Doctoral Research

To follow is a list of our doctoral researchers. Those marked with an asterisk* are completing research at the BIFoR FACE facility 

School of Biosciences

*Rachel Calder 
Supervisors: Dr Megan McDonald (Bio) and Prof Sami Ullah (GEES) 
Year started: 2023 
PhD draft title:  Role of fungal communities in carbon and nutrient cycling in forest soils under elevated atmospheric CO2 concentrations. 
Info: Fungi play vital roles in woodland ecosystems, notably as decomposers and as mycorrhizal symbionts of plants. Changes in the composition and functioning of fungal communities could therefore have significant repercussions for the wider ecosystem. This CENTA-funded project aims to investigate how fungal communities respond to elevated CO2 levels at BIFoR FACE, with a particular focus on the possible implications for nitrogen cycling. Though an initial enhancement of net primary productivity (NPP) is expected as CO2 levels rise, it is thought that this effect may be short-lived as soil nutrients are likely to become limiting. In temperate woodland ecosystems, nitrogen is the primary limiting nutrient. Ectomycorrhizal fungi form beneficial associations with many tree species, including oak. These fungi are able to acquire nitrogen from pools that are less accessible to plants and transfer it to their hosts, potentially alleviating nutrient limitation for the trees, although it is also possible that ectomycorrhizae may exacerbate nitrogen scarcity by sequestering a large proportion of the limiting nutrient in their own biomass rather than transferring it to their plant partners. This project will explore these questions by investigating the composition and functioning of soil fungal communities under atmospheric and elevated CO2 in the FACE woodland

Zachary Chu 
Supervisors: Dr Juliano Sarmento Cabral (Bio), Professor Alexandre Antonelli (Kew Gardens), Dr Diana Bowler (UKCEH)
Year started: 
Draft PhD title: Biodiversity dynamics across environmental gradients and under impending environmental change.
Info: Global biodiversity is already being altered by anthropogenic threats such as land-use and climate change, while varying naturally along latitudinal, elevational, and vertical gradients. To better predict how these drivers of change interact to impact biodiversity, mechanistic modelling will be used. This will simulate the environmental changes behind these drivers, how the underlying physiological and demographic processes and biotic interactions of biological communities are affected, and the resulting impact on populations. Vascular epiphyte communities, which are plants growing on other plants non-parasitically, will be modelled due to their significance, making up 10% of all plant species. They are also relatively understudied compared to other taxa, yet provide valuable ecosystem services such as water regulation, soil formation in the canopy, and carbon sequestration.

Emily Grace - 
Supervisors: Professor Robert Jackson (Bio) 
Year started: 2021 Poster 2022 
PhD title: Analysis of phage that infect oak pathogens and the dynamics of phage population changes and bacterial community change in a disease lesion 
Info: There are currently no anti-microbial treatments available for AOD. However, bacteriophages (phages) are a biocontrol alternative to traditional antibiotic and copper compounds.  Phages, viruses that infect and kill bacteria, have been proven to be effective treatments for several bacterial tree pathogens. This study aims to isolate phages which infect the four AOD-associated bacteria species and characterise them via several assays to assess their suitability as biocontrol agents. It is also important to identify the extent and consequences of phage resistance; therefore, the coevolution dynamics of these different phages and bacteria species will be tracked over a period of 7 days, both in vitro and in planta. Seasonal sampling of infected trees will be performed to determine how phage diversity changes over symptom progression. Dependent on these findings, cocktails of the different phages will be trialled to assess their ability to reduce AOD symptoms and bacteria prevalence.

Katherine Hinton - 
Supervisors: Professor Robert Jackson (Bio) Dr Megan McDonald (Bio), Professor Richard Buggs (Kew Gardens)
Year started: 2021 Poster 2023
PhD title: Examining risk of new disease outbreaks in a diseased population using ash as a model
Info: Pseudomonas savastanoi pv. fraxinii causes canker disease in ash trees, and although it is widespread in the UK, the severity of the disease is relatively low. Why this is the case is not understood and there could be potential for severity to increase in trees weakened by other diseases like ash dieback or pest attack like Emerald Ash Borer. This project therefore aims to develop new tools to study this pathosystem and examine whether there is any potential threat of bacterial disease outbreaks in ash.

Naina Korotania 
Supervisor: Robert Jackson (Bio)  
Year started: 2023 
Draft PhD title: Development of phage biopesticide to control bacterial diseases of trees. Naina won an Applied Microbiology International PhD Studentship.

