Dr Naomi van der Velden

I am a plant ecologist with an interest in plant communities and how they vary over space and change in time. I have studied natural plant communities in temperate and tropical rainforests, in alpine environments and in the Cumbrian uplands. I gained my Ph.D. in Forest Ecology from the University of Leeds in 2004, where I then worked as a Lecturer in Physical Geography. I moved to Cumbria in 2008 and have been working as a Senior Lecturer in Ecology and Sustainability at the University of Cumbria.

My work on natural plant ecosystems has evolved to look at food-producing systems. Agricultural systems are intrinsically linked to many critical issues from pollution to climate change, from hunger to loss of biodiversity. Well-designed agroecological systems, therefore, have the capacity to greatly improve our human and our ecological environments. I have been looking at combinations of plants in annual (mixed vegetables) and perennial (forest garden) polyculture systems, and have begun to value the importance of scale in these systems. Working across the UK, Europe and in Nepal, this research has meant that I’ve also been developing an understanding of what food growing means for people’s livelihoods and wellbeing.

Since 2014, I have also been working for the Permaculture Association (Britain) as the International Coordinator. I also lead our involvement in the GROW Observatory project – a citizen scientist observatory on soils and small-scale food production across Europe which started in autumn 2016.

I began working with Art Gene in August 2015 as we investigated the ecological potential of the Mill Lane site on Walney Island as part of the Sheds (now Allotment Soup) project. It has been great to see local people getting actively involved in food growing; I think this is one of the most important personal changes we can make in our lifestyles that has a dramatic effect not only on our own health and wellbeing but also on our environments.

I’m honoured to have been invited to become more involved with Art Gene as a Trustee and I look forward to working further with this creative and committed group of people to achieve great things in Barrow and beyond.

Further Reading