Jane Catford – Senior Editor

Journal of Ecology is very excited to announce that Jane Catford will be joining our Senior Editor team! Jane has been an Associate Editor with our journal since 2016 and we’re thrilled to see her take on this new role. Jane is a plant community ecologist based at King’s College London, UK. Jane has an interest in biological invasions, environmental change and biodiversity. She has established and maintains long-term field experiments in the US, UK and Australia, examining questions related to invasion, environmental change, community assembly and species coexistence. Most of her work centres on wetlands, riparian ecosystems and grasslands, covering issues including climate change, river regulation, nitrogen deposition and invasions.

Here we interview Jane about her current research, favourite plant species, ideal fictional lab partner & dream superpower!

Tell us a bit about your research.

I am a plant community ecologist working on questions related to global environmental change, community assembly and biological invasions. I really love processes and linking fundamental and applied ecology, so I always try to work these elements into the research that I do. I am lucky to work with a bunch of great students and collaborators on a range of projects – from traits of invasive plants and seaweed, to riparian plant responses to flow alteration, to community assembly and restoration in grasslands and peatlands.

A new project of mine, AlienImpacts, is about to kick off, which I am really excited about. Thanks to a European Research Council Consolidator Grant, we have five years to focus on impacts of alien plant invasions. The project aims to develop an approach for predicting impacts of alien plants on plant community diversity, and to identify the circumstances under which negative impacts will occur. We’ll use temperate grasslands as a model system, working across at least three continents.

I’m super excited about what we might discover and achieve, and I’m looking forward to welcoming four new postdocs into my lab.

What are you most looking forward to about being an editor on Journal of Ecology?
Tough one as I’m excited about many aspects of the role…if I had to choose though, I would say more involvement with our community of authors, reviewers, editors and the BES publications staff. I’ve been an AE at Journal of Ecology for about 6 years now and on the BES publications committee since 2018 – I enjoy participating in the promotion and communication of new ecological science.

Jane conducting a wetland survey.

What can you tell us about the first paper you published?
It was based on my honours research project (9 months at the end of undergrad), which focused on benthic microalgae in urban streams. The project itself was a wonderful experience but it was quite a palaver getting the paper published, and it bounced around numerous journals before being accepted. My two (fabulous) supervisors, John Beardall and Chris Walsh, were incredibly supportive – especially Chris, who must have sunk so much time into it. Not only was it a pretty small study (based on a field experiment done in Melbourne winter – when little algae grows!) but I obviously had little idea what I was doing when it came to paper writing. Miraculously(?!), the experience didn’t put Chris off entirely and we’ve recently had a grant together, which has been very cool as we’ve now been collaborating for basically half my life!

What’s your favourite species and why?
Good question! I often debate this when in the field – and the answer depends on which system I’m working in and whether I’m feeling more forby or grassy (it is usually one of the two), bold or intricate. In Australian wetlands, I absolutely love Ricciocarpos natans (a cute floating liverwort), but the delicate yellow flowers of floating Nymphoides crenata and the sturdy emergent Eleocharis sphacelata are also hard to beat. In North American grasslands, Koeleria macrantha and Bouteloua gracilis are always in contention (who can resist the curly corduroy of Koeleria and the quizzical eyebrows of Bouteloua?!), but I also love the quirky leaves of Strophostyles leiosperma and its ability to happily grow on road verges.

But, if push came to shove, I would struggle to ignore charismatic giants like Typha orientalis and Sorghastrum nutans…[safe to say that I’m bad at picking favourites!]

If you could wake up tomorrow with a new skill, what would it be?
To be an amazing coder. Unfortunately, I don’t seem to be wired in the same way as many of my brilliant colleagues and students, so I code very poorly and painfully.

What’s your favourite sports team?
Any one that I’m on (my standards are very low…) I absolutely love sport, but don’t really have the temperament for watching – I would much rather play and I am much more pleasant to be around if I have burnt off a bit of energy!

What was the first album you owned?
The Joker by The Steve Miller Band. I won it on Top Banana, a Saturday morning TV show for kids. I was the “lead singer”, complete with band, doing karaoke of New Kids on the Block’s Hangin’ Tough. As a ten-year-old, few things were cooler.

If any fictional character could join your lab, who would it be and why?
Captain Planet without question. Who could resist his inspirational values and blue tights?

Captain Planet and the Planeteers. © Captain Planet Foundation.

If you had one superpower, what would it be and why?
Teleporting. I’ve had the immense privilege of living and working in different places, but that has taken me away from family, friends and my husband and from places that I love (nothing quite like the Australian bush). So, I often wish I could just drop into Melbourne to have coffee with a friend, or lunch with my mum. I suspect many of us can relate to that feeling right now!

Please join us in welcoming Jane to the Journal of Ecology Editorial Board!

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