I started my PhD in October 2017 and my research is focused on the distribution and status of ancient trees in the UK. Ancient trees are extremely valuable in terms of their cultural, historical and ecological associations, and are considered a keystone species within our landscape. However, a lack of legal protection, land use change, climate change, development and urbanisation all threaten our ancient tree populations, so it is essential to know where they are so we can better protect and preserve them into the future.

The Ancient Tree Inventory (ATI) holds records of over 160,000 ancient, veteran and notable trees across the UK, and even though this is a great achievement, it is thought to be far from complete. My basis of my project is to use the ATI, and other environmental, topographical and landscape databases to predict locations in the UK where undiscovered ancient tree may be present, through the use of species distribution modelling, data analysis and other statistical methods. In addition I am also interested in researching sampling bias in the ATI and whether statistics and modelling can overcome some of the limitations of the dataset and improve the ancient tree distribution predictions. I hope to use the Woodland Trust volunteer survey network and other volunteers to verify these predictions and to fill in the gaps of the ATI.

Ancient trees are an integral part of the British landscape, but they have an uncertain future (photos: Vicky Nolan).

So far I developed a model to assess whether characteristics of wood-pastures in the UK could predict which ones might contain high numbers of undiscovered ancient trees, and I hope to begin verification of this soon. Additionally I am interested in whether landscape structure could be an important determining factor in predicting locations of ancient trees, and am currently developing landscape metrics and models to assist with this analysis. I have also enjoyed attending several conferences in my first year, most notably the Ancient Tree Forum Conference, at which I delivered a 30 minute presentation on my research and future project plans. The Forests of Essex conference, the Nottingham Environment Conference and the European Wood Pastures conference were all also excellent opportunities to develop my understanding of my research field and to hear from experts and other academics working on similar topics.


  • PhD Research Student – University of Nottingham and Woodland Trust (2017 – present). Supervisors: Tom Reader (UoN), Francis Gilbert (UoN) and Nick Atkinson (Woodland Trust)
  • Demonstrator and script marker – University of Nottingham (2017 – present). Assisting with lab work, computer practicals, field trips and script marking for undergraduate students
  • BSc Biology (1st Class, Honours) – University of York (2013 - 2017). Dissertation topic: The use of plant community indices in species distribution modelling.
  • Assistant Ecologist – Arcus Consultancy Services, York (2015 - 2016). Experience in GIS, statistics, data analysis and surveys including bat transect surveys, carcass searches, searcher efficiency trials, flight activity surveys, remote monitoring with Anabats and camera traps, Phase 1 Extended habitat surveys and ornithological walkover surveys.

You can also read a blog about my project, and visit my Linkedin page. This page describes my project with the Woodland Trust.

If you want to find out more about ancient trees and even become a volunteer recorder please check out the Woodland Trust website and the Ancient Tree Inventory website.