All about energy…& landscapes.

I made a podcast! Or rather co-hosted it, and wasn’t responsible for the heavy job of planning or editing it. I just asked questions. And could have gone on asking questions for hours. It was fascinating to hear the new-ish Director of the St Andrews Botanic Gardens, Dr Harry Watkins, talk about his work in urban forestry and landscape architecture, biosecurity and now in transforming what was a “museum” of plants into a maze of resilient and adaptable habitats. After many years of not questioning the benefits vs. increasing costs of the status quo, and its relevance to contemporary society and its challenges, the Botanic Gardens now are. And their response has been controversial amongst their supporters. They are building a sand dune in the middle of the Gardens… It’s all part of the Tangled Bank project, a response to the challenges and changes resulting from ongoing climate change. Any opposition to the project just need to listen to Harry explain the reasons behind it to be convinced of its importance. Why didn’t this change come sooner even?! And will other Botanic Gardens follow suit?

Here’s Harry’s manifesto for change, expertly edited by Dr James Crooks of the Centre for Energy Ethics: Many thanks to James and the Centre for Energy Ethics team for inviting me to co-host, and generally for all of their support and enthusiasm for my contribution.


Report from the latest gathering of the TPWGroup

UK Tropical Peatland Working Group

Here is a short report on the latest meeting of the UK TPWG, written by Lydia Cole.

On 30th January, Prof Sue Page and Dr Sara Thornton hosted a meeting of the UK Tropical Peatland Working Group (UK TPWG).  An assortment of researchers gathered for one day at the University of Leicester, to present their work and discuss how the group can be more effective in the realm of tropical peatland science and responsible management.  Attendees successfully navigated the UK rail network from as far as Exeter on the south coast to St Andrews on the east coast of Scotland.  The most junior member of the group had a baptism of fire as the meeting marked the first day of his PhD – well done, Abdul!

IMG-20200130-WA0005 Donna Hawthorne presenting on her palaeoecological component of the mega-CongoPeat project. (Credit: Lydia Cole.)

The day started with brief introductions from everyone present…

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Tools of the interdisciplinary trade – a workshop at #BES2019

BES Conservation Ecology Group

On 12th December 2019, mid-way through the British Ecology Society‘s Annual Meeting in Belfast, Althea Davies (Chair of the Palaeoecology SIG) and myself (Chair of the Conservation Ecology SIG) led a workshop entitled: Tools of the Interdisciplinary Trade: how to make your interdisciplinary project a success.  We were joined by Dr Kath Allen, a NERC Knowledge Exchange Fellow from the Institute of Integrative Biology, University of Liverpool, whom expertly facilitated the workshop.

20191212_140214[2] Workshop participants deep in interdisciplinary chat. Over 50 people come along to the lunchtime session, most of whom are currently engaged in interdisciplinary projects.  After introducing ourselves and theme of the workshop, we split everyone into four groups to discuss the main challenges they have faced in different stages of a research project.  We also, importantly, asked that they propose potential solutions to these challenges, and feed them back to the group.

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Spotting peat

For anyone who wants a relatively concise introduction to the Peat Spotter project I’ve been working on for the last year with Rezatec, funded by the European Space Agency, we’ve just published a promo video on YouTube.  I’ll aim to write a bit more about it soon for those avid peat spotters out there.  For now, prizes for those that spot my precious clubbed thumb in action.


An area in Central Kalimantan where we trialled some of the equipment and protocols that we’ll use to spot peat, in the ‘field’.  Here we have a typical Southeast Asian scene of drained peat, with oil palms planted in the fore- and background, and a degrading fragment of forest off in the distance.  Whether that patch of trees can actually be called a forest is another thing.  


A plug for peat

Yesterday I entered into the International Union of Forest Research Organisations’ (IUFRO) blog competition.  In the build-up to their World Congress, starting on October 5th, IUFRO wanted people to post articles about their research and work involving “Sustaining Forests, Sustaining People – The Role of Research” – the theme of the congress.  Though I only managed to touch the surface of this issue in my entry, I wanted to make sure the challenging nature of tropical peat swamp forest conservation got some air-time.  If you’re interested, you can view it (and consider voting!) here.

Soon has come!

‘Soon’ being approximately nine months, apparently!  Now that the very summery sun we’ve been having in the UK is fading and blackberry season is nearly over, I plan on posting words here much more regularly.

Here’s a slightly outdated one for starters….