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Oxford-Sylva scholarship highlighted in university’s major campaign

posted on May 12, 2015

The University of Oxford has announced that its major fundraising campaign has reached the £2 billion mark. We are proud of the Sylva Foundation’s strong ties with the university, particularly through our graduate scholarship that focusses on productive and healthy forests. According to the University of Oxford’s announcement today:

“The Sylva Foundation, a long-standing and committed supporter of the Department of Plant Sciences, is currently supporting a DPhil student through a donation of £31,000 for the Oxford-Sylva Graduate Scholarship. The current scholar is assessing the ecological consequences of ash dieback in the UK and the potential impact on ecosystems and organisms that rely on ash trees. This understanding will help to establish resilience to environmental change and to find ways to mitigate the forecast impacts of dieback.”

Read more on the university’s website

The Oxford-Sylva scholarship is one of the Sylva Foundation’s current fundraising campaigns  – read more – and our wish is that we can secure the scholarship in full and in perpetuity.

If you are interested in finding out more about the scholarship, you can read more about the Oxford-Sylva scholarship or contact us.

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Oxford-Sylva scholar features in Oxford University annual review

posted on February 3, 2015

We are delighted that Oxford-Sylva scholar Louise Hill features in the University of Oxford 2013-14 Annual Review. Interviewed for the publication, Louise — who is studying the environmental impact of ash dieback disease on woodland for her DPhil in Plant Sciences — commented:

“‘I was in Borneo with very patchy internet when I received an email informing me I’d won the scholarship. It was brilliant – all my hopes were resting on it. In this current challenging funding environment, it was a lifeline.”

Louise Hill in Wytham Woods. Photo John Cairns

Louise Hill, Oxford-Sylva scholar, in Wytham Woods. Photo John Cairns

Sylva Foundation Chief Executive Dr Gabriel Hemery said:

“We base all our work on sound evidence, so investing in top-quality science is an important strand in our strategy. The scholarship allows us to foster champion environmental scientists of the future through a close working relationship with a leading university, meaning that our work will have a lasting legacy.”

Read more in the University of Oxford 2013-14 Annual Review

We are currently fundraising towards the Oxford-Sylva scholarship. If you are interested in finding out more about the scholarship, and how you may be able to support it, please click here.


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Oxford-Sylva scholarship highlighted by University of Oxford campaign

posted on October 22, 2014

Ensuring forests are resilient is a key part of the mission of the Sylva Foundation, which is why we invest in promoting and conducting research on sustainable forest management.

Louise Hill in Wytham Woods. Photo John Cairns

Louise Hill, Oxford-Sylva scholar, in Wytham Woods. Photo John Cairns

For the fourth academic year in a row, Sylva has supported a DPhil student in the Department of Plant Sciences with the Oxford–Sylva Foundation Graduate Scholarship. Current Oxford-Sylva Scholar Louise Hill, now in the second year of her DPhil, was interviewed recently for the university’s major fundraising campaign Oxford Thinking. She talks about her research, which focusses on ash dieback and its ecological consequences in British woodlands, and what it meant to receive our support. The full interview is available to read on the Oxford Thinking campaign pages – read here

Together with the University of Oxford, we are keen to raise funds to support more scholars of the highest calibre. Currently we meet the costs of the scholarship from our own core funds but this is sustainable only in the medium term. Our aim is work with other donors to secure the scholarship in perpetuity. We welcome expressions of interest from individuals or companies who would like to find out more about the scholarship and how they could support it.

Read more about the scholarship


Our thanks to Oxford Thinking for permission to feature the interview, and to John Cairns for the photograph.

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Sylva Scholar article wins RFS James Cup

posted on March 3, 2014

The James Cup is presented by the Royal Forestry Society annually to the author of the best original article for the year in the Quarterly Journal of Forestry in memory of NDG James, a distinguished forester and former President of the RFS.

A panel of RFS members judges the award and the winning article for 2013 is “Cord-Forming Fungi in British Woodlands”, written by Sylva Scholar Kirsty Monk, a final year DPhil student at the Department of Plant Sciences, University of Oxford, and Gabriel Hemery, chief executive of the Sylva Foundation. The article investigates the ecology, diversity and distribution of cord-forming fungi in Great Britain, and was published in the July 2013 issue.

