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UCL Home  /  Geography  /  News & Events  /  News  /  News Archive  /  2016  /  June 2016  /  Mat Disney’s research is a BBC highlight

Mat Disney’s research is a BBC highlight

Chris Packham picks Lidar research on the “The Iconic Oak”

Mat Disney’s research is a BBC highlight

Dr Mat Disney's terrestrial lidar work on the BBC4 documentary "Oak tree – Natures Greatest Survivor”, aired on BBC4 last October and again in May, was picked as a highlight of the week by naturalist Chris Packham.

He appeared on Frank Skinner's weekly "On Demand With ... " roundup of BBC highlights on the iPlayer, discussing the documentary, which won a Royal Television Society award for Best Science and Nature programme (

Chris Packham and Frank Skinner were impressed with the lidar's ability to measure the oak tree properties in such detail. But they were perhaps more amused by the thought of Mat and the team trying to count oak tree leaves by hand! Counting leaves is important, as a key control on the tree’s physiology - how efficiently it can absorb sunlight and CO2 for photosynthesis, and respire water and O2.

While Mat has actually done this when necessary, he avoids it if at all possible:

"It's a horrible job doing this by hand, as you can imagine. So if we can do it quickly and well, using the lidar, then this is an absolute life-saver!".

Mat adds:

"It's good to see Nic Stacey, Paul Sen, George McGavin and Furnace TV getting recognised for their documentary. It's a really gripping and beautifully-made programme; anyone with an interest in natural history should track it down".

Link to the program, from about 02:20:


For "Oak tree – Natures Greatest Survivor”: