Consortium members

Cranfield University

Professor Jim Harris – Consortium Lead Principal Investigator

Jim is a systems ecologist interested in system complexity, function and emergent properties – particularly resilience and how the principles learned from ecology can be applied to the “Five Capitals” of our socio-ecological system. Principally working in soil microbiology, restoration ecology and ecosystem service research focused on microbial ecology in relation to ecosystem processes. He has applied this particularly in the assessment and treatment of degraded systems, restoration ecology, quantitative assessment of ecosystem goods and services, and has pioneered work on catabolic profiling and the thermodynamics of soil microbial communities. This work has advanced our understanding of the effects of environmental and management practices on the soil microbial community, provided better tools for assessing ecosystem status, the effects of land management, soil management and amendment, and importantly restoration and agricultural programmes aimed at enhancing natural capital to achieve net environmental gain whilst securing productive environments. He was the Consortium Lead PI for the NERC Biodiversity and Ecosystem Service Sustainability Programme – BESS Urban: Fragments, functions and flows and CoI on the BBSRC Projects “Fundamental basis of soil biological resilience” and “Self-organisation of the soil-microbe complex”. He is Science Adviser to the Societé General funded Climate SHAKE program aimed at supporting entrepreneurs in bringing agritech innovation to the market place. His work on defining and assessing soil health via measurement of biological, physical and chemical properties has been widely adopted. He has worked extensively at national and international level in policy development: he has acted as Scientific Adviser to the UK Defra group at IPBES meetings in Colombia, Rome, and Bonn; a Lead Author in the IPBES Report on Land Degradation and Restoration; and past Chair of the International Society for Ecological Restoration.

Dr Mark Pawlett – Co-Investigator

Mark (C.Env) is a Senior Research Fellow of Soil Biology, with a focus on developing innovative strategies for sustainable land management. He is especially interested in the biological interface between the plants and soil, targeting sustainable management solutions to improve soil health (function and nutrient cycling pathways) for improved ecosystem services. Of particular interest is the use of biogas digestaes to manipulate the soil microbiome for improved health, the potential of natural burials to affect soil biodiversity and function, and the use of biostimulants and microbial inoculants for improved soil health. Overseas, Mark has worked at the Engabreen Glacier in Norway, heathland restoration in Netherlands, and Bauxite residue recovery area restoration in Ireland. He is also the Course Director for MSc Environmental Engineering.

Dr Daniel Simms – Co-Investigator

Daniel is a Lecturer in Remote Sensing at Cranfield University working on the development of new technologies and methodologies for extracting useful patterns of land-cover and land-use from remote sensing data at multiple scales. He is currently leading new research into resource monitoring and measuring landscape scale processes. Of particular interest is how deep learning can help to improve our understanding of the changing state of the Earth’s land-cover.

Dr Alexey Larionov – Co-Investigator

Alexey currently works as a Lecturer in Bioinformatics at Cranfield University, heavily involved in teaching of postgraduate students.  His current interests are in metagenomics and long reads sequencing data analysis. From 2013 to 2021 he worked as a bioinformatician in Cambridge University, setting up lab- and bioinformatics methods to study heritable predisposition to cancer. Before this (2002-2013) he worked in Edinburgh University, studying markers and mechanisms of endocrine resistance in breast cancer. 

University of Stirling

Professor Kirsty Park – Principal Investigator

Kirsty is a conservation scientist with a focus on quantifying the effects of environmental change on biological diversity and testing the efficacy of solutions to mitigate anthropogenic impacts. Her research spans multiple habitats and land-uses, with a focus on heavily anthropogenic landscapes (e.g. forestry, agriculture, urban) and across a diverse range of taxa. Since 2013, she has been co-lead of a long-term research programme related to RestREco, the WrEN project (Woodland Creation & Ecological Networks), a collaboration of academics, policy makers and practitioners interested in the restoration of ecologically degraded landscapes. She works with a wide range of policy and practitioner organisations and is a Trustee for the Loch Lomond & Trossachs Countryside Trust.

