29/01/18 Robin Hayward (University of Stirling)

Robin HaywardHello Biotweeps! I’m Robin, a first year PhD student in the department of Biological and Environmental Sciences at the University Of Stirling. My research focusses on the impacts of selective logging on rainforest flora in South East Asia and I am particularly interested in the way that tree communities regenerate following human disturbance. Because of this, I’ll be spending a lot of my time over the next few years either furiously reading journal articles or staring intently at saplings and seedlings in the Danum Valley Conservation Area in Malaysia. To follow along with that (there’s amazingly some wifi in rainforests now!) you can check out my everyday twitter account: @CanopyRobin.

Before starting this PhD I was based at the University of York for four years, where I studied for my Masters degree in Environmental Science. As you might imagine from the subject title, this was a pretty broad course but I quickly realised my passion lay in forests and was soon doing everything I could to pick all the forestry and ecology modules available. At the end of my first year, I also discovered the immense joy that is roped tree climbing and that (brilliantly!) this was a skill that could be used to conduct great research in an exciting environment high above the forest floor. Over the following year I got trained in canopy access, found a supervisor, planned a project, and conducted two months of epiphyte research in Indonesia, which eventually culminated in a Masters thesis and my first academic journal publication. I have been in love with the canopy ever since.

This week I want to chat with you all about these awesome subjects and the techniques involved in studying them but it would be great if we could also have some conversations about the slightly less academic side of academia. I want to talk about identity and inspiration within science and, having had the privilege of working with several school groups in the field, I’m also interested in discussing some of the difficulties and rewards of engaging with young people in settings well outside their usual comfort zone.

Hopefully we’ll all get to know each other a bit better as the week goes on so I’ll leave my bio at that. I can’t wait to get this conversation started!

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8th May 2017 – Vicki Tough, Sylvana Alta Ltd

Vicki ToughForest canopies provide some of the highest levels of biodiversity on the planet. They offer huge potential for research and exploration; however, accessing the high canopy continues to be an obstacle for scientists and researchers wishing to work in these areas. For the last nine years I have worked as a professional climber and abseiler, organising, leading and participating in research expeditions around the world. My focus is on canopy science and the technical methods required to reach high into the treetops.

My increasing interest in the these environments and their flora and fauna was first sparked during the remote rainforest research I undertook in the Ecuadorian Amazon during my Zoology degree at The University of Glasgow. Once graduated, I began work as a tree climbing instructor and industrial abseiler, switching between the botanical and concrete jungles of the world; learning how ropes and rigging can be used to experience, work and explore places at height. Working in these contrasting environments has given me an appreciation and understanding of a range of technical rigging solutions, as well as the importance of teamwork in often challenging conditions.

My current interests lie predominantly within forests, working to develop canopy research projects and assisting scientists in working at height in the tree tops. Advancements in equipment and technical knowledge over the past fifty years have opened up opportunities not only to access, but also to work safely and efficiently in these environments. I aim to bridge the gap between scientific research and working at height by combining these disciplines to develop successful climbing practices for research in forests around the world.

During my curatorial week I will be sharing tales of tree climbing expeditions whilst detailing the highs and lows of practical fieldwork in the treetops. For more information about the work I’m involved in, please take a look at my website www.sylvanaalta.com.  I look forward to talking with you all!