Through the Canopy with Robin Hayward

From Minnesota, USA to the UK, we’re here to meet out next curator, Robin Hayward (they/them). Robin Hayward (@canopyrobin) is a tropical plant ecologist studying for their PhD in the department of biological and environmental sciences at the University of Stirling (@stirbes). Their research focuses on the degree to which tree communities within the Malaysian rainforest are able to recover after logging. Previously, Robin’s masters degree in environmental science led them to Indonesia where they conducted canopy research on diverse epiphytic communities and discovered a passion for communicating science to school groups visiting their study site. Since then, Robin has continued to work with schools around the world to teach science and is always looking for more opportunities to get people interested in nature, especially via social media.


20181022_143309-01So, Robin, how did you end up as an ecologist?


I had been interested in science in school and fascinated by the natural world for as long as I could remember so I decided to do a degree in environmental science. While doing the degree, I got hooked on research and the problem-solving elements of the scientific method.Ecology is wonderfully complex and the way that different organisms interact is fascinating to me (I probably blame David Attenborough for how thoroughly I loved the natural world growing up). I chose to work with trees specifically at the point where I learnt to climb them and explore the relatively unknown world of the canopy. Being able to go where few other people had gone and to ask questions that had never been asked before seemed like a great way to spend my life.


My work at the moment focuses on tropical rainforests which were logged between two and four decades ago. I want to know if the trees which grow back after logging are of the same species and perform the same functions ecologically as the forest which was there before. Is recovery still ongoing? Will the forest community stay permanently changed? I measure and identify trees within a network of forest plots in Borneo to try to answer these questions.


Rainforests have some of the highest levels of biodiversity on the planet and are areas of exceptional beauty. One of the biggest examples of their value though is as a way of capturing and storing carbon which would otherwise be contributing to global warming. By understanding how rainforests recover from human disturbance, we can better predict future threats to their continued functioning and their role in maintaining our planet!


My PhD seems to be taking up all my time lately but I am always looking for opportunities to communicate science and learn more through social media. I currently run a personal science communication Twitter account, as well as managing the accounts of the Iapetus Doctoral Training Partnership and the British Ecological Society Tropical Ecology Special Interest Group.


Ideal day off: Wrapped in blankets, reading books or watching Netflix. Ideally a pet would be present to keep me company. I am a huge fan of fiction books! Reading is a great way to relax and I have been known to occasionally take my novels to the tops of trees for and even calmer experience.


Welcome, Robin!



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