Hello! From Sara M.

  1. What is your background? Where are you from? What do you study? What are you most interested in, scientifically?


I am a plant (functional) ecologist with a background in environmental/ecosystem sciences and invasion biology currently doing a PhD in my hometown at Oxford University. My research works at the interface of functional traits and demography by examining the functionality of functional traits in different plant communities in the context of environmental change. I assess functionality in terms of how traits impact the fitness of individuals via measurements of their vital rates (survival, growth and reproduction) and by looking at plant community dynamics. My study sites are a DroughtNet grassland site at Wytham woods near Oxford and reforestation site at the Sabah Biodiversity Experiment in Malaysian Borneo.


Things that make me excited about working in plant functional ecology:


  • Are some functional traits more or less “functional” than others?
  • How traits are used to scale across different biological scales from genes to landscape level
  • The thinking around traits being static or dynamic in space and time
  • Trait plasticity


b. What are your goals for the upcoming course in Peru? How will you know if you’ve met these goals?

  • To learn how to link trait measurements of individuals to scale up to community/ecosystem level.


  • To learn how a LICOR machine works and make various response curves!


c. What are you most excited about, with respect to the upcoming course and trip?

  • Experiencing the Puna ecosystem and learning about the different plant communities along the elevational gradient


  • Working in groups with other functional ecologists and learning from eachother.



d. What do you anticipate people will think about climate change in Peru? Do you think most people will accept that the planet is warming, and that this is largely being caused by human activities? Or will this topic be controversial?


I imagine Peruvian people would have major acceptance that the climate is changing and a grasp of the issues, especially since COP 20 was held in the country’s capital in 2016. I think people realize Peru’s rich natural capital, notably the Amazon rainforest, unique Andean plant communities and mountain glaciers that is already being eroded by climate change.


I think people would relate to climate change more directly in terms of how changing weather patterns will impact food production and water availability, with the latter a major issue already.



e. What do you know about public perceptions of climate change in your home country? What, if anything, have you experienced related to public perceptions of climate change?


I have had many discussions about climate/environmental change through interviews with members of the public as part of my project called Human Nature Stories. I have conducted almost 100 interviews of children and adults in more than 8 countries about people’s perception of nature. I found that there is a general consensus that the planet is changing (due to humans) and there is concern about its impact on food systems, biodiversity and human wellbeing, etc.

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