Lavinia Georgescu

University of Birmingham


Tree Mortality and Drought: Leveraging the power of big data


Dr Tom Pugh, Prof Jonathan Sadler, Dr Tom Matthews, Dr Tom Martin

PhD Summary

Why do trees die? How do the rates and drivers of tree mortality vary from the tropical rainforest to the boreal? How do these mortality rates affect forest structure? These questions are crucial in order to understand large-scale forest dynamics. They are also of fundamental importance for our understanding of how climate change will evolve because forest ecosystems are huge stores and sinks of carbon. Hot droughts are expected to become more prevalent under climate change, resulting in a lot of focus in recent years on how trees die under drought. Yet little is known about the extent to which drought usually plays a role in tree mortality in the different ecosystems around the world. For instance, is drought a more prevalent driver of tree mortality in areas that are commonly hot and dry, or in those where such conditions are a relatively rare occurrence? Which types of tree are most vulnerable and how is this affected by their status in the ecosystem? This project will apply machine learning techniques to identify patterns and relationships between drought and tree mortality in of a range of forest inventory and remote sensing datasets, spanning global forest biomes.

What inspires you?

The many, many trips I would take with my grandmother, who used to be a Chemistry Teacher. Thanks to her, I’ve spent my summers growing up alongside high school students, traipsing around the Carpathian Mountains. Those forests were my second home.

Previous Activity

I’ve had the pleasure of seeing the inner workings of the UKRI, working as a Funding Administrator for the Future Leaders Fellowships scheme. It means I’ve seen the behind-the-scenes of how research funding works – but my lips are sealed!

Why did you choose Docotoral Research?

There was nothing I enjoyed more during my studies than independent research. It gave me the sort of freedom I had been dreaming about since high school. There’s responsibility and stress too, no doubt about it – but that freedom! I couldn’t say no to it.

Why did you choose a CENTA Studentship?

When looking for a PhD project, I knew I wanted to go full throttle – a global project, using big data. And that’s exactly what I found – a project in an area that interests me (vegetation disturbance), at a university with an exceptional group (TreeMort), and an amazing supervisor to develop it with (Thanks, Tom!).

What are your future plans

I hope after finishing my PhD here at UoBham I’ll be able to find other projects to sink my teeth into. Whether it be within or outside of academia, research is what brings me joy. With a project such as this one, I not only get to become one of the more knowledgeable people on this very specific subject, I also get a host of other skills. I like to keep my options open, by making sure to get the most out of training in statistics, coding, machine learning. These are not one-way tools; there are countless fields they can be applied to. Future plans? The plan is to go out there and find other questions to answer.