My PhD research centres on how trees respond to their environment. I am looking for ways to test how compatible a tree is with the place we’d like to plant it, or how appropriate different species are for forest restoration. I measure functional traits of tree seedlings and saplings grown in a field-scale tropical forest restoration experiment in Sabah, Malaysian Borneo.
I have also worked on using mathematical functions to estimate biodiversity, in order to optimise conservation efforts. To do this, we created ‘virtual ecosystems’ and generated a program to automate the sampling and analysis of biodiversity (although the reliability of biodiversity estimation methods in general remain in question).
During Honours research I was the first to reconstruct local plant communities and the community ecology of a polar forest fossilised on the Chatham Islands, New Zealand. This forest grew during the Late Cretaceous, when atmospheric CO2 and global temperatures were high, and at a time when the recently-evolved flowering plants were starting to push their way into new territory. The project involved sedimentary geology, fossil preparation and the appropriation of sampling methods from modern ecology to fossiliferous slabs of rock.