THE Scottish Forestry Trust has announced two joint winners of its Scottish Woodlands Student Excellence Award for 2023. 

Dr Heather Dun, now working in plant health with Forest Research, and Scottish Forestry's Dr Flora Donald were both recognised for their research into tree-killing diseases. 

Having completed her PhD at Oxford University, Heather's 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.

READ MORE: Becky Addy Wood dispute sees arborist called in

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.”

Meanwhile, Flora, once of Cambridge University, was recognised for her ‘Mapping impacts of Phytophthora austrocedri on Juniper’ paper, which was deemed to be an extremely readable piece of work, demonstrating 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, 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." 

Dr Keith Kirby, chair of the Scottish Forestry Trust’s Projects and Research Committee, said: “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."