The article concludes: “On-going research is uncovering the numerous ways in which cord-forming fungi enhance and encourage woodland growth, health and productivity. … The time has come to consider all components of woodland ecosystems when managing for timber or woodland products. Future improvements to timber yields and woodland health will lie in improving nutrient cycling and woodland resilience, especially in the light of projected environmental change and the uncertainty it presents to woodland owners and managers.”

More information on the RFS James Cup, including free access to the article

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New Sylva Scholar starts research on ecosystem consequences of ash dieback

posted on October 16, 2013

Our second Sylva Scholar has started her research at the Department of Plant Sciences, University of Oxford, funded partly by the Sylva Scholarship. Louise Hill, who was an undergraduate at Oxford before completing an MSc in Applied Ecology and Conservation  at the University of East Anglia, has returned to Oxford undertake a DPhil research project studying the Ecosystem consequences of ash dieback.

Louise Hill - Sylva Scholar

Louise Hill – Sylva Scholar

Louise said: “I am delighted to have this opportunity to work on one of the key conservation issues currently playing out in the UK and Europe. I hope that I will be able to make a valuable contribution to our understanding of this subject, and development, if possible, mitigation steps during the course of my DPhil.”

Louise has worked previously as an assistant reserve warden for the National Trust at Wicken Fen NNR in Cambridgeshire. She has also carried out a five month research project in Malaysian Borneo investigating the effects of rainforest logging on the parasite loads of Bornean birds.

Ash Dieback, caused by the fungal agent Chalara fraxinea, is an emerging lethal disease of ash trees (Fraxinus excelsior) which is threatening ash survival in many parts of Europe. In Denmark, for instance, which saw its first observed case in 2002, up to 90% of the entire ash population has become infected. The disease was first found in Britain in February 2012 and current estimates suggest that subsequent spread may affect between 90% and 99% of all British ash trees.

The project aims to investigate:

  1. The current distribution of ash (Fraxinus excelsior) in the UK and its likely ecological roles.
  2. Changes in biotic and abiotic conditions within ash-dominated woodlands before, during and after infection with Chalara fraxinea.
  3. The ecosystem consequences of losing 90% to 99% of ash trees, particularly with regard to landscape connectivity. The high percentage of ash in hedgerow corridors between forest habitats may be among the most important ecological roles of ash in the UK.
  4. Synergistic effects on biodiversity of co-occurrence with other major tree diseases, including Oak Decline and Chestnut Bleeding Canker.


The Sylva Scholarship was launched in Autumn 2010 in partnership with the Department of Plant Sciences, University of Oxford. The theme of the scholarship is healthy trees and productive forests. Sylva is keen to raise sufficient funds to secure the scholarship in perpituity – read more about our fundraising campaign.

Read the latest news on the scholarship from our blog

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Help us secure the Sylva scholarship

posted on March 29, 2013
Read more about our Sylva Scholarship campaign

Read more about our Sylva Scholarship campaign

Sylva supports cutting-edge forest science in a partnership with the Department of Plant Sciences, University of Oxford by offering a scholarship to DPhil students. We are seeking donors to help us secure our next scholar and, additionally, to help us raise an endowment fund to secure the scholarship in perpetuity.

Our first scholar Kirsty Monk is due to complete her research later this year, investigating the role of cord-forming fungi in woodland (read more). Meanwhile, an excellent candidate has been identified to follow in Kirty’s footsteps in Autumn 2013, having a double 1st undergraduate degree from Oxford and a MSc from the University of East Anglia. The proposed research programme will focus on the ecosystem consequences of ash dieback (Chalara fraxinea) in British woodlands.