Vanja Milenkovic: -
Supervisors: Robert Jackson (Bio), Vincent Gauci (GEES)
Year started: 2021 Poster 2023 
PhD Draft Title: Examining the impact of soil on tree health and disease progression.
Info: Soil around plant roots (rhizosphere) is critical to plant health and biotic and abiotic stresses in the tree rhizosphere may cause tree health to drop and make them more prone to disease. Previous work in the PuRpOsE project on protecting oak ecosystems has indicated that trees with acute oak decline may be pre-disposed to disease due to water fluctuations in the root system. This project aims to examine soil properties around diseased and healthy trees with a view to alleviating the stress. This project will work in concert with a PDRF to develop an experimental design to look at what changes occur in trees living in different soil environments. This should involve a study of tree changes (traits and internal metabolome and biochemistry) as well as monitor pathogen population changes and performance. Together, these experiments will allow us to understand how soil influences tree health and enable us to develop policy advice for this.

*Sophie Powell 
Supervisors: Dr Mojgan Rabiey (Warwick), Prof Robert Jackson (Bio) and James McDonald (Biosciences) 
Year started: 2023 
PhD draft title: The effect increasing CO2 levels have on tree microbial diversity. Understanding the impact of climate change and elevated CO2 concentration (e[CO2]) on tree microbial diversity.  
Info: UK woodland provides many benefits including supporting rich biodiversity, enhancing the economy, and playing a key role in culture and well-being. However, plant pathogens threaten many valuable trees, and susceptibility to disease is hypothesised to increase as climate change progresses. e[CO2] is believed to impact tree physiology and metabolism, which may cause alterations in the abundance and composition of plant exudates. This will alter the structure, diversity and thereby function of tree microbiomes. To understand this metabolomic analysis, microbial culturing, and community profiling of bacteria and fungi will be conducted using oak leaves and soil collected from BIFoR-FACE. This will decipher whether e[CO2] has an impact on the diversity of oak microbial communities. Typically plant microbial communities play a key role in improving plant immunity so research will also aim to identify how individuals and the entire microbial consortia interact with different pathogens to understand how disease susceptibility and biocontrol may change with e[CO2].

*Mark Raw - 
Supervisors: Estrella Luna Diez (Bio), Scott Hayward (Bio) 
Year started: 2020 Poster 2022
PhD 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. 

Andrea Vadillo Dieguez  
Supervisors: Prof. Rob W. Jackson (Bio), Dr Graeme Kettles (Bio)
Year started: 2023
Draft PhD title: To investigate the molecular basis of bacterial cherry canker pathogenesis through integrative omics approaches, including transcriptomics, metabolomics, and effector protein function analysis. 
Info: Bacterial cherry canker affects the phyllosphere, especially the leaf, fruit, and woody tissues of sweet cherry (Prunus avium L.) causing up to 75% of plant death in young orchards.  The main causal agents of cherry canker are Pseudomonas pv. syringae (Pss), Ps pv. morsprunorum Race 1 (Psm1) and Psm Race 2 (Psm2). No successful control method is known and currently, there is no durable resistant cultivar to this disease. This project aims to use integrative omics like plant transcriptomics, metabolomics and bacterial effector function analysis to understand the following: what is the plant immune response of sweet cherry towards the main pathogenic Pseudomonas syringae strains Pss, Psm1 and Psm2;  how is the plant immune response altered in sweet cherry when infected with effector and toxin deletion mutants of Pss9644; and what is the function of the effector proteins of Pss9644 in different cherry tissues. The outcome of this project would be an important step forward towards a better understanding of this disease which can be beneficial for breeding purposes.

Amy Webster - 
Supervisors: Prof Robert Jackson (Bio) and Mojgan Rabiey (Warwick) 
Year started:  2021
PhD title:  A study of tree disease on St Helena Poster 2023 
Info: Affiliated with St Helena Research Institute and CABI. St Helena is home to an abundance of endemic flora and fauna. The islands cloud forests are found at the volcanic peaks, providing a complex ecosystem for biodiversity to thrive. However, human activity has left much of the land barren of naturally occurring vegetation. This has fragmented communities of ecological importance and reduced genetic diversity. Due to this, as well as the introduction of invasive plants, many of the tree species on the island are threatened by diminishing numbers and increased risks of pests and diseases. One of the most fundamental species to this unique environment is the black cabbage tree (Melanodendron integrifolium) which is suffering from sudden death due to an unknown disease-causing agent. Other symptoms such as leaf wilt, yellowing, spotting and root rot are also seen across nurseries. Assessments of eDNA from samples taken from nurseries, wild black cabbage trees, as well as other species showing signs of disease, may indicate whether a pathogen is the most likely candidate for this dieback. These findings may then inform management decisions to help prevent the spread of disease, through methods such as plant clinics and media communication with locals, tourists and land owners 
Amy Webster's 15 minute talk at the BIFoR conference 2024

