Christine E. Thuring
BSc. Environmental Science & Biology (Trent University, Peterborough, Ontario)
MSc. Horticulture (The Pennsylvania State University, USA)
c/o The Green Roof Centre
Interdisciplinary Centre of the Social Sciences
Sheffield, S1 4DP
I´m a Swiss-Canadian PhD student in the Department of Landscape with Dr. Nigel Dunnett as my supervisor. I am funded largely by a Marie Curie Industry Academia Partnership. Our industry partner is one of the world´s biggest green roof system manufacturers,ZinCo
I´m fascinated by ecology in general, and the urban-nature interface of the built environment is particularly enticing. To this end, I´m interested in both the theoretical and practical installation of native plants in new habitats with the concept of supporting food webs and complex cycles that our clumsy human brains cannot even begin to appreciate.
Before coming to Sheffield (Oct 2009), I had worked with green roofs in various capacities. Starting in 2001, I did an internship with a green roof installation company in Germany, and then did my Master´s degree at The Pennsylvania State University Centre for Green Roof Research. I´ve worked in industry (e.g., native plant nursery, Vancouver), education (British Columbia Institute of Technology), advocacy (e.g. UN World Urban Forum, World Green Roof Congress) and consultation. I´m happy to be back in academia, and grateful for the chance to explore a topic that has long interested me.
The title of my thesis is Calcareous grassland as a model for diverse green roof vegetation: establishment and long-term dynamics. To see a 10 minute presentation about my research, click here.
A great body of work has established key factors and methods for the ecological restoration of calcareous grasslands. Equally, several decades of focused research and development have helped to establish low-maintenance, self-sustaining green roof systems. However, as biodiversity and the use of native species become more pertinent and interesting, it is clear that site-specific conditions must start to more fully inform green roof designs.
Many individual plant species native to calcareous grasslands are known to establish and perform well in green roof conditions, but the establishment of actual communities remains to be addressed. Beyond individual species to full communities, and beyond establishment to long-term persistence, what are the conditions required for biodiverse communities to develop and persist? The objectives posed below may elucidate these research questions.
1. What physical and chemical properties of a growing substrate are needed to support species-rich calcareous vegetation on green roofs? Although species of calcareous grasslands evolved in conditions similar to those of extensive green roofs (i.e., drought-prone, high mineral content), these species may not require the coarse, free-draining substrates that Sedums require.
2. How do calcareous grassland plant communities change over time under green roof conditions? Do emergent community characteristics develop with time such that different green roof types under similar climatic conditions all trend towards simplified diversity, converging along a common trajectory with time? Does shallow substrate promote forb diversity as in calcareous grasslands? Do calcareous substrates on green roofs leach over time to lesser pH values, influencing the nature of calcareous grassland plant communities?
Further to these projects, I am part of the Marie Curie International Plant Screening Trial, which is testing a wide range of species in maritime (UK) and continental climates (D). While on secondment at ZinCo each summer (in total 1 year over 3 years), I am charged with managing the German project.
Areas of Interest
My background is in plant ecology and restoration; continued membership with Society for Ecological Restoration keeps me up with developments in this field. Otherwise I read whatever is interesting, from urban ecology and conservation biology to energy efficiency, hydrology, and bryology. Typical inter-disciplinary curiosity, I suppose.
In my second semester at Sheffield, I had the opportunity to co-develop and deliver a module for 2nd year landscape ecology students (LSC 210 – Habitats and Communities). In 6 weeks, we demonstrated sampling methods for the various plant communities and habitats around Sheffield. This was a great way to prepare for my field season and gain some teaching experience, while also getting to know Sheffield region.
I´m an enthusiastic naturalist and try to get out botanising as much as possible, no matter where in the world I am. I´ve been an active participant in the Field Botany group at the University of Sheffield, for which I´ve co-organized a field trip and started numerous discussions on uSpace. I´m also a member of the Natural History Society, and a co-founder of the Postgraduate(PG) Cafe Forum.