Dr Jennifer Sjölund
Scientific Programme Coordinator
International Foundation for Science
In March 2019 I joined the International Foundation for Science as their Scientific Programme Coordinator. I am responsible for the coordinating projects in crop science, forestry, agroforestry, soil science, plant science, and terrestrial ecology.
I have research experience in both academia and government and has produced recommendations for policy and management, as well as supported knowledge transfer through workshops, and the dissemination of research tools. A trend throughout my research is its relevance to prominent modern-day challenges, such as climate change, biodiversity, and biosecurity.
Emerging Plant Pests & Pathogens
The risks of pest and pathogen outbreaks heightens with the increasing global movement of plant material. Expected changes in climate are also creating new challenges for biosecurity, instigating shifts in pest species ranges. Rapid and accurate molecular diagnostics techniques are required to prevent pest introductions and mitigate outbreaks.
Psyllids are a diverse group of small, phloem-feeding insects. There are several hundred species, however, a few have been found to transmit pathogens to potato, carrots as well as other vegetable crops.
At Science and Advice for Scottish Agriculture (SASA), I worked as Project Leader, specialising in the development of molecular tools for psyllids associated with the pathogen ‘Candidatus Liberibacter solanacearum’. Working collaboratively with entomologists at SASA, the Natural History Museum London, Rothamsted Research, and Sveriges Lantbruksuniversitet to collect and identify specimens.
Human Impacts on the Biodiversity of Forests
I gained a PhD in Ecology in 2014, supervised by Prof Alistair Jump at the University of Stirling.
My work explored the effects of human impacts on the genetic diversity of forests, using the European beech tree as a study species. Beech comprises the dominant forest type in mainland Europe. Forests at the southern range edge are typically rich in genetic diversity but are currently at risk due to climate-change induced drought and habitat loss.
Many forests in Europe have been historically heavily managed but now suffer from neglect.We found that long-term traditional practices can impact genetic diversity and therefore have implications for forest persistence under climate change. In addition, we produced a review of the benefits and hazards of traditional management practices.
Our research on the genetic legacy of beech forests in Great Britain revealed that beech arrived in the South East England after the last ice age. It’s subsequent west-wards and north-wards spread was proceeding naturally, but was aided by humans. When looking at the regional pattern of genetic diversity, a distinct non-native range could not be distinguished from the presumed native south-eastern range of beech. Therefore beech should be considered native throughout Great Britain.
We are expecting to publish research on the implications of the long-term isolation and fragmentation in Sweden’s beech forests in the near future, so watch this space!
Gender Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion in Science
Women have been historically underrepresented in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) subjects. This trend persists today and is increasingly evident at senior levels.
I am an advocate for equality and diversity in science and chaired the Equality and Diversity Committee at SASA to create an inclusive workplace by identifying evidence-based actions that can address barriers affecting women and minority groups.
I am also an active science communicator and have organized and contributed to several outreach events. Follow me on Twitter for posts on science, equality & diversity, adventure, and anything that catches my eye.
March 2019 – present Scientific Programme Coordinator at the International Foundation for Science – Stockholm
March 2015 – December 2018 Project Leader and Plant Pathologist at Science and Advice for Scottish Agriculture, the Scottish Government – Edinburgh
January 2015 – March 2015 Research Assistant at the Pedersen Lab, the University of Edinburgh
October 2010 – December 2014 PhD in Molecular Ecology, University of Stirling