Joint Winners of Scottish Woodlands Student Excellence Award Announced

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The Scottish Forestry Trust is delighted to announce two joint winners of their Scottish Woodlands Student Excellence Award for 2023 which were presented at their recent Bursary Student Seminar at the University of Stirling and supported by Scottish Forestry. The first joint winner is Dr Heather Dun, now working in plant health with Forest Research who completed her PhD at Oxford University. Her thesis on “Epidemiology of Phytophthora ramorum on Larix spp. And host responses to infection” was felt to be a highly expert technical exploration of how Phytophthora infection in larch which will have significant bearing on how to manage the impact of the disease in UK forestry.

Speaking from her home in Edinburgh, Heather said “I would like to thank the SFT for this award and the generosity they have shown in contributing funding for my PhD. The recent bursary student seminar was a great opportunity to present the results of my work to both peers and stakeholders and it was interesting to hear feedback from a broad representation of the forestry sector. “

The second joint winner is Dr Flora Donald, who is currently working with the plant health team in Scottish Forestry who completed her degree at Cambridge University. Her thesis on “Mapping impacts of Phytophthora austrocedri on Juniper” was deemed to be an extremely readable piece of work which demonstrates the challenges of native species conservation.

Flora, currently based in Aberdeen said “I’m very honoured to jointly win the SFT award with Heather Dun. We started our PhDs at a similar time and weathered Covid lockdowns by meeting up (when permitted!) for socially distanced walks in Oxford. At times, conducting my PhD research was extremely challenging but it was also a huge privilege to work with so many collaborators across the UK and contribute findings to improve outcomes for juniper conservation. I’m very grateful to the Scottish Forestry Trust for making all of that possible.

Ian Robinson, Managing Director of Scottish Woodlands Ltd, said “I am delighted that the Scottish Woodlands Student Excellence Award this year is being jointly awarded to two excellent researchers who will contribute significantly to plant health knowledge in the years to come. Sadly, as our climate changes our tree species face increasing threats from pests and disease, and it is important that we understand these better in order to manage the potential impacts.” He added “Thanks should go to the Trustees who were able to match Scottish Woodlands contribution to enable this to be a joint award this year”.

Dr Keith Kirby, Chair of the Scottish Forestry Trust’s Projects and Research Committee noted “We are entering a time of great change for forestry. If we are to make the most of the opportunities for an expansion of tree cover and of the benefits that trees and woods bring, we need good research to underpin what we do.  That is why the Scottish Forestry Trust is delighted to recognise the work of young researchers through its Student Excellence Award which is supported by Scottish Woodlands. We are also grateful to the Forestry Commission, Scottish Forestry and Natural Resources Wales who have co-funded our Bursary Scheme which over a 12 year period has supported 26 research studentships.”