School of GeoSciences

School of GeoSciences

Lisa Wingate


School of GeoSciences Honorary Research Fellow

After spending 14 fantastic years at The University of Edinburgh and developing into an Earth scientist under the wings of many incredible scientists, I have finally flown the nest and landed safely in France.

Presently, I am a senior research scientist at the Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique at the unit Interactions Soil Plant Atmosphere  [ISPA] within the newly formed team ECOFUN ( where we focus our research on Water Relations and Ecosystem Function. Over the next five years I will be busy building a new stable isotope ecophysiology laboratory with the funding obtained from a prestigious European Research Council Grant (ERC Starting Grant) and will gradually build my own research team in the beautiful city of Bordeaux.

Most of my research involves the measurement and modelling of stable
isotope variations in CO2, water and organic matter within forested ecosystems. I really like using stable isotopes as a tool to better understand processes such as photosynthesis, respiration and the evaporation of water from soil and plant surfaces. My personal expertise consists of making automated gas exchange measurements at the chamber and ecosystem scale using laser spectrometers. The data I collect is often used to test and develop theories that can be tested in process-based models at the organism, ecosystem and global scale. By improving our understanding of how the stable isotopes of CO2 and water exchange between ecosystems and the atmosphere, we can move closer to constraining CO2 budgets at the global scale.

I also frequently take part in other 'forest synthesis' activities studying ecosystem productivity and more recently my curiosity to understand the role of biosphere phenology on the intra-annual exchange of CO2 and water vapour with the atmosphere has steadily grown whilst working as a postdoc for the EU CarboEurope project with Professor John Grace. During my postdoc I have networked with researchers working at flux sites all over the world and have helped develop a network of cameras above ecosystems monitoring the seasonal changes in canopy vegetation state and colour. This work helps us cheaply monitor changes in growing season length and may also allow us to use digital images to estimate chlorophyll activity in plants. This network is set to expand during the coming years as I have been asked to co-ordinate an extended camera network within the new European infrastructure project called ICOS. Presently, I am working closely with Toshie Mizinuma at the School of GeoSciences in Edinburgh and Andres Plaza at the Department of Plant Sciences, two PhD students using this camera approach to understand the phenology of an Oak forest in England.

A three-minute video describing the research conducted at Alice Holt is now available at:

Previous to obtaining my permanent position at INRA, I held a NERC 5 year Advanced Fellowship at The University of Cambridge and was head of the Biosphere Atmosphere Stable Isotope Interaction group within the Department of Plant Sciences in Cambridge. During this time I worked closely with James Rolfe in the Godwin Laboratory for Palaeoclimate Research conducting research on the intra-annual variations of carbon and oxygen stable isotope signals in tree ring holocellulose. This work provided me with an opportunity to travel to many interesting forests in Finland, Germany and Israel and foster new collaborations. I am now working on the data from this forest transect to develop a novel method of precisely dating cellulose deposition in the past to within a couple of weeks and using this method to probe changes in plant function and climate of the past. In a similar manner I recently have collaborated with Dr Jessica Royles and Professor Howard Griffiths probing changes in plant function in Antarctica over the past 2000 years using peat cores. Although I am now in France I still have regular contact with colleagues and students in Cambridge through teaching on their new L2 course Responses to Global Change.

Future Research Opportunities

If you are interested in conducting research at the interface of biology, chemistry, and physics in terrestrial ecosystems then please contact me, I would be happy to hear from you. Every year I try to host a couple of MSc students interested in conducting thesis projects related to my research interests.  Currently I have an opening for a fully funded postdoctoral researcher  based in Bordeaux to perform a metagenomic study on soil microbial communities exposed to drought stress.

You can find more information on

PhD opportunities and projects here.