Personal profile

Research interests

Key Interests: Peatlands; wet woodlands; forested peatlands; carbon; environmental change; policy; science-policy

Peatlands, wet woodland and carbon: My research aims to understand environmental change in peatland environments. I’m particularly interested in how these globally important carbon stores accumulate carbon, and how they respond to and recover from erosion (see this paper for more details), sea level rise and climate changes. I focus on a range of peatland environments including wet woodlands, lowland floodplain fens and upland peatland blanket bogs, and I work on key UK field sites in East Anglia (the Broads National Park) and Wales. I co-founded the Wet Woodlands Research network and the Broadland Ecohydrological Observatory, and am co-leading PeatQuest.

PeatQuest wants to find the most crucial questions that still need answers in peatland research. These answers can help us manage and use peatlands more wisely all over the world. Using a collaborative research prioritisation approach, we are asking for questions from researchers, government officials, people who work with peatlands, those who fund research, policymakers, and local community groups or individuals active in peatland areas worldwide. These questions will help guide peatland stakeholders by suggesting future projects and showing important research topics and priorities for the next decade and beyond. The project is in collaboration with C-PEAT (Carbon in Peat on Earth through Time). To find out more, visit PeatQuest.

Wet Woodlands Research Network brings together scientific experts to research and discuss wet woodlands and their role in nature-based solutions for climate change. Wet woodlands provide unique habitats, attenuate floods, reduce agricultural nutrient runoff, and store carbon. Some wet woodlands are also peat-forming, meaning they contain large below-ground carbon stores in addition to the carbon stored above-ground in the wood of the growing trees. After centuries of clearance and conversion, wet woodlands are now one of the rarest types of woodland habitat in the UK and Europe, and little research has been done on these ecosystems. Understanding more about wet woodlands, how they function and their potential for carbon accumulation will help us improve decisions around land-use and afforestation for climate change mitigation. Working with stakeholders across land management and policy organisations, the aim of the Wet Woodland Research Network is to improve understanding and management of these unique ecosystems. The Network was founded by Alice Milner (RHUL), Andy Baird (University of Leeds), Emily Lines (University of Cambridge) and Scott Davidson (University of Plymouth), and is associated with the work of PhD researchers Crystal Ahiable (RHUL), Adam Noach (Cambridge) and Emma Duley (Plymouth). For more information see Wet Woodlands Research and please get in touch if you're a scientist or organisation interested in joining the network (email: [email protected]).

The Broadland Ecohydrological Observatory (BEO) was co-established in 2017 by Dr Milner, Prof Andy Baird and the Ted Ellis Trust at Wheatfen. The BEO is a wetland monitoring site collecting long-term data on the meteorological, hydrological and ecological dynamics of a floodplain fen. The BEO research aims to understand the carbon cycle and ecological dynamics of wet woodland; the response of floodplain wet woodland to the ingress of saline water linked to sea level rise and tidal surges; and the effects on their carbon sink function. The data and research from the BEO contributes to informing policy and management decisions on the carbon potential of wet woodlands. The work is in collaboration with a range of academic and non-academic institutions, and is linked to research conducted by PhD researcher Maddie Timmins, and the Wet Woodlands Research network. If you’re interested in collaborating with the BEO or discussing opportunities for MRes/MSc/PhD research projects, please get in touch (email: [email protected]).

Science Policy: Most environmental science is relevant to policy but too often there are barriers between scientists and policy-makers, meaning relevant scientific research does not always reach the relevant policy area. My science-policy research is focussed on understanding these barriers and developing mechanisms to improve the flow of evidence from science to policy. From a long-term secondment at the UK Government Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), working with the Chief Scientific Adviser, I focus on:

  • Developing recommendations on how evidence is reviewed for use in Government decision making
  • Establishing innovative mechanisms for the management and use of evidence in Defra

My work contributed to national and international policy discussions (e.g., see here); introduced a system of evidence syntheses (Defra Evidence Statements) to inform high-profile policy issues; and established a programme of PhD policy interns to improve the flow of evidence between academia and policy. The impact of my work improved the quality and transparency of the evidence underpinning environmental policy decisions. I use my expertise in providing scientific evidence to inform policy decisions, and working alongside policymakers to advise other academics on developing their skills in this area.

Personal profile

  • 2018 - present: Senior Lecturer in Physical Geography, Royal Holloway University of London.
  • 2014 - 2017: Lecturer in Physical Geography, Royal Holloway, University of London.
  • 2013 – 2020: Research Fellow, UK Government Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra). NERC Knowledge Exchange Policy Secondment with Defra's Chief Scientific Adviser.
  • 2010 – 2013: Research Associate, University College London, Department of Geography. Past4Future (FP7)"Climate Dynamics Over Interglacial periods  the baseline" (WP1).
  • 2010: Ph.D. in Geography / Quaternary Science. University of Leeds.


Undergraduate and Postgraduate Teaching:

  • Peatland Environments: Process and Policy (GG3019)
  • Environmental Change (GG1002)
  • Geographical Research and Field Training (overseas field course to Spain, GG1032)
  • MSc Quaternary Science

PhD Supervision: Current PhD students include Crystal Ahiable (RHUL), Laura Boyall (RHUL), Emma Duley (University of Plymouth), Adam Noach (University of Cambridge), Maddie Timmins (University of Exeter), and Amy Walsh (RHUL).

I welcome PhD applications in the following areas:

  • Peatland and wet woodland (swamp) carbon and ecological dynamics
  • Response of peatlands to stressors (e.g., erosion, sea-level rise, climate)
  • Science-policy, including the mechanisms of the science-policy interface and how scientific evidence contributes to informing policy

PhD applications are welcome via the London NERC DTP, or contact me to discuss other opportunities and project ideas.

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 13 - Climate Action
  • SDG 15 - Life on Land