My research investigates the relationships between environmental change and changes in the distributions of organisms, as well as in the composition, structure and dynamics of ecosystems. Interactions between the land surface and the atmosphere, especially biospheric feedbacks to the climate system, are also the subject of my research. A combination of palaeoecological, ecological and biogeographical methods is used in carrying out these investigations; important techniques used include pollen analysis, palaeoclimate reconstruction, modelling of ecological processes and of species distributions, geographical information systems and earth observation.
This research has been supported by grants from various bodies including NERC, NATO and the Leverhulme Trust, as well as by research contracts from the European Commission, WWF and RSPB, inter alia. Current research projects include investigations of: responses of African and European birds to climatic change; development of dynamic models of species' distribution and abundance changes in response to environmental change; the potential effectiveness of protected area networks as a tool for biodiversity conservation in the face of climatic change; the neoglacial climatic transition as a potential 'tipping point' in the climate system; late-Pleistocene vegetation and environmental history in Eurasia and the extinction of the Pleistocene megafauna; the impacts of tephra deposition on vegetation; the landscape-scale impacts of invasion by a canopy-dominant tree, taking the mid-Holocene invasion of the Scottish Highlands by Pinus sylvestris (Scots Pine) as a model system; and the importance of landscape heterogeneity and microclimate in sustaining marginal populations of butterfliesin areas where the regional climate is becoming unfavourable as a result of climatic change.
In 2007 I was invited to act as a consultant to the Council of Europe Bern Convention Group of Experts on Biodiversity and Climate Change and subsequently to become an observer on this group. I have undertaken two studies and provided two reports to the group; most recently I was asked to prepare the group's Work Plan for the next five years, and to present this at the annual meeting of the Standing Committee of the Bern Convention (Strasbourg, December 2015).
In 2008 I was invited to join the Steering Group for the North-East Regional Climate Change and Biodiversity Study.
In March 2009 I was invited by the German government to pariticipate in a High Level Working Group on the 2010 Biodiversity Targets and post-2010 Targets in preparation for the next meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity.
I was a member of the Working Group that oversaw production of the first and second editions of the Living With Environmental Change "Biodiversity Climate Change Impacts Report Card" (http://www.nerc.ac.uk/research/partnerships/lwec/products/report-cards/biodiversity/).
I have been a member of the IUCN Species Survival Commission "Climate Change Specialist Group" (https://iucn-ccsg.org/) since its establishment in 2013.