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!


March 23rd 2015 – Tom Kimmerer, Venerable Trees, Inc.

fall colors at Kentucky Horse ParkI am a tree physiologist and forest scientist, and Chief Scientist at the nonprofit Venerable Trees, which is dedicated to the conservation of ancient trees. My research background is in the biochemistry of trees and plant-animal interactions. I am also  a writer and photographer. My first book, Venerable Trees: History, Biology, and Conservation in the Bluegrass will be published this year and my second book will be out in 2016.  I have a BS in Forest Biology from SUNY College of Environmental Science & Forestry and a PhD in both forestry and botany from the University of Wisconsin Madison.  I was on the faculty at the University of Kentucky,  Universiti Putra Malaysia, and Universitas Tanjungpura Indonesia. I have lectured on tree physiology, urban forestry  and renewable energy throughout North America, Indonesia and Malaysia. I am a Fulbright Scholar, and a member of AAAS and the American Society of Plant Biologists. In recent years, I have been a consultant on renewable energy projects that use wood as a feedstock.  In 2015 and 2016, in addition to my work and writing, I am helping to organize a celebration of the sesquicentennial of  Thomas Hunt Morgan the Nobel Laureate and a seminal figure in modern biology.  The strangest thing I have ever done as a scientist was to use an alcohol breathalyzer on trees.
I write for Planet Experts and Venerable Trees . and post samples of my photographs at  The Lives of Trees. Links to all my work are at kimmerer.com.  You can reach me by email (tom at venerabletrees dot org), twitter @venerabletrees and  on Facebook at  kimmerer and venerabletrees.