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Department of Plant Sciences


Research group


Research overview

The aim of my PhD research is to model the impact of an oomycete pathogen, Phytophthora austrocedri, on UK native juniper (Juniperus communis). Juniper is one of few trees native to the UK and is recognised as an important species for biodviersity as it supports large numbers of birds, insects and fungi. Since its discovery in the UK in 2012, many juniper populations are now known to be infected by a pathogenic water mould called Phytophthora austrocedri, first described in 2007 in Argentina. So far, the UK is the only other country where the pathogen is known to infect wild populations of trees in the cypress family. Using a combination of spatially explicit, statistical and epidemiological modelling techniques, I aim to identify juniper populations at lower risk from infection to help target effective measures for juniper conservation. I am investigating how topography, climate, hydrology and community structure favour juniper population persistence and interface with the establishment of the disease at both field and regional scales.


Before starting my PhD in 2017, I worked as an Operations Officer for Scottish Natural Heritage (2012-2016) covering Uist, Barra and St Kilda. These islands boast diverse natural history, including important populations of breeding and wintering waders, a variety of machair habitats, freshwater lochs spanning different nutrient and pH gradients, intricate coastal geomorphology and impressive geological features. As such I covered a broad range of topics from providing management advice for a whole range of sites designated under national and european legislation, advising on proposals for planning and development, evaluating agri-environment scheme applications, liaising with crofting communities over wildlife conflicts (particularly greylag and barnacle goose conflicts as well as white-tailed sea eagles), monitoring and reporting of designated site condition, managing survey contracts and carrying out surveys for a broad range of features from machair and breeding waders to lagoon cockles and off-shore seabird colonies.


2011-2012 MSc Biodiversity & Taxonomy of Plants, University of Edinburgh and Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh
2008-2011 BSc Plant Biology, University of Aberdeen





Media and press


Funding and supervision

This work is supervised by Beth Purse and Kate Searle at the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, Dr Nik Cunniffe and Professor Chris Gilligan at the Department of Plant Sciences, University of Cambridge and Sarah Green at Forest Research. As such, I rotate between three locations: Centre for Ecology and Hydrology in Wallingford, the Department of Plant Sciences at the University of Cambridge and the Forest Research Northern Research Station near Edinburgh.
This PhD is funded by the Scottish Forestry Trust, Scottish Forestry, Forest Research, Scottish Natural Heritage, UKCEH and the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, and is registered at the Department of Plant Sciences at the University of Cambridge.
Postgraduate Student
Ms Flora  Donald

Contact Details

Email address: 
Department of Plant Sciences,
Downing Street,
01491 692268 / 01223 748957