Emily Lines

Turing Fellow Emily Lines is building mathematical models of European forests to predict how they will be altered by climate change

What are you working on at the moment?

I'm currently focused on my UKRI Future Leaders Fellowship project predicting how European forests will be altered by climate change, which is in partnership with the Turing. Forests are complex ecosystems, and the data we need to make predictions are not always available, or not at large enough scales. My project is working on new ways to use, analyse and combine data from remote sensing (satellites, drones and ground sensors) with more traditional forest data, to build new predictive models to improve the accuracy and scope of our predictions.

What first got you into your field of research?

A combination of my curiosity about the natural world, and some lucky encounters with inspiring researchers. During my undergraduate degree in maths, I found myself fascinated by dynamical systems – in large part because of a very inspiring lecturer who encouraged me to pursue research. I wanted to be able to apply mathematical approaches to real-world problems; during my master's, I interned at Microsoft Research where I was introduced to the world of computational ecology, and it was there I really fell in love with modelling forests.

Most surprising thing to come out of your work so far?

I'm not sure surprising is the right word, but I always get most excited when we’re able to extract more information from data than we originally thought. When working in slow ecosystems like forests, there's not always enough data to inform our models, so I really enjoy it when we can re-purpose data to get what we need.

What’s been the most memorable moment of your career?

There have been a few: successfully compiling my first computational model, undertaking fieldwork in remote forests in New Zealand, and the first time one of my proposals won competitive funding!

What do you hope will come out of COP26?

Two things: firstly, an end to subsidies for fossil fuel industries (which instead need to be taxed according to their environmental damage), and secondly, robust action to prevent more tropical deforestation, and support and compensation for countries and communities to protect their forests. This will not only keep carbon locked away in ecosystems, but also help to tackle the biodiversity crisis, which is intimately linked to climate change.

Finally, when not working, what can you be found doing?

Running, cycling, travelling, and video calling my adorable niece, who's nearly two.