News & Events

Grass species and their role in food security, soil stabilisation and golf courses


Stephen Harris took part in a BBC World Service radio broadcast discussing grass species and their role in food security, soil stabilisation and golf courses.

The broadcast is available at


Research fellow opportunity at the University of Toronto-Scarborough


The Cadotte lab at the University of Toronto-Scarborough is looking for a
Postdoctoral researcher in ‘ecological dynamics in urban ecosystems’.

The background:
Urban green areas provide important ecosystem function and services to large
human populations. While there have been numerous experiments assessing the
effect of diversity on ecosystem function, there has not been a comprehensive
attempt to apply these principles to existing ecosystems. Urban green areas
represent a number of different ecosystem types and different management
policies that directly or indirectly affect species diversity, thus affecting
functioning within green areas. At a larger scale, a diversity of types of green
areas may provide greater service than repeated, singular types of green areas.
Given this diversity and the fact that municipalities depend on the ecosystem
functions and services provided by urban green areas, it is important to
understand the biological components of ecosystem function.
I am looking for a postdoctoral research fellow to join our team to address
questions broadly related to terrestrial diversity and ecosystem function in urban
areas. Examples of the types of research questions of interest include: 1) how do
plant invasions influence (disrupt or enhance) the ecosystem functions provided
by urban green areas? 2) How are plant-soil feedbacks affected by urban
environments? 3) How does plant diversity (taxonomic, functional, or
phylogenetic) influence pollinators (diversity or service provisioning) in urban
green areas. Or any other related question.

The system:
Toronto is uniquely situated to be the focus of urban ecology research as it has a
number of large green areas, with the flagship being the new Rouge Urban
National Park, situated on the University of Toronto-Scarborough’s doorstep.
Further, Toronto contains several replicate watersheds, each with large ravine
forests, semi-wild parks, maintained parks, and small green areas. Projects will
necessarily involve developing partnerships with local governmental and non-
governmental organizations, and the work will be put into a broader context that
should benefit outside groups.

The person:
I am looking for a terrestrial community or ecosystem ecologist with broad
ecological interests. Desirable skills/interests include spatial analyses,
quantitative modelling, plant-insect interactions, soil biodiversity, functional or
phylogenetic diversity, and R programming. Candidates should have strong:
conceptual/theoretical understanding of ecological processes; oral and written
communication skills; publication record; and an interest in outreach. The
candidate should have completed, or nearly completed, a PhD in ecology or
related disciplines. The successful candidate will be expected to provide
leadership in the lab, and interact with graduate and undergraduate students.
The Cadotte lab also has a strong commitment to outreach, running programs
with local elementary schools, and the candidate is expected to participate.

The place:
The University of Toronto-Scarborough (UTSC) is located on the eastern edge of
Toronto, and makes up one of the three campuses of the University of Toronto.
The tri-campus Ecology and Evolutionary Biology program, which also includes
the Royal Ontario Museum (, is an excellent
department with more than 50 faculty members
( The candidate will be housed
at UTSC, in the Biological Sciences department
(, which sits on a forested ravine, and is a
relatively short commute to the Toronto city centre. UTSC is an exciting place to
do research, with a relatively young and active research community, and
excellent students. Toronto is Canada’s largest city and is extremely culturally
diverse, full of parks and green areas, and hosts numerous cultural, culinary, and
music events.

The position:
The start date is flexible, but May 2015 is preferred, and the position is for two
years –second year contingent on first year performance. The salary is
$40,000/year, and comes with a benefits package. Postdocs are unionized at the
University of Toronto.

