Current Members

Professor David Coomes

Head of Group

prof. david coomes

Conserving the world’s dwindling biological diversity is one of the most pressing issues facing mankind. I lead a research group that is actively engaged in addressing these issues, as well as tackling more fundamental ecological questions. Focussing on forest conservation and ecology, my research uses large databases and modern computational approaches, alongside traditional field approaches.


Dr Yi Zhang

Lab Manager


Yi provides lab management, technical support, developing analytical procedures, supervising Part II undergraduates and PhDs students, training postdoctoral RAs within Ecology laboratories. She has been involved in leaf traits analysis as part of projects to map ecosystems from airborne imagery, including method development for elemental and stable isotope analysis and measuring the phenolics and tannin content. She has also contributed to the QGIS image analysis to allow continued data processing in support of a PDRA research programme and water and sediment analysis for long term lake monitoring programme. Her main ongoing personal research project is on the post-translational modification for Pyrenoid formation in Chlamydomonas reinhardtii. Apart from lab management and research, Yi provides technical support for the Biology of Cells and the Physiology of Organisms teaching practicals.


Dr Florian Zellweger



Florian is broadly interested in using Earth Observation technologies to assess forest ecosystems and the values they provide to humans. His current research is centered around the spatial and temporal dynamics of forest microclimates and how they are affecting biodiversity responses to global change. He uses field-based and remote sensing methods, such as airborne laser scanning and imaging spectroscopy, to model sub-canopy microclimate as a function of forest structure and composition and applies these models to study temperate forests across Europe. This research furthers our understanding of how forest management and climate change shape the response of forest ecosystems in a changing world. In earlier research projects, Florian gained a broad expertise in habitat suitability mapping and connectivity analysis for species of a wide range of taxonomic groups.


Dr Thomas Swinfield

Post Doctoral Research Associate


Ttom-1.jpgom is currently investigating how forest ecosystems respond to degradation as part of the NERC funded Human Modified Tropical Forests programme, by combing high-fidelity remote sensing tools (e.g. LiDAR, hyperspectral) and detailed field measurements. He has a specific interest in how tropical forests are changed structurally and functionally by logging with a view to direct improve natural resource management. He has developed new approaches to identify these changes and is actively collaborating with a diverse set of researchers to trial these approaches. Tom works part-time within the Forest Ecology group and in his remaining time he works for the Royal Society for the protection of birds as a technical advisor to Hutan Harapan, a 1000 km2 ecosystem restoration concession in Indonesia.


Mr Boris Bongalov

PhD Student (final year)


Boris works in the hyperdiverse jungles of Southeast Asia where a single hectare can support hundreds of woody plants with about a third of them not found in the adjacent hectare. How different ecological mechanisms interact to maintain this inordinate species richness is yet unknown. Boris uses a range of big data sources including airborne laser scanning, spectroscopy and next-generation sequencing to evaluate theorised mechanisms on spatial scales unimaginable until recently.


Ms Laura Bentley

Graduate Student



Ms Sacha Khoury

PhD Student (third year)


Sacha is interested in how climate change is affecting Mediterranean forests. She is working on determining Mediterranean forest resilience to drought from space. The first part of her work consists in using the latest cloud-computing infrastructure provided by Google Earth Engine to analyse time series of remote sensing data collected by a NASA satellite constellation. Following that, she is working on linking those satellite determined resilience to ground measurements from the Spanish national forest inventory and other datasets collected over Spain, including sap flow measurements and high spatial resolution hyperspectral imaging. Her work aims to determine how well we can monitor forest water use using satellite imagery in face of increasing drought severity and frequency in the Mediterranean basin. A validated remote sensing method would provide a valuable alternative to expensive, intensive ground-based measurements.

Mr Matheus Nunes

Graduate Student



Mr Jonathan Williams

PhD Student (third year)

photoJon is working on developing methods to make use of the growing availability of small Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) or drones to aid restoration of rainforests in Southeast Asia. Jon’s work focuses on developing tools to map individual tree crowns and species extent from UAV imagery and will soon work on hectare scale methods to quantify recovering ecosystem change. Jon is supported by both NERC and RSPB and has a particular focus on working with the team at Hutan Harapan, a 100,000 ha are of previously logged forest currently being managed on its path to recovery.


Mr Kyaw Sein Win Tun (O’Neill)

PhD Student (second year)


Tun (O’Neill) works on (1) Myanmar’s forests’ carbon storage; (2) role of forests in the national economy and socioeconomic development through REDD+; (3) species compositional variations in the forests due to ecological factors. During his first year PhD, he investigated the ecological drivers which affect standing forest carbon stock and tree diversity variations of the five major forest types in Myanmar and whether these forests continue to exist for the future national REDD+ scheme by taking into account  the response of standing forest carbon stock to environmental conditions, forest tenure, and understanding stand diversity and structure of the forests.


Mr Chan Hei Yeung (Aland)

MPhil Student


Aland is using remote sensing to study European ash trees affected by fungal ash dieback (Hymenoscyphus fraxineus) in British forests. He aims to use high resolution airborne hyperspectral imagery to classify delineated tree crowns according to tree species and detect disease severity of the identified ash tree crowns.


Dr Toby Jackson


Me standing_cropped

Toby is working on the effects of wind on tropical forests. Wind causes large-scale damage to forests but the rates of damage are poorly constrained, especially in the tropics. In addition, trees adapt to their local wind conditions, meaning that wind can affect canopy height and carbon storage even in the absence of damage. This 4 year NERC funded project uses both airborne and terrestrial LiDAR to map forest structure and so model wind flow over a complex forest landscape. Toby will also be measuring wind speeds and the bending response of tall trees in situ. The project will begin at the local and regional scales and progress to a comparison of the effect of wind on forests in Malaysia, French Guiana and Puerto Rico.