Jiaqi Wei - 
Supervisors: Prof Robert Jackson (Bio), Dr Graeme Kettles (Bio)
Year started: 2021 
PhD title: Evaluating the threat of Xylella on UK trees Poster 2023 
Info: Xylella fastidiosa is a bacterium that is endemic to central America. It is an established pathogen in the US and is a recently emerging pathogen causing devastating disease in southern Europe. Presently, they are limited to Italy, Portugal, Spain and France, but detection of infected plants has been found in other countries in Europe triggering control and eradication procedures. Tree species like ash and oak have also been observed with Xylella infections in Europe, highlighting the wide host range of the pathogen. 
There is considerable concern around the potential threat to the UK’s horticulture and ecosystem, particularly to trees, should Xylella establish in the country and thus it is important that investment is made to fully understand the threat the pathogen poses. This will help with identifying the potential hosts for the pathogen and whether any resistance exists in the plant population. It will also help with identification and monitoring as well as considering the risk of widespread disease spread. 

Octavia Brayley 
Dr Scott Hayward (School of Biosciences), Prof Sami Ullah (School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences), and Prof. Pete Convey (British Antarctic Survey).
Year started: 
Info: A study of the adaptations, ecological impacts, and future distribution of an invasive insect species on Signy Island (Antarctica), Eretmoptera murphyi, in partnership with the British Antarctic Survey, partner labs in the US, Chile, and France, and industry stakeholders such as the International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators and the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research. This project will investigate the adaptations that have allowed Antarctic insects to persist in this extreme environment for millions of years, the implications of climate change on their future survival and distribution, and the broader ecosystem consequences of invasive insect species within the Antarctic region, specifically on soil biogeochemistry through experimental work and field studies.  

Listen to Octavia's podcast: “Polar Diaries” available on Spotify and Instagram

Department of Economics 

Maria Teresa González: 
Supervisors: Prof David Maddison, Dr Allan Beltran Hernandez 
Year started: 2019 
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
Maria's mini lecture

School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences 

*Rehab Almutairi: 
Supervisors:  Prof Sami Ullah (GEES) 
Year started: 2021 
PhD info: Forests restoration under global change: response of young plantations to drought, atmospheric nitrogen deposition and elevated CO2.

*Alex Armstrong:
Supervisors: Prof Sami Ullah (GEES), Dr Liz Hamilton (GEES)
Year started:  2021 
PhD title: Effects of atmospheric Nitrogen pollution on Soil Carbon Storage and Greenhouse Gas Emission from Forests Soils
Info: Reactive forms of aerially derived nitrogen deposition sourced from agriculture are often scavenged by tree's and deposited within woodland systems. Understanding how enhanced rates of nitrogen deposition impact woodland soil with regard to soil organic carbon decomposition, microbial activity and the release of nitrous oxide and carbon dioxide is required to understand how our woodlands and their soils can be conserved and their provisions preserved. 
Further information: Poster 2023 

Gemma Baker:
Supervisors: Sarah Greene (GEES), James Bendle (GEES), Lydia Greene (Duke Lemur Centre, Duke University)
Year started: 2021 
PhD 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

Xinshi Cheng
Prof. Jason Hilton (GEES) and Dr Andy Plackett (Bio)
Year started: 2022
Further information: Xinshi is studying seed plant diversity and evolution from a systematic investigation of exceptionally well-preserved fossils seeds from the late Permian of China. The project will use seed morphology and anatomy and consider functional and ecological adaptations that will unravel how seed plants adapted to the environments and climates in which they lived. A key aspect of the project is to evaluate seed plant diversity through the Permian-Triassic Mass extinction approximately 252 million years ago in which some groups died out while others went on to dominate younger floras globally. Methodologies include analysis and reconstruction of fossil seeds from 3D X-ray computer tomography and synchrotron sources, comparative anatomy with fossil and living seed plants, and phylogenetic analysis. 

Osanna Chu
Supervisors: Dr Tom Matthews (GEES) , Dr Laura Graham (GEES) , Dr Adriane Esquivel-Muelbert (GEES) , Prof. Jon Sadler (GEES) , Dr Liam Trethowan (Kew Gardens), Dr Tom Martin (Operation Wallacea), Dr Arie Vatresia (University of Bengkulu) 
Year started: 2023
PhD title: Predicting the loss of functional diversity on islands for plants and birds.
Info: Islands are biodiversity hotspots, meaning they host a disproportionately large number of species in comparison to their area. In particular, the substantial biodiversity of Indonesian island forests has yet to be thoroughly analysed. Analytical models will be produced using newly available plant and bird trait (physical characteristics, feeding habits etc.) data to predict how different species will respond to various climate/deforestation scenarios and what biodiversity might be lost. The interaction between plants, birds and human impacts could also be scaled up to see how patterns may apply to island archipelagos on a global scale, to potentially inform conservation policy and protect valuable island habitats.

