Professor Rob MacKenzie PhD FRSC

Rob MacKenzie

School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences
Director, Birmingham Institute of Forest Research
Professor of Atmospheric Science

Contact details

School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences
University of Birmingham
B15 2TT

60 second video iconRob MacKenzie is an atmospheric scientist with a particular interest in how plants affect air composition. Watch a video of him describing one aspect of his research in 60 seconds by clicking on the play icon above. 

As a result of a £15M grant, the University of Birmingham has set up the Birmingham Institute of Forest Research (BIFoR), of which Rob is delighted to be inaugural Director. BIFoR will focus on two linked challenges: the impact of climate and environmental change on woodlands; and the resilience of trees to pests and diseases (so Rob is learning Biology and Ecology!).

Rob is developing a broader understanding of urban systems and their resilience, particularly urban green infrastructure, as discussed in an informal essay featured on the Institute of Advanced Studies' Saving Humans website.


  • BSc (Hons) Environmental Chemistry, Edinburgh, 1986
  • PhD “Small System Modelling of the Atmospheric Boundary Layer”, Essex, 1989


Rob currently does no class-based teaching but does supervise PhD and MSc projects.

Postgraduate supervision

Rob MacKenzie is interested in how plants affect air composition. He is inaugural Director of the Birmingham Institute of Forest Research (BIFoR), which includes the BIFoR Free-Air Carbon Enrichment (FACE) facility, which is the current focus of much of the work in Rob's group. Topics include the effects of elevated CO2 on aboveground and belowground carbon cycling and the coupling of carbon, water, and nutrient cycles.

Rob's group develops atmospheric chemistry models for urban, rural, and remote settings. The group is interested in informing environmental policy-making and in developing tools for urban planners and regulators.

Machine learning is a recurring theme in the group's work in forests and atmospheric chemistry, dating back to the 1990s.

Rob MacKenzie has supervised over 20 PhD students and he is currently Principal Investigator of the Forest Edge Doctoral Scholarship Programme of the Leverhulme Trust.


I am an atmospheric scientist and experienced manager of very large-scale research facilities: the stratospheric aircraft, Geophysica; and ecosystem manipulation, BIFoR FACE.

My group develops atmospheric chemistry models (e.g. Dai et al., NPJ Clim.Atmos. Sci., 2023,, and applies models to remote and polluted environments (Hewitt et al., PNAS, 2009. ; Hewitt et al., Nature GeoScience, 2011. doi:10.1038/ngeo1271).

A major focus of my research is biosphere-atmosphere interaction, particularly for forests (Bannister et al., Rev. Geophys., 2022. This work is now developed through the Birmingham Institute of Forest Research (BIFoR), of which I am Founding Director, and particularly the BIFoR FACE facility (2017-2026 and, we hope, beyond). Our work is expanding to encompass all forest FACE facilities, especially AmazonFACE.

I am an accomplished inter- and cross-disciplinary researcher, in forests and in urban sustainability (e.g., Hewitt et al., 2019. and lead the strongly interdisciplinary Forest Edge Doctoral Scholarship programme.

Machine Learning is a recurring theme in my research (e.g., Hyde et al., 2017., which is becoming an influential paper in on-the-fly clustering).

Other activities

Rob MacKenzie has served the scientific community in a variety of ways, including:

  • Member of the NERC Pool of Chairs (2010 - 2013). 
  • Member, Birmingham City Council Smart City Commission (2012-2013)
  • Associate editor for Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics and has acted as editor for 5 special sections of the journal.
  • Reviewer for the European Commission (2006 -2008), including acting as project evaluator for the AMMA-EU Framework VI project
  • Executive Committee member of the SCOUT-O3 integrated project (2004 - 2009)
  • Member of the Scientific Advisory Committee of the European Economic Interest Grouping that ran the scientific programme of the Geophysica research aircraft (2000 - 2006)
  • Secretary to the Atmospheric Chemistry Specialist Group of the Royal Meteorological Society (1994 – 1998)
  • External examiner, University of Leeds MRes “Physics of the Earth and Environment” (2003 - 2007)


Recent publications


McClory, R, Ellis, RH, Lukac, M, Clark, J, Mayoral, C, Hart, KM, Plackett, ARG & MacKenzie, AR 2024, 'Carbon dioxide enrichment affected flower numbers transiently and increased successful post-pollination development stably but without altering final acorn production in mature pedunculate oak (Quercus robur L)', Journal of Forestry Research, vol. 35, no. 1, 73.

Crowley, LM, Ivison, K, Enston, A, Garrett, D, Sadler, JP, Pritchard, J, MacKenzie, AR & Hayward, SAL 2023, 'A comparison of sampling methods and temporal patterns of arthropod abundance and diversity in a mature, temperate, Oak woodland', Acta Oecologica, vol. 118, 103873.

