Research Seminar: Dr. Emma Sayer, Lancaster University

5 May


Large Lecture Theatre

'Bridging gaps in ecosystem ecology and science communication'

Part I. From micro to macro - microbial processes & ecosystem function

Forest soils represent one of the largest terrestrial stores of carbon but we are currently unable to quantify how changes in forest productivity will affect carbon storage belowground. It seems reasonable to expect that soil carbon stocks will increase in response to enhanced forest growth but a number of studies demonstrate that a decline in soil carbon sequestration is also possible.

Carbon can be released from the soil by large additional inputs of fresh organic matter through a phenomenon known as ‘priming effects’. Unfortunately, most of the work on priming effects to date has been carried out in small scale, short-term lab studies, so the relevance of the phenomenon in the ‘real world’ is debatable. I show various lines of evidence for the importance of priming effects in forest ecosystems under global change and discuss the relative merits and issues of using lab experiments to assess ecosystem processes.

I highlight the importance of identifying underlying mechanisms and resolving scaling issues to bridge the gap between above- and belowground processes. I present first results from a cross-continental experiment designed to determine the relevance of priming effects in forest ecosystems at different scales.

Part II. Sex & Bugs & Rock 'n Roll - engaging the public with ecology at music festivals.

Public engagement activities are important for bridging the gap between science and society. Effective public engagement can increase societal support for research and encourage greater interest in science. I give a brief overview of why we should engage the public with our research and present a project that took a creative approach to public engagement with ecology at music festivals in the UK.