Estelle Darko
Supervisors: Dr Adriane Esquivel Muelbert (GEES), Dr Tom Matthews (GEES), Dr Laura Graham (GEES), Dr Tom Pugh (GEES and University of Lund), Prof. Oliver Phillips (University of Leeds), Dr Carolina Tova (Kew Gardens), and Dr Lindsay Banin (UKCEH)
Year started:
Research into forest diversity, dynamics, and resilience globally. I will be performing analyses at large-scales using data from forest inventory networks such as RAINFOR to investigate the effects of forest dynamics on diversity. For instance, I will be testing whether the range of species life history strategies within forest influence its diversity and the effects of diversity and dynamics on forest resilience. I will be applying a variety of metrics in order to determine how forests may potentially, variably respond to climate driven disturbances. 
Estelle's mini lecture


*Nine Douwes Dekker:
Supervisors: Vincent Gauci, Rob MacKenzie, Sami Ullah
Year started: 2019
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 2022 
Nine's 3 minute thesis talk

*Katy Faulkner: Based at University of Warwick  
Supervisors: Prof Gary Bending (Warwick) & University of Birmingham supervisor is Dr Sami Ullah 
PhD: Looking at the resistance and resilience of forest soil microbial communities and greenhouse gas emission to extreme weather events and a high CO2 world. 
Further information: Poster 2022 and  CENTA website

*Xianbang Fen
Prof. Iain Hartley at Exeter University, and co-supervised by Prof. Sami Ullah and Dr Liz Hamilton and Prof. Rob MacKenzie, University of Birmingham. 
Year started: 2022
Further information: funded by Chinese Scholarship Council and based at Exeter University.  Xianbang’s research is focused on productivity of mycorrhizal biomass and its implications for carbon and nutrient cycling at BIFoR-FACE.     

*William Hagan Brown: 
Supervisors: Dr Sophie Fauset (Uni Plymouth), Prof Ralph Fyfe (Uni Plymouth), Prof Emanuel Gloor (Uni Leeds), and Prof Rob MacKenzie (BIFoR).
Year started: 2022
Climate Change Impacts on Forest Canopy Temperatures: From Mechanisms to Implications. Using thermal imagery to capture leaf temperature, and a range of complementary measurements of leaf traits, William will study leaf energy balance for different species in different forests throughout the world, including looking at the effect of elevated COin BIFoR FACE. 

Grace Handy
Dr Marie Arnaud (GEES), Dr Adriane Esquivel Muelbert (GEES) and Prof. Rob MacKenzie (GEES) in collaboration with Forest Research and the Met Office. 
Year started: 2022
Further information: Impact of CO2 rise on root, leaf and wood production: the future of tree C allocation. Previous research suggests that trees can carry out increased levels of photosynthesis under elevated CO2, but growth cannot increase indefinitely due to other limiting factors such as nutrient availability. This project will focus on a tree's ability to combat this by allocating extra carbon belowground by increasing root growth, exudation, and microbial activity to explore and obtain more nutrients and water. The research for this project will be carried out at BIFoR FACE, in collaboration with Forest Research and the Met Office. Root production will be measured through the collection of images using a minirhizotron camera, a non-destructive root investigation technique, which will then be vectored and converted to rates of root production. This methodology will be used alongside more traditional methods of root extraction and examination using soil cores. Data on root production will then be considered alongside other relevant carbon storage data collected in the previous years of the BIFoR experiment, such as leaf area, to further understand where trees will allocate extra carbon under elevated CO2 and provide vital information to understand the future of the global carbon sink.
Poster 2023

*Shomari Healey:
Supervisors: Dr Liling Chang (GEES), Dr Joshua Larsen (GEES) 
Year started: 2023 
Info: How much carbon will forests take up in the future? Climate change has been happening at an unprecedented rate due to human activities and the concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere continue to rise. It is widely known, however, that land surfaces can mitigate global warming by removing around 30% of anthropogenic CO2 emissions mainly through enhanced photosynthesis. The capacity for this enhanced terrestrial uptake to continue in the future is highly uncertain, however, when predicted using current terrestrial biosphere models. Using the Free-air CO2 enrichment (FACE) experiment at the Birmingham Institute of Forest Research (BIFoR) and an ecosystem demography model, I aim to help to provide more reliable predictions of ecosystem processes in the future and determine how temperate forests will sequester carbon moving forward under different scenarios.

