Academic Profile

I am an ecologist, specialising in climate change impacts, adaptation and mitigation. I am a Senior Visiting Research Associate at Oxford University but my full time job is at Natural England, the national conservation agency for England, where I lead our climate change work. I also contribute to developing our wider evidence base and conservation strategy.

I joined Natural England in 2009; before this I led a research group at the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology (CEH) at Wallingford, having worked for CEH and its predecessor, the Institute of Terrestrial Ecology, since 1992. My interest in climate goes back to my PhD (Cambridge, 1990) research on the way plants change with altitude on mountains and interactions between climate and nutrient supply. I continue to be involved in upland issues, but my interests now span a wide range of habitats. I have had a particular interest in woodlands since 1992, when I established a long-term monitoring programme under the UK Environmental Change Network (ECN) at Wytham Woods, which is owned by Oxford University. This developed into a wider climate change research programme, which has advanced our understanding of the processes controlling carbon dioxide uptake, growth and water loss by trees and how they respond to changing environmental conditions. It is important to understand climate change in a broader context of 'environmental change' and I have also studied the effects of atmospheric nitrogen deposition, changing management and rising woodland deer populations.

In recent years my work has increasingly shifted from studying the impacts of climate change to developing adaptation and mitigation. With this has come increasingly close work with policy-makers and conservation practitioners and this is now central to my role at Natural England.

I continue to have strong links with Oxford, collaborating particularly with Yadvinder Malhi and Pam Berry in the Environmental Change Institute (ECI) and have had several joint research students and grants on climate change related issues. I have taught on the Environmental Change and Management MSc since its inception and supervised various student dissertations.

I was actively involved in developing the National Adaptation Programme for Climate Change and chair a working group on climate change adaptation for biodiversity and ecosystems. I led the development of the UK Climate Change Impacts Report Card on Terrestrial Biodiversity which provides both a detailed review and accessible overview; this was part of the Living With Environmental Change (LWEC) partnership. I am a trustee of the Ecological Continuity Trust, a member of the ECN Scientific and Technical Advisory Group and chair of the newly formed Climate Change Ecology Group of the British Ecological Society.

Current Research

Natural England has a wide remit, including running agri-environment schemes, managing nature reserves, ensuring the protection of conservation sites and landscapes and promoting public engagement with nature, as well as being a statutory advisor to the government. We are in a unique position to develop and test adaptation and mitigation. My current research priorities include better understanding the nature of resilience to climate change in ecosystems, ecological networks and landscape scale approaches to climate change adaptation, the effects of drought on ecosystems and carbon storage and sequestration by semi-natural habitats, particularly woodlands and peatlands.

Much of my work in recent years has been about reviewing and synthesising the evidence base. The Climate Change Impacts Report Card is a good example. We have also recently (2014) published our Climate Change Adaptation Manual, with the RSPB, which makes science and practical expertise more widely available to conservation practitioners for the first time. I am involved in a variety of specific research projects, mostly on climate change topics, although also including some broader conservation issues. A steady stream of publications from work at Wytham Woods also continues.


Selected Publications

Publications are those that were listed on the old website. Publications database integration forthcoming.