Dr Gareth Phoenix

Image of Gareth Phoenix

Tel: +44 (0)114 222 0082
Fax: +44 (0)114 222 0002

email : g.phoenix@sheffield.ac.uk

Phoenix Lab home page


BSc, University of Edinburgh (1996)
PhD, University of Sheffield (2000)
NERC post-doctoral research associate, University of Sheffield (2000-2003)
Departmental research associate and teaching fellow, University of Sheffield (2003-2004)
RCUK academic fellow, University of Sheffield (2005-2009)
Lecturer, University of Sheffield (2010-2011)
Senior Lecturer, University of Sheffield (2011-2014)
Reader in Plant Ecology, University of Sheffield (2015 onwards)

Key Research Interests

image of growth chambers

My research focuses on the impacts of environmental change on vegetation and ecosystem processes (particularly nutrient cycling and fluxes) and on how these ecosystem processes are affected by plant community structure

Current key questions include:

• Effects of environmental change on Arctic vegetation and biogeochemical cycling
• Effects of Arctic plants, parasitic plants and biodiversity on ecosystem function
• Effects of pollutant nitrogen deposition on plant biodiversity, nutrient cycling and plant nutrient acquisition

Professional Activities

Editorial Advisory Board - Global Change Biology (2007 onwards)
Associate Editor - Functional Ecology (2005 – 2011)
Member of Council - British Ecological Society (2005 – 2009)
University Representative - British Ecological Society (2004 – 2009)
Steering Committee member, CAPER (Committee on Air Pollution Effects Research) (2006 onwards)
NERC peer review college (2008 onwards)


Dr Gareth Phoenix is APS liaison for the Environmental Science degree, ad-hoc member of the Teaching Committee and co-ordinates APS118 tutorials for Environmental Science students.

At level 1, I teach APS124 (Ecosystems and Environmental Change). My main research interests are the impacts of global change on ecosystems, and this course gives me a chance to teach this fascinating area to new students. I cover a diversity of topics, from how past climates have influenced the development of ecosystems in the UK, to the threats of contemporary climate change. The latter includes findings from some of our own work undertaken here in APS. The APS118 and APS222 tutorials are also an excellent opportunity to develop discussion and debate on these topics as well as helping students develop generic skills in writing, critical analysis, experimental design and oral communication.

My own research includes work on Peak District ecosystems, and at level 2, we use this area to study the interaction between ecosystems and the environment in APS246 (Plant Habitats and Distributions). Here we use a combination of lectures, laboratory classes and field visits. These ideas are expanded further in APS273 (Population and Community Ecology 2) where I teach how plant diversity and the composition of species influence how an ecosystem functions (for instance, the ecosystem’s capacity to sequester carbon from the atmosphere, cycle nutrients or trap pollutants).

My key area of research – Arctic ecosystems and environmental change – informs my teaching at level 3. Here, in addition to lecturing on plant adaptations to arctic environments in APS325 (Life in Extreme Environments), I teach on the Arctic Ecosystems field course (APS343) to Abisko in northern Sweden. The research station we use is also the home to many of my field experiments and so in addition to teaching more generally about Arctic ecosystems, this course offers students the opportunity to learn about, and work on, on-going Arctic research experiments.

The topics of global change, biodiversity and ecosystem functioning are also covered in research projects and dissertations at level 3 (APS330 and 331) and at level 4 (APS402 & 406), where my students address questions concerning the impacts of pollution and climate change (e.g. drought, warming) on plant diversity and ecosystem functioning.

Recent Invited Lectures

International Botanical Congress, Melbourne, Australia (July 2011)

Department of Biology, University of York, UK (March 2011)

College of Life and Environmental Sciences, University of Exeter, UK (Feb 2011)

University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, USA (Sept 2010)

Kansas State University, Manhattan, USA (Sept 2010)

Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Knoxville, USA (Sept 2010)

School of Bioscience, University of Nottingham, UK (2010)

EURECO conference, Leipzig, Germany (September 2008)

Dept Geography, University of Sheffield (November 2008)

Polar Environment Centre, Tromsø, Norway (May, 2006)

Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, Department of Systems Ecology (January 2006)

University of Aberdeen, School of Biological Sciences (November, 2004)

Research Group

Thomas Young
Green roof technologies for sustainable urban energy and water management (E-futures and Bonigale Ltd funded PhD, jointly supervised with Duncan Cameron and Jeff Sorrill)

Steffi Till
Engineering and functional mycorrhizosphere for agro-ecosystems (University funded PhD, jointly supervised with Duncan Cameron and Jonathan Leake)

Steven Lees
Impacts of atmospheric nitrogen deposition in grasslands (Defra funded PhD. Jointly supervised with Jonathan Leake)

James Fisher
Mechanisms of parasitic plant impacts on communities (NERC funded PhD studentship, jointly supervised with Duncan Cameron and Malcolm Press)

Aimeric Blaud
Impacts of acute nitrogen deposition events on Arctic soil microbial communities (NSINK Marie Curie Fellow - staff PhD candidate. Jointly supervised with Mark Osborn)

Sonal Choudhary
Impacts of acute nitrogen deposition events on Arctic tundra (NSINK Marie Curie Fellow - staff PhD candidate. Jointly supervised with Malcolm Press, University of Birmingham)

Recent Members

Dr Maria Arroniz-Crespo
Impacts of atmospheric nitrogen deposition on bryophytes in grassland ecosystems (Spanish Ministry funded)

Dr Victoria Sloan
The role of plant roots in Arctic carbon dynamics (NERC PhD studentship)

Dr Eva Koller
Carbon dynamics in an Arctic catchment: plant scale dynamics (MULTIARC Marie Curie Fellow - staff candidate. Jointly supervised with Malcolm Press)

Dr Nils Ohlanders
Carbon dynamics in an Arctic catchment: hydrology (MULTIARC Marie Curie Fellow - staff PhD candidate. Jointly supervised with Andrew Hodson, Dept Geography)

Dr Catherine Preece
Impacts of extreme winter warming and icing events on sub-Arctic heathland (NERC PhD studentship, jointly supervised with Terry Callaghan)

Dr Stef Bokhorst
Impacts of extreme winter warming events in the Arctic (Leverhulme Trust, joint with Terry Callaghan).

Dr Ben Fletcher
Arctic Biosphere-Atmosphere Coupling at Multiple Scales (NERC, joint wiht Malcolm Press. See www.abacus-ipy.org).

Dr Mike Pilkington
Impacts of root hemiparasitic plants: regulation of community structure and function (NERC, joint with Malcolm Press and Jonathan Leake)

Dr Jill Edmondson
N pollution impacts on plant P acquisition, and impacts of hemiparasitic plants on nutrient cycling (technician, NERC funded)