*Laura James:
Supervisors: Dr Christian Pfrang, Dr R Girling (Reading) and Prof Rob MacKenzie 
Year started: 2019 
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 Video  
How do plants communicate wirelessly?

*Thomas King:
Supervisors: Based at University of Lancaster with Kirsti Ashworth (Lancaster) Rob MacKenzie is the University of Birmingham supervisor
PhD: Ecophysiology of plant volatiles under elevated carbon dioxide. 
Further information: Poster 2023 

Novalia Kusumarini
Prof. Sami Ullah, Prof. Iseult Lynch (GEES) and Dr Liam Cox (School of Chemistry).
Year started: 2022
Funded by the Indonesian Government. Novalia is investigating differences in the chemistry of root exudates of newly planted nitrogen-fixing alder (Alnus spp.) and non-nitrogen fixing oak (Quercus spp) saplings in the Mill Haft catchment adjacent of BIFoR-FACE. The key question is to find out whether the two tree types use different strategies for nutrient acquisition. A method for targeted metabolomics of exudates is currently being developed in the School of Chemistry at Birmingham as part of the exudate characterization.  A follow-on experiment on growing oak and alder saplings in the Wolfson Glasshouse under eCO2 will be undertaken to elucidate changes in exudation seasonality, chemistry and amount and how it affects nutrients availability in the soils to guide future forest restoration strategies.    

Yanzhi Lu
Supervisors: The potential of urban trees to remove air pollutants, carbon and heat: a large-scale analysis based on Google Street View.
Year started: 2021 
Info: The potential of urban trees to remove air pollutants, carbon and heat: a large-scale analysis based on Google Street View.

Nicholas Lugg
Supervisors: Prof. Stefan Krause, Prof. David Hannah, Dr Kieran Khamis and Dr Glenn Watts (Environment Agency) 
Year started: 2022
Info: High frequency water quality sensor networks for monitoring hot spots and hot moments of urban and rural water pollution in real-time 

Rachel Mailes
Supervisors: Dr Adriane Esquivel Muelbert, Dr Laura Graham, Dr Tom Matthews Prof. Matthew Heard 
Year started: 2023
Title: Exploring conservation co-benefits to biodiversity and carbon storage and sink capacity across forests to improve practice.
Info: Conservation of global forests is at the center of the climate and biodiversity crisis prevention efforts. Forests play a fundamental role in mitigating climate change, absorbing around 1/3 of anthropogenic emissions, but are also home to 80% of terrestrial biodiversity. Modern forest management is mainly directed at protecting and increasing carbon stocks to mitigate climate change, often assuming biodiversity will be simultaneously protected as a co-benefit. While there is evidence for a positive relationship between these variables in tropical forests at large scales, recent studies suggest this may not be the case for temperate forests. This project will assess the dynamics of the carbon-biodiversity relationship in the UK and how this may impact policy and net-zero targets.

*Susan Quick: 
Supervisors: Prof Stefan Krause & Prof Rob MacKenzie 
Year started: 2016 (part time)
PhD: Tree-Soil-Water relations under elevated CO2 - This project will investigate the role the water cycle (export/import and storage) plays in carbon transport, in a small temperate oak-hazel woodland. Is the canopy and understorey development, natural decay and regeneration in   a mature oak/hazel woodland influences by climate variability, especially eCO2, temperature and precipitation? Considerations include: use of water by the dominant/subdominant tree   species; understanding of canopy water holding and water flux at the   leaf/twig level; the influence of understorey (herb and shrub layers);   woodland species diversity.
Further information: Presentation  / Poster 2022 
Sue's mini lecture

*Andrea Rabbai:
Supervisors: Prof Stefan Krause 
Year of started: 2020 
PhD: Mixed forest planting with elevated water  
Further information: Poster 2022 

*Manon Rumeau:
Supervisors: Sami Ullah & Rob MacKenzie 
Year started: 2020
PhD:  Exploring the effects of elevated CO2 on free living Nitrogen fixation as well as on other Nitrogen cycle processes in two mature forest, BIFoR FACE (UK) and EucFACE (Australia).Manon is working with the QUINTUS team
 Forests under climate change will require more Nitrogen (N) to continue stocking a part of our CO2 emission. The main source of new N in natural ecosystems is Biological N Fixation (BNF). I will be exploring the effects of elevated CO2 on free living N fixation as well as on other N cycle processes in two mature forest, BIFoR FACE (UK) and EucFACE (Australia). By using 15N isotopic methods, we will have a better understand of N cycle response to climate change. 
Further informationPoster 2022 
Manon's mini lecture