The application:
Applicants are required to send an updated CV, two representative reprints or
preprints, a cover letter and/or statement describing the candidate’s past
experience and accomplishments, interests (generally and with respect to the
specifics of this position), and the names and e-mails of at least two references.
These materials should be combined into a single pdf document and sent to Applications will be accepted until September 19th,


ISI highly cited researchers for 2014


Lee Sweetlove and Ester Rabbinowitsch have been recognised as ISI highly cited researchers for 2014


ERC award to Renier van der Hoorn


The European Research Council has awarded an ERC consolidator grant to Dr. Renier van der Hoorn for his 'GreenProteases' proposal with the full title: 'The proteolytic machinery of the plant apoplast: from basic understanding to improved recombinant protein production'. The EU will sponsor this project with 2 million euro for a period of 5 years. The ERC team of Dr van der Hoorn will use different protease depletion strategies to identify the role and substrates of secreted proteases and improve recombinant protein production in plants.


Dr Keith Kirby Awarded Top Eco Medal


Renowned woodland expert awarded prestigious ecology medal in recognition of a lifetime’s work

This year the Chartered Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management (CIEEM) will present its most prestigious award, the Institute Medal to Dr Keith Kirby FCIEEM, a woodland ecologist at Oxford University, in recognition of his contribution to driving forward woodland conservation in the UK.

The Award will be presented by Andrew Sells, the newly appointed Chair of Natural England, on Thursday 26 June 2014 at Birmingham Botanical Gardens at the 2014 CIEEM Awards ceremony, which recognises outstanding achievements by organisations and individuals in the fields of ecology, environmental management and sustainability.

Regarded by his peers as the ‘oracle on woodlands’, Kirby’s career has spanned nearly forty years. He gained a first class honours degree in Agricultural and Forestry Sciences from Oxford University in 1973, and went on to complete a doctorate on multiple aspects of bramble ecology in 1976. Since retiring from Natural England in 2012, Kirby has returned to Oxford University in the Department of Plant Sciences where he continues to write about woodland conservation.

He co-edited Wytham Woods (OUP) based on Oxford’s ecological field laboratory which is home to some of the longest running field research in conservation management. Here, Kirby has commissioned and conducted research which has closely monitored the impact of rising deer numbers on woodland environments, and how tree canopies may slow the pace of climate change at ground level.

Following the announcement of his award Keith Kirby commented, “I am very pleased to be honoured in this way. I have worked in woodland ecology for nearly forty years, yet that is merely a tenth of the time it would take a single oak tree to reach biological maturity. Trees have been under threat from mankind since the invention of the first axe, and natural disasters such as the great storm of 1987 still leave an ecological legacy today, making long term monitoring an essential part of woodland conservation.”

Sally Hayns, Chief Executive of CIEEM says, “The Institute Medal is CIEEM’s highest accolade and we are delighted to be presenting it to Keith Kirby this year. He has dedicated his life and career to topical and applied research on issues such as climate change and tree disease, basing his theories on sound woodland ecology which has made him a highly reputable and sought after voice in the field. He leads by example, minimising his own personal footprint wherever possible, and providing guidance to young emerging ecologists.”

Kirby has worked as a woodland ecologist for the government’s statutory nature conservation agencies – in their various incarnations, firstly with the Nature Conservancy Council, then English Nature, and most recently Natural England – developing national policies in forestry and advising the UK government on forest sustainability and rewilding. He is also a Fellow of both CIEEM and the Institute of Chartered Foresters, while being a long-serving member of the British Ecological Society and the Royal Forestry Society.

In academic circles he has actively engaged with students providing guidance, teaching and mentoring on projects from a number of prestigious institutions, including University College London, Birkbeck University of London, Imperial College London and the University of Liverpool.

Emma Goldberg and Richard Jefferson, both from Natural England, jointly nominated Keith Kirby for the award, stating, “Keith is widely respected by his peers in the forestry industry as the oracle on woodlands. His guidance and teaching of individual students, courses, and talks to the general public, and his wisdom over policy-related matters, mean that he has driven woodland conservation forward hugely over the course of his career.”

For more information about the CIEEM awards please visit:


Carbohydrates boost trees drought survival chances


A BBC Science news item at highlighted a study co-authored by Professor Andy Hector suggesting that drought survival of tropical tree seedlings is enhanced by non-structural carbohydrate levels.

The article was published in 'Nature Climate Change' (doi:10.1038/nclimate2281