Peatlands expert awarded university professorship for globally important work in Scotland’s Flow country

A Scottish scientist regarded as one of the world’s leading experts on peatlands has been made a professor at the University of the Highlands and Islands (UHI).

Roxane Andersen a senior research fellow at North Highland College UHI’s Environmental Research Institute, based in Thurso, has been awarded the title in recognition of her outstanding research activity, leadership skills and contribution to education.

Since joining the university in 2012, she has helped bring in more than £4 million of grants to develop a “comprehensive and collaborative” programme of research on peatlands and ecological restoration.

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Her work has involved studies centred on globally important blanket bogs in the far north of Scotland, known as the Flow Country, which have been recognised for their potential to absorb climate-warming carbon emissions.

Scotland's Flow Country, which stretches across Caithness and Sutherland, is Europe’s largest blanket bog and is considered critical in the fight against climate change

She has also published more that 50 peer-reviewed articles in academic journals, organised and contributed to numerous international conferences and supervised 13 post-graduate students.

Professor Andersen, who studied in Canada, has also contributed to national and international policy and governance, supporting a bid for Caithness and Sutherland’s Flow Country to become a Unesco World Heritage Site and being appointed chair of Scotland's National Peatland Monitoring and Research Group in 2018.

Professor Todd Walker, UHI principal and vice-chancellor, has described the researcher as a “worthy recipient” and a credit to the institution.

“The title of professor is the highest level of academic achievement which can be awarded,” he said.

Senior research fellow Roxane Andersen, considered one of the world's leading experts on peatlands, has been made a professor in recognition of her work at the University of the Highlands and Islands

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“It is reserved for individuals who are recognised as leaders in their field and who have demonstrated excellence in their work.

“Professor Andersen is a worthy recipient.

“She has made an invaluable contribution to peatland science and developed an international reputation for her work.”

Professor Stuart Gibb, director of the Environmental Research Institute at North Highland College UHI and chair of the Peatlands Partnership, added: “In recent years we have seen a shift in scientific understanding of peatlands.

“Their importance in terms of biodiversity, carbon capture and climate change and in the provision of ecosystem services has been re-evaluated and Roxane's work, particularly in the Flow Country, has been at the heart of this.

“However, the impact of her work goes beyond science and has helped promote societal appreciation of the global significance of the peatlands we have on our doorstep.”

Professor Andersen expressed delight at receiving the prestigious title.

“I am truly honoured and I feel incredibly grateful to everyone who has supported me on this journey so far, not least to the whole team at the Environmental Research Institute,” she said.

“I feel privileged to have met many strong, intelligent and amazing women throughout my career who I could look up to.

“I really hope that, like them, I too can inspire others to follow their passion.”

Professor Andersen will give a free public seminar on Wednesday 2 June – World Peatlands Day, exploring the science of the habitat and touching on subjects such as climate change, biodiversity and restoration.

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