Klaske van Wijngaarden:
Supervisors: Tom Pugh (GEES), Josh Larsen (GEES), Ben Smith (Western Sydney University (WSU)) Belinda Medlyn (WSU)
Year started: 2020
PhD: From branch to forest to globe: How do trees choices regarding growth affect forest responses to increased carbon dioxide levels? 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 COlevels 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 information: Poster 2022 

International Development Department 

Harriet Croome:
Brock Bersaglio (International Development Department (IDD)), Fiona Nunan (IDD)
Year of study:
Investigating how changing interactions between humans and elephants affect forest socio-ecological systems in drylands. 
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 information
Poster 2023 

School of Engineering

Kieran Clark:
Supervisors: Prof. Pola Goldberg Oppenheimer (Chem Eng), Dr Estrella Luna Diez (Bio)
Year started: 2021
PhD 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

Nicholas Cork
 Dr Emma Ferranti (School of Engineering) and Prof Andrew Quinn (School of Engineering)
Year started: 2022 
Further information: A study into optimised stewardship of Green Infrastructure along linear transportation corridors under changing climatic conditions. The project will research concepts for optimised composition and structure of lineside vegetation to enhance habitat connectivity and biodiversity whilst understand any negative impacts on day-to-day operations – aiming to maximise ecosystem services to the operator (such as water management and slope retention), maximise ecosystem resilience and biodiversity under climate change whilst balancing this against operational risks posed by increases in lineside vegetation (such as leaf fall and windthrow). The methodology will include GIS modelling of Green Infrastructure and habitat suitability, experimental work into productivity and resilience of mixed plant species and animal/ plant dispersal under changing climate as well as the development of sound advice for Asset Managers of Linear Transportation Networks.  
Nick's mini lecture


Naya Desai
Supervisors: Dr Emma Ferranti 
Year started: 2023 
Draft PhD title: Quantifying ecosystem services from urban trees 
Info: As climate change is the most pressing challenge faced by modern-day society, it is imperative to find viable solutions that build resilience to the already onset effects of climate change such as extreme weather whilst conjunctly reducing greenhouse gases that are effectuating the problem. Urban areas, in specific, are impacted disproportionately due to the concentration of people and infrastructure. Thus, this project aims to quantify the crucial role that urban trees play in climate mitigation and climate adaptation. Trees sequester carbon, reduce heat vulnerability by providing shade and locally reducing heat via evapotranspiration, and intercept rainfall reducing the risk of surface-water flooding during heavy rainfall events. Trees also modify local atmospheric chemistry; they produce Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) which react with urban pollutants such as NOx from road transport emissions to produce ozone. Trees can also trap heat and pollution beneath their canopies, locally increasing overheating risk and air pollution. The benefits and disbenefits of trees are poorly quantified due to a lack of observations at tree canopy level, and the difficulties of translating such in-situ measurements made around individual trees (of a specific size, species, and growing conditions) into information that can be used at multiple scales across out cities to support decision-making. Therefore, this project will apply novel machine learning techniques to quantify the role of urban trees in climate adaptation and mitigation in an urban environment.

Dee Phillips
Supervisors: Prof. Philip Davies (School of Engineering) and Dr Joshua Larsen (GEES)
Year started: 2022  
Further information: A study of the greenhouse gas emissions and efficiency of woody constructed wetlands for wastewater treatment in conjunction with industry stakeholders. The project will research concepts for reducing methane and nitrous oxide emissions, improving phosphate removal, and enhancing carbon sequestration of existing wastewater treatment works – aiming to reduce the net emissions from facilities without compromising treatment efficacy. The methodology will include experimental work and practical design for future applications.  
Poster 2023
Dee Phillips mini lecture


Bruno Santos: 
Supervisors: Professor Philip Davies; Dr Joshua Larsen
Year of study: 2020 
Further informationPoster 2023  
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. 

School of English, Drama and Creative Studies

Thomas Kaye: 
Supervisors: Alexandra Harris (English), Matthew Ward (English)
Year started: 2020
PhD:  Reading the Grain: The Forestry of Modern and Contemporary American Literature.’ His project places particular emphasis on forests as a worked or managed landscape and takes loggers, lumberjacks, and lumbertowns as its focus in texts such as Barkskins by Annie Proulx, The Overstory by Richard Powers, and A River Runs Through It by Norman Maclean. Ultimately, this project will argue that these modern and contemporary narratives of the woods exemplify a forestry of writing in which the author engages in both an art and a science of planting, managing, and caring for trees. 
Further informationPoster 2022 and video 

Teddy Hunter 
Supervisors: Prof. Annie Mahtani 
Year started: 2023 
Info: Forest music (details to follow) 

School of Mathematics

Bradly Deeley:
Supervisors: Dr Natalia Petrovskaya and Dr Rosemary Dyson 
Year of study: 2019
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

