2nd May 2016 – James Borrell, Queen Mary University of London

James BorrellI am a conservation genetics PhD student in my final year at Queen Mary, University of London. My research interests are focused around the genetic consequences of population decline and habitat fragmentation, specifically in Dwarf birch (Betula nana), a small mountain tree.

Despite being somewhat unimpressive to look, Dwarf Birch is an ideal plant to study because it has so much going wrong. From a substantial range decline over recent decades, to climate change and rampant deer grazing, we now have evidence that it’s hybridising with two other related birch species, which appear to be breeding it out. On the plus side, it grows in remote and beautiful areas of the Scottish Highlands, so fieldwork is a pleasure. One of the best surviving populations is on the estate of Trees for Life, a conservation NGO.

As well as my PhD research, I also blog and have an interest and background in expeditions, particularly as a tool for engagement and science communication. I’ve worked on conservation projects around the world, including the Dhofar Mountains of Oman, the Peruvian Amazon and Southern Africa. Most recently, I led an international research expedition to Northern Madagascar studying edge effects in herpetofauna and filming a short documentary that will be out later this year. There’s more info about Expedition Angano, here.

Lastly, I also run a small social enterprise called Discover Conservation with stories from field biologists in weird and wonderful places around the world.

Expect lots of fieldwork photos!

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