Dr Elisa Fuentes-Montemayor – Co-Investigator

Elisa is an ecologist and conservation biologist investigating how human activities impact biological communities and ecosystem functioning. Her main areas of expertise include animal ecology, woodland ecology, restoration ecology and spatial ecology. She has a track record investigating the consequences of anthropogenic disturbances (e.g. habitat loss and fragmentation) and the effectiveness of conservation actions (e.g. habitat restoration and implementation of agri-environment schemes) for biodiversity. To address these subjects, she studies a variety of taxa (mainly mammals, birds and invertebrates such as moths), using a combination of field surveying techniques, state-of-the-art sensing technologies, and novel analytical approaches. Her research is strongly applied, with a focus on finding effective ways to restore biodiversity (and associated ecosystem functions and services) in human-modified landscapes. She has a track-record collaborating with academics, policy makers, industry and organisations involved in conservation and environmental management. Elisa is currently a Senior Lecturer at the University of Stirling.

UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology

Professor James Bullock – Principal Investigator

James works on finding solutions to the ecological emergency by understanding how species may respond to climate change, analysing and modelling ecosystem services, assessing how to enhance connectivity in fragmented landscapes, investigating how to make farming sustainable, and, critically, how to restore our damaged and degraded ecosystems. He leads research tackling some of today’s most critical ecological problems, stemming from the need to maintain complex and diverse ecosystems in the face of growing demands for food, water, housing, and transport.

Dr Ben Woodcock – Co-Investigator

Ben’s research interests revolve around reconciling intensive agricultural management with the maintenance and enhancement of native biodiversity and the ecosystem services that they provide. While a lot of his work is of an applied conservation nature, linked to the development of agri-environment schemes (the UK policy mechanism for extensifying agricultural management), he is interested in the fundamental mechanisms that underpinning community ecology in these systems. This work has focused on how restoration, particularly in grassland systems, can be used to establish complex multitrophic systems and how dispersal limitation of both plants and arthropods interact to limit this happening.

National Trust

Professor Rosie Hails – Principal Investigator

Professor Rosie Hails MBE FRSB is an ecologist and Nature and Science Director at the National Trust, holding honorary chairs at Exeter and Cranfield Universities. Her role is to develop the Trust’s research portfolio and advise on science evidence relevant to Trust decision making. She leads teams focusing on Nature Conservation, Trees & Woods, Wildlife Management, Land Use, Farming and Public Benefits delivered by Nature. She is a member of Defra’s Science Advisory Council, chairing the Biodiversity Targets Advisory Group, Council member of the RSPB, Chair of the Woodmeadow Trust Steering Group and Trustee of the John Innes Foundation. She is also on a number of advisory boards. Formerly she was the Science Director for Biodiversity & Ecosystem Science at the UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology.

Ben McCarthy – Co-Investigator

Ben is an ecologist and Head of Nature Conservation & Restoration Ecology at the National Trust. Having held senior positions with statutory and non-statutory organisations he now provides national leadership to realise the Trust’s ambition for nature and nature-based climate solutions.  He uses his experience over twenty years translating conservation science into practical delivery to restore nature and deliver nature-based climate solutions across England, Wales and N Ireland. Sitting within the National Trust’s Science & Nature Directorate he contributes towards building their evidence and reputation as a leading UK nature conservation organisation.

Forest Research

Professor Kevin Watts – Co-Investigator

Kevin is senior landscape ecologist at Forest Research, the research agency of the Forestry Commission. As an applied scientist he is interested in understanding the impact of woodland creation and restoration on the biodiversity, functioning and resilience of wooded landscapes with the aim of informing policy and practice. His work utilises spatial models, tools, indicators and simulations to explore and predict potential impacts. This work is coupled with empirical studies on species movement, landscape genetics and field experiments. Much of his work has been developed through a broad range of collaborative projects, including the WrEN project, and the co-supervision of PhD students, most recently with the Universities of Stirling, Aberdeen, York, Leeds, Reading and Southampton. Kevin is also head of the Land Use and Ecosystem Services (LUES) Science group at Forest Research. The group aims to deliver evidence, methods and tools which support policymakers and practitioners in their understanding of how land use and climate change affects the biodiversity, resilience and ecosystem services of wooded landscapes now and in the future. Kevin is also an Honorary Professor at the University of Stirling and a member of the Woodland Trust Conservation Advisory Group.