Geographer embarks on prestigious Royal Society Leverhulme Trust Senior Research Fellowship

a beach in the UK with a coastal streal and cloudy sky

Dr Jonathan Millett, Senior Lecturer in Physical Geography, has recently started a prestigious Royal Society Leverhulme Trust Senior Research Fellowship.

A field filled with plants and flowers
Experimental grazing exclosures which are part of Ainsdale Dune Slacks Long Term Experiment, which has been running for almost 50 years. Photo: Jonathan Millett

This fellowship is funded by the Leverhulme Trust and only around seven are awarded each year across the natural sciences.

During the 12-month fellowship Dr Millett will work to better understand how changes in the environment, such as climate change, impact sand dune habitats. To do this he will use unique long-term datasets gathered at Ainsdale Sand Dunes National Nature Reserve in Merseyside.

These include data collected as part of Ainsdale Dune Slacks Long Term Experiment, which has been established for nearly 50 years, making it one of the longest-running ecological experiments in the UK.

Coastal sand dunes are extremely valuable: they are an important flood defence, support rare plants and animals, have high biodiversity, and contain semi-natural landscapes with significant cultural value due to their rich histories.

They are, however, threatened by human and environmental pressures including urban development and rising sea-levels and their habitat is shrinking, being degraded, and in danger of gradually being lost. This project will help us to better understand how sand dune systems are changing and how best to manage them.

Dr Millett, who is custodian of Ainsdale Dune Slacks Long Term Experiment commented: “Data has been collected for a half century at Ainsdale Sand Dunes NNR.

"This unique, rich, and valuable dataset can’t currently be easily accessed and will very likely be lost if we don’t act now to secure it for the future. I’m excited to have the opportunity to do so, and to use the data to help us understand the history, present and future of sand dune systems.”

Michael Hoyler, Head of Geography and Environment added: “I am delighted that Jon has secured this highly prestigious Royal Society Leverhulme Trust Senior Research Fellowship for his exciting and innovative research agenda.

"This work will build on Jon’s established expertise in understanding the response of plant communities to global environmental change, and on his exceptional commitment to running substantial long-term experiments.”