Photograph of a woman standing in front of a patterned background.

Rachel Mailes

University of Birmingham


Exploring conservation co-benefits to biodiversity and carbon storage and sink capacity across forests to improve practice


  • Dr Adriane Esquivel Muelbert 
  • Dr Laura Graham 
  • Dr Tom Matthews 
  • Prof. Matthew Heard. 

PhD Summary

Conservation of global forests is at the centre of the climate and biodiversity crisis prevention efforts.  Forests play a fundamental role in mitigating climate change, absorbing around 1/3 of anthropogenic emissions, but are also home to 80% of terrestrial biodiversity. Modern forest management is mainly directed at protecting and increasing carbon stocks to mitigate climate change, often assuming biodiversity will be simultaneously protected as a co-benefit. While there is evidence for a positive relationship between these variables in tropical forests at large scales, recent studies suggest this may not be the case for temperate forests. This project will assess the dynamics of the carbon-biodiversity relationship in the UK and how this may impact policy and net-zero targets. 

Previous activity

I was a research technician for University of Birmingham project MEMBRA, investigating the role of memory in trees and forest landscapes. Before this I did a MSc in Endangered Species Recovery and Conservation at Nottingham Trent University, and a BSc in International Wildlife Biology in the University of South Wales. 

Why did you choose doctoral research?

I have always been fascinated by wildlife and the complexity of organism interactions and exploring this passion for nature and love of learning during my BSc and MSc encouraged me to further my skills and continue to pursue a career in research. My goal is to work in conservation, conducting research that will help guide successful management efforts and help combat the environmental crisis. Therefore, I chose to do this PhD as it enables me to further develop the skills I need for this career. 

Why did you choose CENTA?

This studentship is different to others I explored in that it did not expect graduates to only go into academic and lecturing roles afterwards. CENTA allows me to decide my own training and tailor it to the career path that I want to take, making the skills I learn more valuable and practical for the future I am working towards.  

Future plans

The skills I develop and networks I build during this PhD will enable me to pursue a career in research with conservation and policy application. I hope to continue working in research to optimise conservation actions and mitigate the current crises facing the natural world.