Elsa Field

Academic Profile

I hold a First Class degree in Biological Sciences from Oxford University (June 2016). My undergraduate research project investigated the maintenance of cooperation in the legume-rhizobia symbiosis (Supervisor: Dr Lindsay Turnbull).
In summer 2015 I was awarded a British Society for Plant Pathology scholarship to work at the University of Exeter in collaboration with the Kunming Institute of Botany and CABI. My project focused on using a data-mining approach to test predictions from a model of crop pest and pathogen distributions in China. (Supervisors: Dr Dan Bebber and Prof Sarah Gurr).

I am a member of the British Ecological Society, the British Society for Plant Pathology and the Royal Forestry Society.

Current Research

Are more diverse forests more resilient to pathogen invasion?

The area of planted forests around the globe is on the increase. However, most of these plantations are monocultures, even though more diverse forests can show higher levels of productivity and other ecosystem functions. Mixed forests are also assumed to be more resilient to invasion by emerging pathogens. However, many questions about the mechanistic basis of this hypothesis have yet to be  resolved, and it is likely that the efficacy of using mixtures to control forest disease will be highly specific to the host and pathogen species under study.

My research project will utilise the TreeDivNet network of global forest diversity experiments (http://www.treedivnet.ugent.be) to investigate the resilience of planted forests to emerging pathogens. I will focus both on quantifying overall relationships between forest diversity and pathogen severity, as well as understanding the ecological mechanisms underpinning these relationships.
In particular, I will use Oak Powdery Mildew (caused by Erysiphe sp.) as a model pathogen to test hypotheses about the effects of tree diversity on pathogen invasion, and potential interactions with abiotic factors such as drought.

"Oak Powdery Mildew - What's all the fuss?" Blog post for Observatree (July 2017)




Westhoek, A, Field, E., Rehling, F., Mulley, G., Webb, I., Poole, P. and Turnbull, L. (2017). Policing the Legume-Rhizobium Symbiosis: A Critical Test of Partner Choice. Nature Scientific Reports 7 (1): 1419. doi:10.1038/s41598-017-01634-2.

Field, E., Castagneyrol, B., Gibbs, M., Jactel, H., Barsoum, N., Schönrogge, K. and Hector, A., 2020. Associational resistance to both insect and pathogen damage in mixed forests is modulated by tree neighbour identity and drought. Journal of Ecology. (in press)

Field, E., Schönrogge, K., Barsoum, N., Hector, A., & Gibbs, M. (2019). Individual tree traits shape insect and disease damage on oak in a climate‐matching tree diversity experiment. Ecology and Evolution 9 (15): 8524–8540.

Bebber, D., Field, E., Mortimer, P., Heng, G., Holmes, T. & Gurr, S. (2019). Many unreported crop pests and pathogens are probably already present. Global Change Biology 25: 2703–2713.