Research Team
Project reports
Useful links

Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh



Dr. Pete Hollingsworth, Project Co-ordinator - heads the Conservation Biology and Population Genetics group at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh. His research interests centre around the use of molecular markers to investigate the evolutionary biology of plants. The outputs of this work are to: a) gain an increased understanding of the processes governing the evolution of plant populations and species, with a particular emphasis on those processes which lead to diversification and taxonomic complexity; b) to assess the role of molecular data in conservation biology; c) to provide both practical and theoretical assessments of the behaviour and suitability of different marker systems for evolutionary research.



Douglas McKean is in charge of the British Section of the herbarium at RBGE and is the Botanical Recorder for Midlothian. He co-ordinates the Flora of the Lothians Project, is secretary of the Alpine Section of the Botanical Society of Scotland, and is a consultant for the City of Edinburgh for its Biodiversity Action Plans. He has a broad knowledge of the Scottish flora, and a strong interest in Scottish mountain willows. He was part of the team that surveyed the willows of the Breadalbane Hills and has considerable expertise in their identification.



Dr. Stephan Helfer - Senior Scientific Officer in the Mycology and Plant Pathology department at RBGE. His research lies in the taxonomy and systematics of plant pathogenic fungi, mainly concentrating on rusts and mildews. One of his aims is to publish an account of the Uredinales of Europe, including a field guide. Recently he carried out a successful pilot study in molecular systematics of graminicolous rusts from herbarium specimens.



Dr. Jeremy Milne - Postdoctoral researcher. Graduated with Honours in Ecology from the University of Edinburgh in 1996. After brief spells working for Scottish Natural Heritage and RSPB, he spent three years researching the impact of fire on ectomycorrhizal fungal communities in Mediterranean pine forests. His research interests are centred in mycorrhizal fungal community dynamics.



Alan Forrest - PhD student. Graduated with Honours in Environmental Conservation from Birkbeck College, London in 1998, and completed an MSc in Plant Taxonomy with distinction at Edinburgh in 2001. Alan's research interests focus on using molecular tools to gain insight into fine scale taxonomic relationships and population genetics, particularly relating to species of conservation concern.


Macaulay Land Use Research Institute


Dr. Glenn Iason, Project Co-ordinator - An ecologist with 20 years experience of research mainly in plant-herbivore interactions. He has experience of work with a broad range of species (hares and rabbits, African buffalo, moose and domestic species) in a range of ecosystems including Arctic and Boreal forests, including pine forests and moorland and African savannah environments. He is an expert on browsing by mammal herbivores on woody vegetation, and on the distribution of plant secondary metabolites and their effects on herbivores. His current research includes studies of the foraging behaviour of deer, hares and sheep in the context of their interaction with forest ecosystems.


Prof. Robin Pakeman - Leader of the Macaulay Institute's programme on Ecology of Grazed Ecosystems. His current work is focused on understanding the relationships between vegetation structure and diversity and the ecological requirements of species to regenerate by seed. The effects of grazing animals are an integral part of this research, particularly how they control the opportunities for dispersal and the provision of niches.


Ros Shaw - Phd student. Graduated in 2001 from the University of Reading with an honours degree in Botany and Zoology. Worked as a field assistant for CABI Bioscience in Ascot for six months looking at chalk grassland invertebrates before joining the willow project to undertake research on herbivory and regeneration ecology.


Scottish Crop Research Institute


Dr. John W. S. Brown - Head of Gene Expression Programme. Research interests cover post-transcriptional gene expression in plants. The main areas of research are RNA metabolism and nuclear dynamics, focussing on pre-messenger RNA splicing, small nucleolar RNAs (snoRNAs) and nuclear dynamics involving the nucleolus and Cajal bodies. The unique organisation of plant snoRNA genes provides a potentially useful, novel molecular marker system to analyse polyploidy and hybridisation in plant species. This system is being tested on arctic willow species.


Dr. Joanne Russell - Research interests over the last 10 years have focused on the application of molecular markers to address important questions relevant to the conservation and utilisation of plant genetic resources. Recently, her research has focused on the development of microsatellite markers in two major plantation species Eucalyptus globulus and Eucalyptus grandis to obtain estimates of the rate and geographical patterns of gene flow in locations in South America.


Konstantina Stamati - PhD student. Graduated in 2000 from the University of Wales with an Honours degree in 'Food sciences and management'. In 2001 she graduated from the University of Strathclyde with a MSc in 'Food biotechnology'. She started working at the Scottish Crop Research Institute during her masters on a project titled 'the construction of a Radiation Hybrid panel in barley'. For her PhD research she is using microsatellite markers to assess the genetic diversity of sub-arctic willow populations around Scotland with emphasis on population structure/differentiation, clonal diversity and gene flow.


Sandie Blackie - After a first career as a valuation surveyor Sandie used a three and a half year stay in Belgium to study biology with the Open University and graduated with honours in Natural Sciences with Biology in 2001. She joined Scottish Crop Research Institute that year to work in the institute's sequencing facility. She is now involved in sample collections, extraction of Salix DNA and developing snoRNA markers.


University of Edinburgh


Dr. Richard Ennos - Reader in the Institute of Cell, Animal and Population Biology at the University of Edinburgh. His primary research interest is ecological genetics, combining expertise in population genetic theory, laboratory based analysis of molecular markers, and field-based ecological research. Specifically this focuses on understanding the factors which determine the extent and dynamics of genetic variation within populations, and the application of this knowledge to inform sustainable management and conservation strategies. His work involves a range of study organisms, with a strong focus on the conservation of woody plants, as well as threatened herbaceous species, and both pathogenic and ectomycorrhizal fungi.


Biomathematics and Statistics Scotland

Prof. David Elston - Head of BioSS Unit at the Macaulay Institute and Deputy Director of BioSS. David has acted as a statistical consultant at Macaulay since 1990 leading to involvement in a wide range of scientific applications. He also acts as statistical advisor to CEH Banchory. His wide-ranging research interests cover spatial and temporal aspects of population modelling, the analysis of unbalanced hierarchical data and environmental monitoring.


Scottish Agricultural College

Prof. Dale Walters works in the Crop and Soil Research Group at the Scottish Agricultural College based at the Ayr Campus. He obtained his PhD from Lancaster University in 1981 and was awarded a DSc from the same university in 1999 for his work on polyamine biochemistry. His research interests focus on sustainable approaches to plant disease control, including inducible defences to fungal pathogens. Current research projects include mechanisms of resistance to Rhizoctonia solani in potato and the role of polyamines in regulating defence responses in plants.


Associated researchers and collaborators


Prof. Ian Alexander FRSE is Regius Professor of Botany and Head of the Department of Plant and Soil Science at the University of Aberdeen. He is an Ecologist, with a particular interest in the ecology and physiology of mycorrhizal symbioses. He has worked on Scottish moorland and forest vegetation, and has recently studied willow mycorrhizas in the high Arctic archipelago of Svalbard.


Dr. Ian Anderson - Post-doctoral research fellow on the joint MLURI/University of Aberdeen Soil Health Initiative working on molecular ecology of soil fungi involved in the degradation of organic matter. His main interests lie in the ecology of fungi in native ecosystems with an emphasis towards using molecular approaches to assess the taxonomic and functional diversity of ectomycorrhizal fungi.



Prof. Riitta Julkunen-Tiitto's laboratory at the University of Joensuu, Finland, is among the world's leading centres for phytochemistry of boreal systems. She is particularly experienced in chemotaxonomy of trees (Salicaceae and Betulaceae). Her current projects include the overall variation of terpenoid and phenolic secondary components within and between plants due to plant intrinsic and external factors, and induction, ontogenetic expression and costs of secondary metabolites to plants.



David Mardon (NTS) is responsible for the willow conservation/reintroduction programmes on Ben Lawers. He is involved in the project to ensure that questions fundamental to practical conservation issues are addressed, and to maximise the efficiency of the implementation of these results into conservation practice.


Dr. Chris Sydes (SNH) is part of the project team and is involved in ensuring that integration of the projects scientific goals, are closely allied to the conservation goals and priorities for SNH.



David Tennant is an independent expert in willow taxonomy.


Prof. Roy Watling MBE, FRSE holds a First class Hons BSc in Botany from the University of Sheffield, a PhD from the University of Edinburgh and a DSc from the University of Sheffield. Former president of the British Mycological Society and the Botanical Society of Scotland. Recent projects include the identification and ecology of larger fungi in the Korup rainforest reserve in Western Cameroon, the boletes of various forest reserves in western Zambia, and the wood-rotting and ectomycorrhizal basidiomycetes of lowland dipterocarp rainforest in Peninsular Malaysia. He is also currently involved in an EC programme joint with Kent University on the identification and culture of basidiomycetes from the Philippines. Complementary to this has been work on European fungi, particularly those of arctic/alpine communities and native Scottish mycotas.


    Dr. Mark Young is a senior lecturer in ecology at the University of Aberdeen where he is Director of the Zoology Field Station. His research concentrates on the ecological principles that determine diversity and sizes of insect populations. Recent work has focussed on the ecology of Burnet moths (Zygaenidae) in relation to grazing levels and vegetation structure. His experience is complementary to that of Drs Iason and Pakeman, with whom he is co-supervising the plant-herbivore sections of the work to be undertaken by Ros Shaw.
©2002. Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh.