Oliver Wilson

I first realised that plants were actually interesting in my second week studying biological sciences, on a rainy day in the University of Oxford Botanic Garden. This impression has only grown from there, and after graduating from Oxford in 2011 I went on to an MSc in ethnobotany (the study of the relationships between people and plants) at the University of Kent and the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.

In the couple of years after finishing my MSc I worked in the herbarium at Kew and for Botanic Gardens Conservation International, before moving back down to Kent to do a PGCE. I was a science teacher in Canterbury until starting my PhD in January 2017, but will be continuing to teach in my role as a graduate teaching assistant in the School of Archaeology, Geography and Environmental Sciences.

My PhD project is focused on southern Brazil’s highly biodiverse but threatened Araucaria forests and their relations with people and climate through time (as part of a broader AHRC-FAPESP funded research project). Studies of fossil pollen and archaeological sites show that the forest expanded rapidly about 1000 years ago, closely followed by a flourishing of the Jê people, for whom Araucaria angustifolia trees were hugely important. I’m hoping to disentangle the roles played by people and climate in the forest’s expansion and, in light of these findings, develop models to predict how the critically endangered Araucaria trees will respond to future climate change.