People and Families Programme of the NIHR School for Public Health Research. He is a Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences and Royal Society of Arts.

Keynote closing speech 15:00 - 15:30 by Prof Yadvinder Malhi 
Capturing sunshine: understanding forest communities through the lens of ecological energetics 

Prof Yadvinder Malhi, University of Oxford
2024 Yadvinder Malhi

Yadvinder Malhi CBE FRS is Professor of Ecosystem Science at the Environmental Change Institute, School of Geography and the Environment, and Senior Research Fellow at Oriel College.

Professor Malhi explores the functioning of the biosphere and its interactions with global change, including climate change. He has a particular fascination with and love for tropical forests, though he has recently been spotted in ecosystems ranging from savannas, the Arctic, tropical coral reefs and Oxfordshire's woodlands and floodplain meadows.

He looks at how natural ecosystems may be shifting in response to global atmospheric change, and how protecting or restoring natural ecosystems can help tackle climate change, and help adaptation to the consequences of climate change.

Yadvinder Malhi Biography continued

His team at the Environmental Change Institute is known for collecting intensive field data from fascinating but sometimes tough and remote forests. They have ongoing programmes of research in Asia, Africa, the Amazon and Andes regions, and Oxford's own Wytham Woods. A new recent focus has been on nature recovery and biodiversity restoration in the UK.

While addressing fundamental questions about ecosystem function and dynamics, his research findings are significant for conservation and adaptation to climate change. He is a Trustee of the Natural History Museum of London, Past-President of the British Ecological Society, chairs a number of programmes on biodiversity at the Royal Society, and is a scientific advisor on nature restoration for the UK government and the government of Scotland.

He leads an active Ecosystem Dynamics research lab focussing on forest vegetation-atmosphere interactions, employing field studies, satellite remote sensing and ecosystem modelling.