Mills, S, Milsom, A, Pfrang, C, MacKenzie, AR & Pope, F 2023, 'Acoustic levitation of pollen and visualisation of hygroscopic behaviour', Atmospheric Measurement Techniques, vol. 16, no. 20, pp. 4885–4898.,

Baldo, C, Formenti, P, Di Biagio, C, Lu, G, Song, C, Cazaunau, M, Pangui, E, Doussin, JF, Dagsson-Waldhauserova, P, Arnalds, O, Beddows, D, Mackenzie, AR & Shi, Z 2023, 'Complex refractive index and single scattering albedo of Icelandic dust in the shortwave part of the spectrum', Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics, vol. 23, no. 14, pp. 7975-8000.

Mills, SA, Bousiotis, D, Maya-Manzano, JM, Tummon, F, MacKenzie, AR & Pope, FD 2023, 'Constructing a pollen proxy from low-cost Optical Particle Counter (OPC) data processed with Neural Networks and Random Forests', Science of the Total Environment, vol. 871, 161969.

Mills, S, Bousiotis, D, Maya-Manzano, J, Tummon, F, MacKenzie, AR & Pope, F 2023, 'Constructing a pollen proxy from low-cost Optical Particle Counter (OPC) data processed with Neural Networks and Random Forests', Science of the Total Environment, vol. 871, 161969.

Mayoral, C, Ioni, S, Luna, E, Crowley, LM, Hayward, SAL, Sadler, JP & Mackenzie, AR 2023, 'Elevated CO2 does not improve seedling performance in a naturally regenerated oak woodland exposed to biotic stressors', Frontiers in Forests and Global Change, vol. 6, 1278409.

Mills, SA, Maya-Manzano, JM, Tummon, F, MacKenzie, AR & Pope, F 2023, 'Machine learning methods for low-cost pollen monitoring - Model optimisation and interpretability', Science of the Total Environment, vol. 903, 165853.,

Dai, Y, Mazzeo, A, Zhong, J, Cai, X, Mele, B, Toscano, D, Murena, F & MacKenzie, AR 2023, 'Modelling of Deep Street Canyon Air Pollution Chemistry and Transport: A Wintertime Naples Case Study', Atmosphere, vol. 14, no. 9, 1385.

Gardner, A, Jiang, M, Ellsworth, DS, Mackenzie, AR, Pritchard, J, Bader, MK, Barton, CVM, Bernacchi, C, Calfapietra, C, Crous, KY, Dusenge, ME, Gimeno, TE, Hall, M, Lamba, S, Leuzinger, S, Uddling, J, Warren, J, Wallin, G & Medlyn, BE 2023, 'Optimal stomatal theory predicts CO2 responses of stomatal conductance in both gymnosperm and angiosperm trees', New Phytologist, vol. 2022, pp. 1229-1241.

Ziegler, C, Kulawska, A, Kourmouli, A, Hamilton, L, Shi, Z, MacKenzie, AR, Dyson, RJ & Johnston, IG 2023, 'Quantification and uncertainty of root growth stimulation by elevated CO2 in a mature temperate deciduous forest', Science of the Total Environment, vol. 854, 158661.


MacKenzie, AR, Ullah, S & Foyer, CH 2024, 'Building forests for the future', Food and Energy Security, vol. 13, no. 2, e518.

Commissioned report

Greenham, S, Jones, S, Ferranti, E, Zhong, J, Acton, J, MacKenzie, AR & Grayson, N 2023, Mapping climate risk and vulnerability with publicly available data. A guidance document produced by the WM-Air project. University of Birmingham.

Conference contribution

Mills, S, MacKenzie, R & Pope, F 2023, Constructing a pollen proxy from low-cost Optical Particle Counter (OPC) data processed with Neural Networks and Random Forests. in EGU General Assembly 2023., EGU23-433, European Geosciences Union, EGU General Assembly 2023, Vienna, Austria, 24/04/23.

Review article

Bateman, IJ, Anderson, K, Argles, A, Belcher, C, Betts, RA, Binner, A, Brazier, RE, Cho, FHT, Collins, RM, Day, BH, Duran-Rojas, C, Eisenbarth, S, Gannon, K, Gatis, N, Groom, B, Hails, R, Harper, AB, Harwood, A, Hastings, A, Heard, MS, Hill, TC, Inman, A, Lee, CF, Luscombe, DJ, MacKenzie, AR, Mancini, MC, Morison, JIL, Morris, A, Quine, CP, Snowdon, P, Tyler, CR, Vanguelova, EI, Wilkinson, M, Williamson, D & Xenakis, G 2023, 'A review of planting principles to identify the right place for the right tree for ‘net zero plus’ woodlands: Applying a place-based natural capital framework for sustainable, efficient and equitable (SEE) decisions', People and Nature, vol. 5, no. 2, pp. 271-301.

View all publications in research portal


air pollution; urban sustainability; green infrastructure; temperate forests and climate; tropical land-use and climate