To secure our next scholar we need to add to our current funds by raising an additional £5,000 for each of the next three years. At the same time the University of Oxford is keen to support the creation of more fully-endowed scholarships. They offer currently a 40 percent match-fund with a view to securing a total fund of £500,000 that will secure a scholarship in perpetuity. This is an unrivaled opportunity to leave a lasting legacy. If you are interested in learning more about the scholarship programme and how you could support it, please contact our Chief Executive Dr Gabriel Hemery or visit our online fundraising page with the Big Give.

The theme of the scholarship is healthy trees and productive forests. This reflects a joint vision between the Sylva Foundation and University of Oxford Department of Plant Sciences to foster a robust tree and forest resource in the light of projected environmental change.   Read more about the Sylva Scholarship

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Sylva Scholar and the Royal Society project – March

posted on March 15, 2012

Our Sylva Scholar Kirsty Monk, who is running a science project with a primary school in Oxford funded by a Royal Society grant (read more), reports on recent progress.

This week has been one of transition for the Royal Society project, seeing the culmination of the pilot class’ investigations and the start of the project proper.

Class A dramatically improved in terms of scientific thinking and writing, as shown in their posters (to be exhibited in a show at the end of the academic year), tackling questions such as:

  • What species live in a stream with high currents; how does this compare to the species living in low currents?
  • What causes currents?
  • How many species are there in the stream at Hogacre?
Royal Society project work March 12

Children from St Ebbe's primary school working in the Royal Society project with Sylva Scholar Kirsty Monk

The results were surprising to the students and often hypotheses were disproved, teaching students that they don’t have to know the answer before beginning an experiment. I look forward to showing off their wares in June/July.

We also started off Class B, with getting to know both the area and the project. Luckily we had fantastic weather for this and it seems as though this class is set to be as enthusiastic as the last.

Kirsty Monk

Category: Sylva Scholar

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Sylva Scholar wins prestigious grant for school project

posted on February 9, 2012

Kirsty Monk, our Sylva Scholar, has joined forces with a local school to bring science to life for the children, and in return they will help Kirsty in her studies.

Kirsty, in collaboration with Mrs Geerthi  Ahilan, Science co-ordinator at St Ebbe’s C.E. (Aided) Primary School have won a Royal Society Partnership Grant, worth £2896 for their study, “War and Peace: Species interactions on Hogacre Common”.

The project involves the whole school and aims to assess the biodiversity found in different habitats on Hogacre common, an 11 acre area of old sports field leased to the community by Corpus Christi College. The school hopes to convert this area into a rich and diverse community resource involving the children in all stages from planning through experimentation to presenting the results.  This will be an invaluable project to both the schools and the local community who will benefit from a greater understanding of the biodiversity of the common and the enhancement resulting from the restoration and conservation aspects of the project.

Read more about our Sylva Scholar

Category: Sylva Scholar

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Sylva Scholar attends ICF conference

posted on April 15, 2011

For the last two days I have been at the Institute of Chartered Foresters’ (ICF) conference, “Trees and the Urban Environment” this was a fantastic event and a good opportunity to meet some of the movers and shakers in urban forestry. The opening speech, given by Pam Warhurst of the Forestry Commission, was truly inspirational, a call to arms for all foresters to come together and make the most of the public passion for trees.

There were some excellent seminars including a heated and passionate debate over the use of non-native trees in urban areas or as street trees, and a fabulous closing address by Peter Head of Arup, discussing the future of the urban environment in terms of renewable energies and greening buildings.  All in all this was a very good conference and the proceedings should make a fascinating read!

I would like to thank Barcham Tree Specialists for the scholarship that enabled me to attend.

Kirsty Monk

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First data for Sylva Scholar

posted on April 8, 2011
Sylva Scholar Kirsty Monk studying a log sample

Sylva Scholar Kirsty Monk studying a log sample

Two months after the start of the logs experiment, I have begun collecting the first samples. I have been in the field revisiting all 170 logs across two woodland sites, collecting a sample of every fungus found on each log for molecular analysis.

This data will be used for statistical analysis to identify differences in fungal colonisation and diversity on wood from different tree species and under different forest stand types.

Initial analysis of the data will begin within the next few weeks and will feed into many other experiments over the course of the scholarship project.

Kirsty Monk

Read more about the Sylva Scholarship project

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