Recent Graduates / Graduating soon 

Nezha Acil: 
Supervisors: Dr Thomas Pugh and Prof Jon Sadler 
PhD:  Global forest dynamics - storm related tree mortality and its influence on global forest cycling

Sijeh Asuk:
Supervisors: Dr Tom Pugh, Dr Nick Kettridge & Prof Jon Sadler
Year of study: Final  
PhD: Population ecology and phenological responses of food-producing forest trees to climate change: implications for rural food security

*Aileen Baird:
Supervisors: Prof Francis Pope and Prof Robin May 
Year of study: Final 
Info: The effect of enriched atmospheric carbon dioxide on environmental fungi: Despite playing key roles in decomposition, in mycorrhizal associations providing nutrients to plants, and as plant and human pathogens, environmental fungi are notoriously understudied. Measuring the response of fungi to enriched carbon dioxide is an essential component in understanding   how the woodland ecosystem will respond to enriched carbon dioxide. My PhD has two major strands. The first is to characterize the fungal populations at BIFoR FACE, and to measure the variation in these populations temporally. The second aspect is to investigate the effect of enriched carbon dioxide on fungal populations, where I am using environmental sampling from BIFoR FACE in conjunction with laboratory experiments.
Further informationPresentation  Poster 2021

*Edward Bannister:
Prof Rob MacKenzie
Year of study:
PhD: Environmental aerodynamics of the BIFoR FACE site. 
Further informationPoster 2019 

Alfred Bockarie
Supervisors: Eloïse Marais (Leicester), Rob MacKenzie and Roy Harrison
PhD: Air pollution emissions from charcoal production and use

Kauane Maira Bordin
Info: A visiting PhD student from The Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil. Kauane studies Community and Functional Ecology, focusing on understanding the drivers of structure and dynamics of subtropical forests. She will stay in Birmingham for 6 months (2021/22) to develop part of her PhD, supervised by Adriane Esquivel Muelbert and Tom Pugh. Kauane will be using data from across the Americas to understand the trade-offs between growth and mortality of tree species and their potential drivers.

Hector Camargo Alvarez:
Supervisors: Dr Tom Pugh
Year of study: Third 
PhD: Hector is an agronomist engineer from the Universidad Nacional de Colombia focused in modelling the response of crops phenology, physiology and productivity to environmental factors. During his PhD research, he will try to describe and model the deleterious effect of ozone pollution on cereal production and its economic consequences in China.

Liam Crowley
Supervisors: Dr Scott Hayward, Prof Jeremy Pritchard, Prof Jon Sadler
PhD: Insects as key drivers of change in woodland systems under climate change:  This project will seek to elucidate the effects of elevated CO2 (eCO2) on insect communities and the associated impacts these have on their role as ecosystems drivers; including the impact on above- and belowground processes involved in carbon cycling. This will be achieved by addressing the impact of eCO2 on four core areas. 
   - Leaf nutrition (C:N ratio)
   - Insect diversity, abundance and phenology
   - The contributions of herbivorous species to nutrient dynamics 
   - Synchronicity of woodland plant-pollinator interactions.
Further information: Poster 2021

Dion Dobrzynski:
Supervisors: John Holmes (English), Jon Sadler (Geography Earth and Environmental Science (GEES))
Year of study: Third
PhD: Forest Ecology in Fantasy Fiction: Mobilising the Imaginative Resources of Fantasy Fiction for Living with Forests 
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     Video 

*Anna Gardner - 
Supervisors: Prof Rob MacKenzie and Prof J Pritchard 
PhD: “I will be investigating the effect of elevated CO2 on leaf-level photosynthesis by measurements of gas exchange, stomatal conductance and chlorophyll content.” 
Further information: Poster 2021  

Lavinia Georgescu: 
Supervisors: Dr Tom Pugh
Year of study: Third High rainfall disturbs soil microbial structure and function in a mature temperate forest under elevated carbon dioxide Katy Faulkner
PhD: Trees are dying from drought - why care?  Forests are huge stores and sinks of carbon. Droughts will become worse under climate change - more frequent, hotter, and drier.  The extent to which drought plays a role in tree mortality across ecosystems is unknown. This project will use machine learning to find patterns and relationships regarding droughts and forests at a biogeographical level. This scale is most relevant for understanding feedbacks of tree mortality on future climate change.

Vilane Goncalves-Sales 
Prof Robert Elliott and Prof Eric Strobl
PhD: Satellite monitoring of deforestation and the role of clouds in Maranhão. 

