Keynote speakers

Keynote 1: Prof Fiona Stafford:  Why Trees Matter

Wednesday June 19 at 16.00, Great Hall

A limited number of tickets are available to the general public BOOK HERE.  If you are already registered as a delegate to Evolving the Forest you do not need to book a ticket.


Professor Fiona Stafford is Professor of English Language and Literature, Fellow of Somerville College.

This opening keynote address opens the symposium with reflections on why trees matter. Author of The Long, Long Life of Trees (Yale 2016), writer and presenter of the BBC Radio 3 series The Meaning of Trees, Prof. Stafford will remind us of the cultural importance of trees within literature and society from the 18thC on. 

Professor Stafford studies Romantic poetry. Her research interests include Ossian, Austen, Burns, Wordsworth, Coleridge, Keats, the Shelleys, Byron, Heaney, Carson, literature of the Romantic period, the literature of place, nature writing (old and new), Scottish poetry after 1700, dialogues between English, Irish and Scottish literature, literature and the visual arts, and contemporary poetry.  

Her most recent book, the acclaimed The Long, Long Life of Trees (2016), is a tribute to the diversity of trees in 17 chapters – each of which is dedicated to a common British tree – drawing on material from fields including folklore, natural science, literature, cultural history, European art, ancient mythology and modern medicine to illuminate each tree’s central place in western civilisation.

Keynote 2/ NDG James Memorial Lecture

Thursday June 20 at 14.15, Studio 1, Dartington Space

Prof Kathy Willis CBE: The framing of the UK’s forests: past, present and future

A limited number of tickets are available the general public BOOK HERE 
If you are registered as a delegate to Evolving the Forest you do not need to book a ticket

Policies to manage, conserve and enhance forests have seen a dramatic shift in their framing over the past decade.  Terms such as “natural capital” and “nature’s contribution to people” are now commonly used. The focus of this framing is upon determining those aspects of forests that underpin important societal benefits. These range, for example, from identifying their role for carbon sequestration and equitable climates, to those that prevent soil erosion and reduce flood risk potential. There is also an emerging interest in the value of forests for underpinning important physical and mental well-being benefits.

Many countries, including the UK are now developing ‘Natural Capital’ registers to understand where their most important natural capital assets are located at national, regional and local scales and many of these are considering predominantly forested landscapes. They are also devising payment mechanisms to ensure that those aspects of nature that are important in this respect, receive funding to ensure no further degradation and their maintenance and enhancement.

Whilst the steps to undertaking these assessments appears relatively straightforward, in practice it is quickly becoming realised that one of the greatest obstacles to enabling a natural capital approach to become operational is a paucity of datasets and models that can understand the dynamics of forests in space and time. There is also almost no appreciation of the impact of current and future climate change upon the natural capital assets provided by forests and their flows.

This talk will illustrate, with examples, the huge potential of forestry data, from historical records to more recent satellite imagery and newly emerging models, to fill these knowledge gaps. It will discuss a number of excellent studies that have been published in the past few years that are starting to demonstrate the importance of these data from understanding natural baselines of the assets provide by the UK forests and their variability in time, to the ec

osystem services provided, and their resilience. Finally, the talk will discuss the important steps that the forest community at large needs to consider taking in order for the UK’s valuable forests to become firmly embedded within natural capital framing, and ultimately the shaping of our current and future landscapes.

Professor Katherine (Kathy) J. Willis CBE is Principal of St Edmund Hall and Professor of Biodiversity in the Department of Zoology, University of Oxford.

Prior to this, between December 2013 and September 2018 Kathy was Director of Science at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, where she spearheaded the launch of Kew’s Science Strategy 2015-2020. She also previously held the Tasso Leventis Chair of Biodiversity at Oxford and was founding Director of the Oxford Martin School Biodiversity Institute.

Kathy’s research interests focus on the relationship between long-term ecosystem dynamics and environmental change. She has published extensively being author of over 100 scientific publications, including the landmark book The Evolution of Plants, now in its second edition. She has also written several popular science books (including Plants: From Roots to Richesand Botanicum) and she explored the importance of plants through the BBC Radio 4 series Plants: From Roots to Riches. In August 2015, Kathy was awarded the prestigious Michael Faraday Prize from the Royal Society for her excellent work in science communication and in February 2016 she was appointed to the Natural Capital Committee, an independent advisory body to the UK Government which will take forward the implementation of the new 25-year Environment Plan. Kathy was awarded a CBE in the Queen’s Birthday honours list in June 2018.


N.D.G James OBE, MC, TD, FRICS 1911-1993

Jimmy James, as he was known, was one of the best known names in British private forestry. After being lecturer in forestry at the Royal Agricultural College, Cirencester, he became Bursar and Fellow at Corpus Christi College, Oxford in 1950 and then Land Agent for Oxford University before being appointed land agent at the Clinton Devon Estates in 1961, a post he held until 1976. He was President of the Land Agent’s Society (1957-58) and President of the Royal Forestry Society (RFS) (1962-64). As President of the RFS he set up the Society’s examinations in arboriculture which continue today. He was awarded no less than four gold medals for his two professions – as land agent and forester – including the RFS Gold Medal for distinguished services to forestry in 1967. He was awarded the OBE for services to forestry. Jimmy James was widely known in forestry circles for his many forestry books. Best known are the Forester’s Companion (1955), A Book of Trees (1973) and A History of English Forestry (1981).

In 2000 his sons Jimmy and Jeremy made a generous donation to the RFS to establish the NDG James Memorial Fund to promote the educational work of the Society. This has enabled the Society to organise a number of forestry conferences. This is the second NDG James Memorial lecture hosted by the Society. We are very grateful for the generosity of the James family which makes this event possible.