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UCL Home  /  Geography  /  News & Events  /  News  /  News Archive  /  2017  /  May 2017  /  Scanning forests at home and abroad

Scanning forests at home and abroad

Monitoring the environment with schools, international researchers, and the BBC

Scanning forests at home and abroad

Dr Mat Disney has been out and about, talking about his tropical forest laser scanning work to Year 7 and 10 pupils of Skinners' Academy, North Hackney (

The Skinners' Year 7 students are studying rainforest biomass and diversity, sustainability, and the rates and causes of deforestation. The Year 10 students are studying the links between forests, climate and biodiversity as part of their GCSE Geography work.

Niamh McKinstry, the Skinners’ geography teacher explained the context:

"The year 7 Skinners Geography students have been investigating the importance of the rainforest and thoroughly enjoyed hearing about [Mat's] research in the rainforest. They have learnt so many interesting facts about the characteristics of rainforest trees and animals. What they were particularly impressed with was how rainforest communities travel and go to school in the rainforest and are now making a comparison to how different this is to their life in Hackney."

Meanwhile Mat's team are busy collecting more 3D data in the tropics. Andy Burt (who recently gained his PhD - well done Andy!) and Kim Calders have headed off to Peru to scan plots in the Western Amazon at Tambopata in Madre de Dios region.

The plots have previously been surveyed by Professor Simon Lewis, with colleagues from Leeds, and will provide a contrast to the lowland plots scanned by Mat in the East of the Amazon Basin, in Brazil and French Guiana. Over the next few weeks, Phil Wilkes will replace Kim, and finally Ewan Shilland will head out to help Andy finish off and bring back the kit.

Rather closer to home, Mat and the team have been working in Bloomsbury, looking at the size and shape of some of the amazing trees around us in central London. Mat, Phil and Matheus Boni Vicari have been out and about, scanning trees in Russell Square and elsewhere, aiming to quantify how much carbon they store, their potential impact on street climate, and how different they are from their less-manicured natural counterparts.

Mat's work is being featured in two new BBC productions looking at trees. One is focused on the overlooked biodiversity of suburban gardens. It is being filmed over a year in Welwyn Garden City, with various scientists measuring, monitoring and mapping the changing seasons and life of the gardens. The programme, presented by Chris Packham, will air in the summer.

Mat and Phil are also scanning and filming for a documentary on iconic English oak trees that will air later in the year.

More details on Mat's work are on his blog.

See also:


Filming in Welwyn Garden City for the BBC4 documentary

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