First Cloud Forest Research Bursary Awarded

In January the St Helena Research Institute (SHRI) launched a competition to attract research proposals from international researchers that will help meet the conservation of biodiversity objectives in The Peaks National Park Management Plan, 2019-2024 and its corresponding implementation plan Restoring St Helena’s Internationally Important Cloud Forest for Water Security & Wildlife (2021-2026). Specifically, objective 3a3, research, data gathering and training is carried out to inform and maximise the effectiveness of restoration and management techniques and with a specific focus on filling knowledge gaps.

We are delighted to announce that Amy Webster, doctoral student with the University of Birmingham and based at the Birmingham Institute of Forest Research (BIFoR), has been awarded a £2,500 research bursary to contribute to the costs of conducting her study of tree disease on St Helena. 

It is becoming increasingly evident that tree disease presents a significant and growing threat to the cabbage trees on the peaks, in addition to the existing threats due to rarity, habitat loss and climate change. Amy’s doctoral study aims to identify the pathogens causing disease across black cabbage, dogwood, whitewood, he cabbage and she cabbage trees; the biological and non-biological factors that may be contributing to disease spread, and the implications for conservation management. Her study seeks to support management planning to control the spread of pests and diseases and raise awareness about them. Amy will be using DNA techniques to identify diseases and other organisms isolated from diseased trees and the soil around them. This bursary is awarded to help towards the costs of generating sequence data of the cloud forest soil microbiome. Purchasing equipment and materials to sequence DNA. Additionally, this will support the adoption of a portable device called a MinION as a regular tool on the Island for DNA sequence work to support continual monitoring. Money from the bursary will also help boost media and communications activities.

Thanks are extended to RSPB CFP Manager, Kirsten Pritchard, Ben Sansom, Arctium and SHG’s Chief Environmental Officer, Isabel Peters, for judging the competition. We look forward to working with Amy in the coming months and years to support her doctoral study. 

The Research Bursary has been awarded under the UK Foreign Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) funded Cloud Forest Project  ‘Restoring St Helena’s Internationally Important Cloud Forest for Wildlife, Water Security and People’. Thanks are extended to the FCDO for supporting this project and all the project partners who have made this possible.

Rebecca Cairns-Wicks, Coordinator, SHRI (St Helena Research Institute)

5 April 2022

SHRI is a collaborative organisation founded on St Helena creating and promoting opportunities for research, innovation and the advancement of learning, ensuring that research and new knowledge is accessible and used for the benefit of St Helena.

Contact: Rebecca Cairns-Wicks rebecca.cairns-wicks@sainthelena.gov.sh

Birmingham University Institute of Forest Science (BIFoR)

The Birmingham Institute of Forest Research aims to provide fundamental science, social science and cultural research of direct relevance to forested landscapes anywhere in the world. We make the evidence-based case for forests as part of one-planet living.

Contact: Professor Robert Jackson R.W.Jackson@bham.ac.uk

Cloud Forest Project

The St Helena Cloud Forest Project is a highly collaborative multi-year project funded by the UK Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO), to up-scale cloud forest restoration activities for biodiversity, water security and socio-economic benefits on the Island.

Contact: Kirsten Pritchard Kirsten.Pritchard@rspb.org.uk

St Helena Government Communications Hub

Telephone: 22470
Email: kimberley.peters@sainthelena.gov.sh