Academic Year 2019-2020
Institution University of Aberdeen


School: School of Geosciences

Project: The palaeoenvironmental history of ancient deciduous woodlands in Scotland and Ireland, with particular emphasis on sub-canopy layers.

Supervisors: Dr Ed Schofield and Dr Gill Plunkett

Undergraduate Education: BSc (HONS) Geography, University of St Andrews

Postgraduate Education: MSc Ecology and Conservation, University of Aberdeen

Research: I am targeting my research on ancient woodlands in North-east Scotland, an area which has received little attention in the realm of palaeoecological research, Atlantic oak woods on the west coast (also known as our “temperate rainforests”) and woodlands in Ireland (locations TBC – I’m open to ideas!). To investigate stand-scale woodland dynamics, which is most relevant to forest management and conservation, I will be collecting peat cores from small forest hollows which have highly localised pollen catchments. Within the laboratory, these peat cores will undergo various stages of sieving and cleaning to leave (almost) pure pollen. These pollen grains can then be identified using a microscope and quantified too see how woodlands have changed over time. Some of the questions I hope to answer are whether not woodlands are indeed ancient (defined as older than 1750 AD in Scotland) and how people have impacted the forests.

The focus on sub-canopy layers stems from questions about how the ground flora and shrub layers of our native forests may have changed over time. With changes in forest structure, such as due to coppice abandonment, and long legacies of herbivore grazing, we are uncertain whether our current picture of a healthy, functioning forest is accurate. I will be using plant macrofossils, also preserved in the peat, to see if today’s diversity of plant species reflects that of the past, which could provide vital insights for future forest restoration. If you wish to read more into the impact of grazing on woodland ground flora check out this blog by Kate Holl, woodland advisor for Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH):

CASE partner: Throughout my PhD I will be working with the ecological and botanical consultancy Botanæco. Find out more about Botanæco and Dr Andy McMullen’s work via the following link:

Twitter: @A_Everard – I will be posting about my research experiences and general areas of interest, including landscape management, forests, botany and the great outdoors.