Emma Pilgrim

Will not be around for a while as I will be travelling

Favourite Thing: Creating things such as a new experiment or idea to test a hunch/theory. I also really like working with a range of people from different disciplines or universities as not only to you get to meet new people you also learn a lot.



Nottingham High School for Girls 1987-1994


A BSc in Biology from the University of Leeds (1994-1997), PhD in Plant Ecology at Imperial College London 1999 – 2002

Work History:

Office Temp 1997-1999. After my PhD I worked for a wild plant charity, Plantlife as their People for Plants Officer (2002-2004). My job was to encourage the public to get involved in recording the locations of wild plants so we could get a better idea of how their populatons changed over time. I then moved to Devon to work for an agricultural research institute


North Wyke Research which is part of Rothamsted Research

Current Job:

As a research scientist I create and complete my own research

Me and my work

My main aim as an ecologist is to develop ways to increase food availability for hungry humans but in such a way that doesn’t damage the environment

I have always been interested in nature and this has often been a source of inspiration for me. I am very lucky to work on the edge of Dartmoor on a research farm

A local breed of cattle : a Ruby Red

Work is a little off the beaten track so I have to drive there but I pass beautiful flower rich hedges.

As an ecologist I passionately believe that it is very important to protect our wildlife from the microscopic bacteria in the soil to the more majestic looking bird the red kite.

A field on the farm which we have managed so that there are a range of different plant species present in the grassland sward

Pollinators such as this Bumblebee play a vital role in transferring pollen from one red clover to another. Pollinators like nectar rich plants

This Painted Lady is a migratory butterfly found on North Wyke farm in the field pictured above. Butterflies are also pollinators

However the land surrounding us has to provide us with nutritous food, homes and maybe in the not too dim and distant future energy from biofuels. My work is looking at ways to try and ensure that farmers can produce enough food in a way that ensures they can make a decent living and in a way which will not have a bad impact on the environment. Many people now believe that many of th the ancient civilisations such as the Aztecs, Incas etc were lost as they over-exploited their natural resources and it is very important that we learn from their mistakes.

This is a Belgian Blue steer

All these photos have been taken at North Wyke by my very talented colleague Bruce Griffith

My Typical Day

Tricky this one as it depends what I am doing…….

I am a field ecologist so what I love to be doing is being out and about in the countryside.

This is a picture of a rare cattle breed the British Longhorn

Sadly it is getting more difficult to find the money for such work and these days most of my research work is now in a greenhouse or a lab. I have three different projects on the go at the moment and much of my time is spent managing these to make sure that I have all the right equipment for the project, the experiment can be set up on time and any other staff involved in the project know what they are doing and when they need to do it by.

In my line of work it is also very important that we publish our results in peer-reviewed journals. This means that the papers, in which our results are written, are read by other highly respected scientists in the same field i.e. ecology and they decide whether they think both the work and the paper are fit for publication. It can be quite a frustrating proceedure, but the more papers you have published, particularly in the highly respected journals such as Nature or Science, the more chances you have of progressing in your career.


What I'd do with the money

I have a passion for both wildlife and science communication so I would use the money to promote both and highlight why they are important to us.

My Interview

How would you describe yourself in 3 words?

Friendly, creative, nuts about wildlife/gardening

Who is your favourite singer or band?

Diffiult to say as I like a wide range of music e.g. Jazz, classical, rock and pop!

What is the most fun thing you've done?

Travel to Australia

If you had 3 wishes for yourself what would they be? - be honest!

Happy and healthy. I am also expecting my first baby in November so I am also secretly hoping for lots of sleep

What did you want to be after you left school?

An intrepid scientific explorer – so far I have made it to Devon with a brief stint in Israel!

Were you ever in trouble at school?

Not really but I always had plans to go to what my chemistry teacher described as the the “big party” or university where I had a lot of fun

What's the best thing you've done as a scientist?

Winning the chance to take part in Science on Film where the Wellcome Trust and the Documentary Filmmakers Group funded me to make a 5 minute science documentary with a film maker

Tell us a joke.

Oh crikey I am rubbish at jokes. I will have a think……….