Lecturer, University of Stirling, UK Alexander von Humboldt Fellow, Max Planck Institute of Animal Behavior, Germany Research Associate, Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, Panama
I completed my PhD at the University of Aberdeen, with field work in Sepilok Forest Reserve, Sabah investigating the basis for habitat specialisation in dipterocarp trees. My research investigates how deforestation and forest fragmentation modify the composition of tropical tree and bird communities, and the impacts on ecosystem functioning, with projects in Panama, Brazil, Gabon and Malaysia.
In Panama, I am working with collaborators from Panamanian, US and UK institutions, to describe changes in the composition of trees and birds over forest succession in a network of permanent secondary forest plots. We are also investigating how ecosystem processes, such as above- and below-ground carbon storage, change overtime in secondary forests. This study is part of the 2ndFOR network, which spans over 40 secondary forest sites in the Neotropics, with the aim to identify broad relationships between forest composition, carbon storage and secondary forest age.
Current PhD Students
Project: Long-term recovery of species diversity and community composition in selectively-logged tropical forests. Cosupervised by Prof David Burslem, University of Aberdeenand Dr Lindsay Banin, Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, Edinburgh My research looks at the ways in which tropical rain forests recover following selective logging of valuable timber species. Using the Danum Valley Conservation Area in Malaysian Borneo as my primary study site, my PhD compares the compositions of tree communities at a variety of times since logging. I am also directly measuring the survivorship of seedlings and saplings in areas which have been historically logged. These data will reveal new insights into the processes and rates of succession in tropical plant communities following anthropogenic disturbance. This will then be communicated to inform development of future management/conservation practices in the tropics.
Project: The Impact of Liana Proliferation on Recovery of Biomass in Secondary Tropical Forests. Cosupervised by Dr Marion Pfeifer, Newcastle University Secondary forests are increasingly common across large areas of the tropics. These forests are incredibly valuable for biodiversity and ecosystem function, and thus far much research has been focused on how secondary forests grow and recover from previous land uses over the early stages of succession. However, far fewer studies have examined how forest communities continue to change in mid-to-late succession. Our research aims to address this gap by investigating community and functional composition changes, in both liana and tree communities, across a secondary forest chronosequence (40 – 120 years old) in the Barro Colorado Nature Monument, Central Panama. This research will further understanding on how long late-successional forest communities take to recover to old growth levels and will add to the small body of literature around liana communities in late succession. Network analyses will help to unpick relationships between tree and liana communities and aid us in understanding liana colonisation preferences.
Project: Maintenance of tropical forest bird communities in human-modified landscapes Cosupervised by Prof Steve Willis, University of Durhamand Dr Thiago Silva, University of Stirling My particular interests lie with how animals react to the changing world and how they can alter their behaviours in response to this. My current PhD project focuses on understanding how forest fragmentation affects bird behaviour in the tropical landscapes of Panama. Interactions between fruiting trees and their frugivores are integral to the maintenance of tree populations across degraded landscapes. Currently very little is known about how birds disperse and shift movement patterns with regards to habitat fragmentation and as such, we lack the capacity to predict how this will impact on seed dispersal. We predict that species life history and morphological traits will interact with landscape composition to determine dispersal among forest fragments. We aim to tag multiple bird species from distinct groups (canopy and understory frugivores and insectivores) with state of the art GPS loggers to monitor movement patterns across multiple landscape types
Project: The species and functional composition of bird communities in regenerating tropical forests. Cosupervised by Dr Joe Tobias, Imperial College London and Prof. Kirsty Park, University of Stirling.
Current Position: Land Management Adviser at Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park
Project: Impacts of landscape-scale habitat fragmentation and dynamics of regenerating tropical forests. Cosupervised by Prof Carlos Peres, University of East Anglia. Current Position: UKRI Future Leaders Fellow, University of Stirling, UK
Co-supervised PhD students
Abby Wallwork with Lindsay Banin and Emma Sayer (CEH Edinburgh and University of Lancaster)
Emma Bush with Nils Bunnefeld, Alistair Jump and Kate Abernethy (University of Stirling and Gabon National Parks Agency)