The Scottish Forestry Trust is delighted to announce that the winner of their Scottish Woodlands
Student Excellence Award for 2021 is Dr Vanessa Burton, a Spatial Scientist with Forest Research
who completed her PhD at Edinburgh University. Her thesis on “Visions for woodland expansion in
21st Century Scotland: alternative governance strategies and ecosystem service implications”
explored how governance and who makes decisions, influences both woodland expansion and the
ecosystem services delivered.
Speaking from her home in Edinburgh, Vanessa said “Thank you very much to both the Trust and
Scottish Woodlands for this unexpected honour, and for the Trust’s valuable support throughout my
PhD. The project enabled me to develop an interdisciplinary skillset, and to hopefully contribute in a
small way to the topical issue of woodland expansion in Scotland. I hope that I can continue to build
on research approaches which both encourage and inform imaginative ways of thinking around
sustainable land use and how woodlands and forestry could be integrated within this.”
Ralland Browne, Managing Director of Scottish Woodlands Ltd and a Trustee of the Scottish Forestry
Trust, said “I am delighted that the Scottish Woodlands Student Excellence Award this year is being
presented to Vanessa and I wish her every success in her future career. The research that Vanessa
has undertaken on the varying stakeholder visions of woodland expansion in Scotland will help to
inform how we can best achieve Scottish Government’s ambitious planting targets. Forestry delivers
a wide range of public benefits and achieving a good balance of these is something we at Scottish
Woodlands strive to deliver.”
The Trustees also awarded a Special Award to Dr David Gil-Moreno, now a researcher at National
University of Ireland Galway working in the Woodprops programme, recognising his PhD completed
at the Forest Products Research Institute, Napier University Edinburgh. David’s thesis was on
“Potential for noble fir, Norway spruce, western red cedar and western hemlock grown for timber
production in Great Britain” and was felt by the Trustees to be a technically excellent piece of work.
David whose current role involves the characterisation of Irish-grown timber species for the best
utilisation of forest resources and the diversification of the timber supply said “I cannot stress enough
how grateful I am to The Scottish Forestry Trust for supporting my PhD. As we are becoming more
aware of climate change and the consequences that it will bring it seems more evident the need to
use low embodied carbon materials in construction and to diversify the timber supply. My thesis
showed that there are species with structural quality and merchantability that can contribute to
diversifying the timber industry in Great Britain. I am extremely proud of the work leading to my PhD
thesis, and this award means a great deal to me.”
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 10 years period has supported 23 research
David still works with us, is now based at NUI Galway and recently been working on this joint project.
This includes collaboration on wood properties and standardisation work. In particular, he is the secretary of CEN TC124 WG2 TG1 and Dan Ridley-Ellis is the covener. TG1 is the group of European timber strength grading experts that help ensure the safety of construction timber in Europe.
David was also previously joint winner of the Royal Forestry Society’s James Cup for one of his research papers.
We have also had a previous PhD student, Greg Searles, who won a prize for his PhD work from the Scottish Forestry Trust.