PhD: Establishing the relative importance of a rainforest microcosm in oil palm plantations
With my move to Bangor, I am looking forward to researching conservation biology while making the most of the opportunities to get outside and be active. I enjoy walking, hiking and cycling in the mountains, with a secret agenda of finding new cafes and pubs along the way.
I studied undergraduate Biological Sciences at the University of Oxford. While enjoying the broad syllabus this degree offered, I chose electives covering conservation biology, ecology and plant sciences. My dissertation looked at the anthropogenic impact on coral reef health, by measuring the changes in benthic and fish communities at decreasing levels of human impact. After graduating, I worked in medical communications for three and a half years, developing materials to educate patients and doctors on novel and existing treatments, and to summarise and publish new data. Although learning a lot, I always knew that I wanted to use the skills I had gained, during university and my time working in industry, to make a positive contribution to research into a sustainable future.
My PhD will determine whether tropical epiphytes [bird’s nest ferns, Asplenium nidus] can help to restore ecosystem function in the oil palm plantations of Sabah, Malaysian Borneo. I will be assessing the fern’s functionality based on the influence of fern leachate on soil biodiversity and biogeochemistry within and below the ferns, whilst monitoring the impact of increased functionality on palm oil yield. If my data show that increasing oil palm sustainability leads to increased palm oil productivity, then it will be possible to change policy and practice throughout the world’s oil palm plantations.