My PhD is looking at the role that commercial coniferous plantations may play in supporting biodiversity throughout the UK, and is particularly focused on how management may affect bats and their invertebrate prey. Currently very little is known about what species of bat will use coniferous plantations or how they are being used but as coniferous forests represent over half of Britain’s total forest area they could be an important resource. Although most studies show that bats avoid coniferous plantations these conclusions are drawn from habitat surveys which compare prime habitats such as semi ancient native woodlands with coniferous plantations and as such may be inappropriate comparisons. Most coniferous plantations in the UK are planted on poor degraded agricultural soil or in upland heathland areas and so may be more useful to some bat species than the alternative degraded landscape.
Commercial coniferous plantations in the UK consist primarily of Sitka Spruce dominated stands interspersed with other tree species such as Larch, Pine and Norway Spruce. This is unlikely to change in the foreseeable future so this PhD is concentrated in large, predominantly Sitka Spruce plantations throughout West Scotland, North England and North Wales. This work is funded jointly by Stirling University and the Forestry Commission as part of an IMPACT scholarship.
I have previously completed my Masters in Research in biosystematics and the role of evolutionary processes in the natural world continues to fascinate me. I have worked extensively with bats since 2005 on projects such as coronaviral transmission in West African leaf nosed bats, swarming in the UK and Europe, conduct regular hibernation checks and assisted on a study with Myotis alcathoe in Sussex following their discovery in the UK, and am fascinated by all aspects of bat biology and behaviour. I have previously worked in agricultural research and am particularly interested in research with an applied element, particularly when relating to conservation.