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


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

Bannister, EJ, Jesson, M, Harper, NJ, Hart, KM, Curioni, G, Cai, X & Mackenzie, AR 2023, 'Residence times of air in a mature forest: observational evidence from a free-air CO2 enrichment experiment ', Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics, vol. 23, no. 3, pp. 2145-2165.

Rabbai, A, Wendt, DE, Curioni, G, Quick, SE, MacKenzie, AR, Hannah, DM, Kettridge, N, Ullah, S, Hart, KM & Krause, S 2023, 'Soil moisture and temperature dynamics in juvenile and mature forest as a result of tree growth, hydrometeorological forcings, and drought', Hydrological Processes, vol. 37, no. 6, e14919.

Gardner, A, Ellsworth, DS, Pritchard, J & Mackenzie, AR 2022, 'Are chlorophyll concentrations and nitrogen across the vertical canopy profile affected by elevated CO2 in mature Quercus trees?', Trees.

Dai, Y, Cai, X, Zhong, J & MacKenzie, AR 2022, 'Chemistry, street canyon geometry, and emissions effects on NO2 “hotspots” and regulatory “wiggle room”', npj Climate and Atmospheric Science, vol. 5, no. 1, 102.

Dai, Y, Cai, X, Zhong, J, Mazzeo, A & MacKenzie, AR 2022, 'Chemistry, transport, emission, and shading effects on NO2 and Ox distributions within urban canyons', Environmental Pollution, vol. 315, 120347.

Baird, AB, Bannister, EJ, Mackenzie, AR & Pope, FD 2022, 'Mass concentration measurements of autumn bioaerosol using low-cost sensors in a mature temperate woodland free-air carbon dioxide enrichment (FACE) experiment: investigating the role of meteorology and carbon dioxide levels', Biogeosciences, vol. 19, no. 10, pp. 2653-2669.

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 2022, 'Optimal stomatal theory predicts CO2 responses of stomatal conductance in both gymnosperm and angiosperm trees', New Phytologist, vol. 2022.

Bannister, EJ, Mackenzie, AR & Cai, X 2022, 'Realistic Forests and the Modeling of Forest‐Atmosphere Exchange', Reviews of Geophysics, vol. 60, no. 1, e2021RG000746.

Commissioned report

Greenham, S, Jones, S, Ferranti, E, 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.

Acton, J, Anderson, P, Andres, L, Angus, M, Amor, P, Arrowsmith, J (ed.), Asmelash, H, Bartington, S (ed.), Bengtsson, F, Bhullar, L, Bloss, W, Bonet, B, Börner, S, O Bonsu, N, Bryson, JR, Burns, V, Burrows, A, Calvert, C, Cassidy, N, Cavoski, A, Chadyiwa, M, Chapman, H, Chapman, L, Cockram, M, Degendardt, L, Dickinson, D, Ding, Y, Dobrzynski, D, Dolo, M, Dora, J, Ercolani, M, Ersoy, A, Farag, H, Ferranti, E, Fisher, R, Freer, M, Goldmann, N, Goode, CE, Greenham, S, Gulati, S, Hadfield-Hill, S, Harper, G, Hegerl, G, Hillmansen, S, Holmes, J, Huang, JJ, Huser, C, Jackson, R, Jaroszweski, D, Jefferson, I, Johnson, J, Kaewunruen, S, Kelly-Akinnuoye, F, Kettles, G, Kraftl, P, Krause, S, Leckebusch, GC, Lee, R, Lockwood, B (ed.), Lohse, J, Luna Diez, E, Lynch, I (ed.), MacKenzie, R, Maddison, D, Makepeace, J, Mann, V, Marino, R, Mavronicola, N, McDonald, M, McGowan, K (ed.), Metje, N, Ng, K, Nicol, J, O'Sullivan, C, Phalkey, N, Prestwood, E, Pyatt, N, Quinn, A, Radcliffe, J (ed.), Ravi, M, Reardon, L, Reeder, T, O’Regan, P, Remedios, L, Roberts, J, Rogers, C, Rungskunroch, P, van Schaik, W, Swan, J (ed.), Thomson, I, Toft, H (ed.), Tong, J, Botello Villagrana, F, Walton, A, Wason, C (ed.), Weir, C, Wood, R & Zhong, J 2021, Addressing the climate challenge. 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.

Working paper

Bradwell, J, Foyer, C & MacKenzie, AR 2022 'Forest innovation to tackle the climate and biodiversity emergencies' University of Birmingham.

View all publications in research portal


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

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