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

*Tony Hyacinth
Prof Rob MacKenzie and Prof Francis Pope 
PhD: Plant volatile compounds under elevated CO2: Plants react to stress (drought, heat, pests and diseases, and changes in atmospheric composition) by changing the priority of metabolic pathways   down which they channel the carbon they fix in photosynthesis. Some pathways produce chemicals which can be detected in the air and in crushed leaves. This project uses state-of-the-art mass spectrometry to detect changes in volatile plant chemicals over time and in response to elevated CO2.

Polly Jarman:
Supervisors: Prof Peter Kraftl and Dr Sophie Hadfield-Hill
Year of study: Final 
PhD: Young people’s experiences of and learning in urban woodlands. 
Further information: Poster
Jennifer Kirby
Supervisors: Lee Chapman and Vicky Chapman 
PhD: High resolution leaf fall monitoring and low adhesion forecasting using hemispherical near-infrared imagery
Further information: Presentation 2020

Jordan Johnston:
Supervisors: Seb Watt (GEES), Tom Pugh (GEES), Tom Matthews (GEES), Susanna Ebmeier (Leeds) 
PhD title: Forest resilience and recovery through the lens of volcanic disturbances.
Year of study: Third 
PhD: With many of the world’s forests under the threat of ecological catastrophe in the wake of anthropogenic agents of change, there is a need now more than ever to understand how forest ecosystems react and recover in the wake of a destructive event. The eruption of Chaitén (Chile) in 2008 and subsequent destruction of neighbouring forest is an opportunity to study how forests re-establish in the wake of disturbance. The work of this project aims to (i) establish primary succession dynamics in this particular ecosystem, (ii) determine if this re-growth is stochastic (random) or deterministic (controlled spatially in some way), and (iii) ascertain the implications of these findings on the wider context of forest recovery in the wake of disturbance.
Further information: Poster 2022 

Jenny Knight:
Supervisors: Dr Steve Emery and Dr Simon Dixon
Year of study: Final  
PhD: Exploring the desirability of forest landscapes in a natural flood management context.
Further information: Poster 2020

*Angeliki Kourmouli:
Supervisors: Lesley Batty, Rebecca Bartlett, Zongbo Shi
Year of study: Final (submitted) 
PhD: Soil Respiration and Biogeochemistry at BIFoR FACE: This project will measure rates of soil respiration at the BIFoR FACE woodland, and identify the contributions of roots, mycorrhizal fungi and free-living microorganisms; thus, the project will help determine whether trees increase carbon allocation below ground under elevated CO2. Partitioning of “new” and “old” carbon in soil respiration and dissolved organic carbon (DOC) to determine how forest soil DOC and carbon storage is changing under elevated CO2. 
Further information: Poster 2019 

Aleksandra Kulawska: 
Supervisors: Dr Nick Kettridge, Dr Thomas Pugh, Prof Rob MacKenzie & Dr Sami Ullah
Year of study: Final 
PhD: Exploring the desirability of forest landscapes in a natural flood management context. University of Birmingham Further information: Perspectives article - Thirsty and Drunken Trees 

Kerryn Little: 
Supervisors: Dr Nick Kettridge
Year of study: Final  
PhD: Predicting Future Fuel (Vegetation) Water Moisture Content and Associated Wildfire Danger Across Temperate Europe
Further information: Pyrolife website

*Sophie Mills:
Supervisors: Prof Francis Pope & Prof Rob MacKenzie 
Year of study: Final  
PhD: “I will be investigating the effect of elevated CO2 on primary biological aerosol (bioaerosol) production, in particular pollen and fungal spores, in woodlands as part of the BIFoR FACE experiment. Bioaerosols transport genetic material of plants and fungi, can cause and exacerbate severe health issues afflicting humans, and they can act as cloud condensation and ice nuclei, impacting our atmosphere and climate. This research will contribute to informing predictive climate models (e.g. JULES land surface model) used at the Met Office." 
Further information: Poster 2021 

Eszter Toth: 
Supervisors: Dr Ali Mazaheri and Dr Jane Raymond
Year of study: Final
PhD: Focus on Cognition: Can forests balance the brain? 
Further information: Poster 2020

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

Yiting Zhang 
Supervisors: Jeremy Whitehand & Rob MacKenzie
PhD: Urban morphology and ecosystem services: an historico-geographical study of fringe belts and urban green spaces in Birmingham, UK 

*Clare Ziegler:
Supervisors: Iain Johnston & Rosemary Dyson
PhD: Quantitative modelling of root growth and carbon allocation: bridging   theory and experiment:
Roots bridge plants and soils, two central players in the carbon cycle, and   constitute a vital and poorly understood aspect of carbon processing in ecosystems across the globe. Clare will use cutting-edge statistical and simulation tools to analyse lab and ecosystem observations of root structure, to elucidate the micro- and mesoscopic physical role of elevated carbon budgets.
Further informationPoster 2019