Meet Your Lecturers: Dr. Liz Hamilton


There is a primary reason why all of us students at the School of Natural Sciences are enrolled at our preferred courses. Something triggered that desire one day to strive for a career that focuses on wildlife conservation towards an endangered species, aspiring to cure cancer or to become a field ecologist in the West Midlands or something. When us students attend lectures each week during the three semester’s each year that the university provides, I wonder if any of us consider that all of this above applied to the lecturer that teaches us our course module? Do you even know them? Do you even know their field of study and what inspired them to do what they do and why they share their passion with you? Or do you just turn up each week to your lecture and you are completely oblivious to it all?
Whatever your reason is, I have interviewed the majority of the School of Natural Science lectures and they have kindly shared their story with us which will hopefully inspire us all with our career journeys and make future lectures more connected and unique.
Previously in the ‘Meet Your Lecturers’ blog series we focused on Dr. Matt Wood. On this blog post today, we focus our attention towards Dr. Liz Hamilton, who is a lecturer in Ecology and Environmental Sciences. I asked her a series of questions in an interview and this is what she had to say:

  • What inspired you to get into the field that you are in currently?

 Without a doubt, it was my love of nature and the desire to protect it. I had an inspiring lecturer in biogeochemistry who opened my eyes to the possibilities of using natural methods to attenuate nitrate pollution: Couple that with the latest methods in environmental chemistry and I was hooked. I was also lucky enough to do my PhD on the impact of deforestation on soil and water quality in Borneo. Being an environmental scientist gives you the opportunity to conduct fieldwork in exotic places as well as training in the latest laboratory techniques. I am constantly presented with new challenges which keep me striving to improve techniques and data quality.

  • Was your current discipline/field what you always strived to get into, or did you happen to get there by chance?

I have always been interested in the natural world but when I was 18, I thought I wanted to be a lawyer. After training and practising for almost ten years, it was obvious that life in the office was not for me. So, rather than arrive where I am by chance, I am very lucky to have had the opportunity to choose exactly what I want to do. I love my job and I consider it a privilege to be able to do something that I am so passionate about.

Liz sampling oil palm plantations in Sabah Borneo

  • What would you consider to be your most ground-breaking work to date?

 Well, although we are in the early stages of the experiment, I think my work with the Birmingham Institute for Forest Research (BIFoR) Free Air CO2 Experiment (FACE) would certainly be the most ambitious and ground-breaking project that I have been involved with. The BIFoR FACE experiment looks at the impact of increasing atmospheric CO2 concentrations on a mature woodland in Staffordshire. It’s what we call a whole-ecosystem experiment, so we have researchers from all different fields looking at every aspect of how the environment responds to elevated CO2. Naturally, I am working with the soils, and we have some very interesting results that should be published next year.

Liz with a number of BIFoR collaborators from University of Exeter, Swansea, Birmingham, the Met Office and Hawkesbury Institute (Western Sydney University)

  • Is there any advice that you would give fellow students/individuals looking to embark into the same field that you’re in?

I think the best advice would be to do it because you love it. Science can sometimes be frustrating, especially when a carefully planned experiment yields poor results. You have to stay motivated and take the failures with good humour. When you love your work, it is much easier to see the unsuccessful attempts in a positive light and put them down to experience before moving on.

Generic image of BIFoR/Bham ©

  • What is the latest research project that you’re focusing on right now?

I have a number of projects that I am currently working on which range from cherry tree improvement and stream carbon export in the UK, and tropical deforestation in Borneo. The main one, of course, is the BIFoR FACE project where we are looking at the response of the microbial biomass as well as the soil nutrients and heterotrophic and autotrophic respiration under elevated CO2
If that has inspired you a little and made you more aware of the background to the lecturers that teach you every week, then I am glad that it helped. You can find out more information about Liz HERE.

“As an environmental scientist, I’m interested in practical solutions to environmental problems such as deforestation and climate change.” – Dr Liz Hamilton

Stay tuned for future posts giving you an insight to the lecturers that teach you, their backgrounds and what inspired them to stand at the front of the class and teach you all that they know.
Edited by Tolga Aktas, Second-year (BSc) in Animal Biology student
Twitter: @tolgaaktas_
Instagram: @_tolgaaktas_
Facebook: taktaswild
Website: waysofthenaturalworld.wordpress.com

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