I always enjoyed the hands-on aspects of science experiments, mechanical gadgets and photography so by the time I went to Oxford university as an undergraduate I felt particularly drawn to learning more about trees; probably due to some distant memory of trees and forests in various children’s books, so plant biology was a natural direction. I was lucky enough to visit various tropical countries in my late teens, and eventually organised with some friends an ethnobotanical expedition to the sacred “kaya” forests of coastal Kenya. Whilst identifying specimens from that expedition amongst the cool acres of variously aromatic herbarium cupboards in the East African, Oxford and Kew, it became obvious how much was not known about even basic aspects of tropical botany, and how it might be possible to build on top of the immense work of past, inspirational botanists. This was the start of a meandering career, following job and other funding opportunities in forest ecology and tropical botany, with Department for International Development in Ghana (where I was working in the forestry department as a plant ecologist for several years, training botanists and surveying forests), returning eventually back to Oxford as a researcher.
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