15 September 2021

Where I’m from

I was born in Bristol, England but emigrated with my family to New Zealand at the age of 12, settling in the Motueka Valley. I’ve since called South Island places home, including Dunedin, Queenstown and currently Arthur’s Pass, and have spent time in Canada and Germany.

How I became part of Bioprotection Aotearoa

I completed a Bachelor of Biomedical Sciences at the University of Otago, then after a few years away from study, a Master’s degree in molecular medicine at the Friedrich-Schiller University in Jena, Germany.

Halfway through the Master’s I realised I couldn’t imagine life in a pathology lab and environmental sciences would more closely align my passion for the outdoors with my career. I had always been most interested in microbiology, so soil microbial ecology seemed a perfect field to segue into. I’ve spent the last few years trying to make that a reality, including taking a course in environmental management at the Southern Institute of Technology and spending a summer getting my hands dirty as a conservation worker removing wilding pines from the Mackenzie Basin. When Eirian Jones suggested I might be interested in this PhD scholarship it seemed too good an opportunity to let pass by.

My research subject

My research topic is the role of plants in creating resilient soils that can withstand stresses such as drought and disease, particularly when exacerbated by climate change.

I would love to focus on the role of mycorrhizal fungal networks in creating more disturbance-tolerant ecosystems, from the perspective of soils, vegetation, and human communities.

I find mycorrhizal fungal networks fascinating because of their complexity and the fact they are still so difficult to study in the field. Research has looked at their influence in forest ecosystems, but there is still a lot to learn about their function in agricultural systems. It would be great if advancements in knowledge of these networks could help us to manage ecosystems more efficiently and sustainably.

What I like most about my research

Although I haven’t started my research yet, I am enjoying diving into the literature of soil microbial ecology. As this is a very different area to my previous studies there is a lot to learn. Having freedom to develop my research questions within the broad initial topic and considering what kind of experiments I will need to carry out feels exciting.

What I’d like to do once I’ve finished my study

I would love to find a job that combines field work with office or lab work, as being outside and connecting with the ecosystems I am studying is important to me. I’d like to be able to travel as part of my work and would love the chance to visit Antarctica as a researcher and live at Scott Base for a season.

What I like to do outside of study

Get outside! In the summer this is mainly in the form or tramping and in the winter skiing and mountaineering. We are so fortunate in New Zealand to have such an incredible network of trails and huts – there is always more to explore!

My social media accounts

You can find me on Instagram