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.