Dec 03 2018

Last week, Professor Julia Koricheva, School of Biological Sciences, was named in the 2018 Highly Cited Researchers list. Julia is featured in a Cross-Field category which identifies researchers who have contributed to highly cited papers across several different fields. We recently caught up with Julia to find out more about what it means to be named as a 2018 Highly Cited Researcher, and to discover more about her main research areas. 

1. Could you tell us a bit more about yourself and your role within the School of Biological Sciences?

I have been at Royal Holloway for 14 years. As Professor of Ecology I am involved in both research and teaching at the School. I contribute to teaching of various undergraduate ecological courses as well as teaching a module on meta-analysis and research synthesis for the Masters in Research in Biological Sciences. In terms of research, in my lab we are working on projects ranging from acoustic monitoring of biodiversity to the assessment of the recovery of tropical forest on abandoned gold mines in South America. I am also Director of Research at the School of Biological Sciences, which involves attending a lot meetings and discussions of the School’s research strategy, research funding, research facilities etc.

2. Many congratulations on being named in the 2018 Highly Cited Researchers list. What does it mean to be named as a 2018 Highly Cited Researcher?

Highly Cited Researchers list is compiled every year by Clarivate Analytics and is based on analysis of citations of papers indexed in the Web of Science database. Papers in 21 different fields of sciences and social sciences are evaluated and researchers who have published highly cited papers in the previous decade and are in the top 1% by citations in their field and year are included in the Highly Cited list. I am very honoured to be included in the list this year.  As a scientist, your involvement with the study usually ends with its publication, and you have not much control over whether it will be read by others or never used and forgotten as soon as it is published. While the number of citations per study is not a perfect metric of its scientific value, it still indicates that somebody read the paper and found it relevant enough to cite. So it is nice to know that other scientists read and use the papers that I have published!

3. You were featured in the Cross-Field category. Which researchers are identified in this area?

The Cross-Field is the new category for the Highly Cited Researchers list which has been introduced this year to acknowledge scientists who published highly cited papers in several research fields. Hence it specifically recognizes cross-disciplinary research. For instance, my work in the area of research synthesis and meta-analysis has implications not just for ecology but for other research fields as well since the methods used for summarising available scientific evidence are quite generic and could be used in different areas of science. Therefore, my work in this area is cited not only by ecologists but also by social scientists, medical researchers and other scientists.

4. Can you tell us a bit more about your main research areas?

My ecological research mainly focuses on human impacts on biodiversity, particularly in forest ecosystems, and the resulting changes in ecosystem functioning and services that forests provide to humans. For the last 20 years, I have been coordinating a large-scale forest diversity experiment which I have established in Finland in 1999-2000. This is a great experimental platform to study how changes in tree species diversity and species composition affect various ecosystem processes such as tree growth, pest densities, litter decomposition and so on. In addition to the field work, I conduct a lot of literature reviews in the form of meta-analysis, a type of statistical analysis of published literature which allows to combine the results from different published studies on the topic in order to resolve controversies, identify patterns and develop policies and management guidelines. Most of my highly cited papers are published in this area.

5. What are you currently working on?

During the last couple of months I spent quite a bit of time setting up the Women in Biology (WiB) scheme at our School. This is something I am very excited and proud of. When I joined the School of Biological Sciences 14 years ago, I was only the second female academic staff member in the School out of 30+ academics. Now we have nine female academics, which is a big progress. But there is still work to be done, particularly in supporting early career female students and researchers. The aim of the WiB scheme is to support personal and professional development of female students, researchers and staff at the School. We have launched a number of activities including discussion groups, meetings with female seminar speakers, career advice drop-in sessions, and a new Twitter account (@RHULWiB). In the new year we are also planning to implement mentoring scheme and a new alumni blog.

6. Outside of work do you have any hobbies or interests?

I enjoy singing and participate in a local musical theatre society. Every year we stage a different musical, it is a big production with lots of rehearsal and always great fun. I also like being outdoors and enjoy weekend hikes with the Ramblers and Meetup groups.

7. What’s your favourite term at Royal Holloway and why?

It is probably the spring term. Spring on campus is so beautiful, with snowdrops, daffodils, bluebells, azaleas and rhododendron in bloom. And yes, it is exam time and can be quite stressful, but I enjoy exam marking as it provides the opportunity to see how much students have learned. Spring is also the term when I teach my favourite course – practical field ecology. We are using pur campus a lot and do short trips into the surrounding countryside. Students do botanising, bird watching, small mammal trapping and sampling critters from the river etc. It is a good group bonding exercise and it is great to see how students develop into competent naturalists.

8. You may have seen our latest recruitment campaign, ‘Find your why’. We are interested to find out what Royal Holloway has helped you to discover about yourself…

Before joining Royal Holloway I did very limited teaching and was mainly focussing on research. Since I've been here, I discovered that I really enjoy teaching and interacting with students. It is great to see how they develop their own scientific interests and become more confident and mature through their three years of BSc. I guess my ‘why’ is to facilitate this journey for them and to spark their enthusiasm for the natural world. For our upcoming alumni blog I have been recently searching for profiles of my former tutees and final year project students at LinkedIn and seeing what they have achieved since graduation makes me happy and fills me with pride.