A Day in the Life of a Landscape Ecologist: Marc Metzger

Marc Metzger, Director of the Edinburgh University Centre for Sustainable Forests and Landscapes and president of ialeUK 

Tell us about a typical day in your work life

I’m sure no-one wants to read about dreary admin and Teams meetings…but luckily there are also more fulfilling parts to an academic’s job. I have the privilege to work with – and hopefully support and occasionally inspire – wonderful students, early career academics and a very diverse range of non-academic colleagues too. On good days I am able to connect my research with policy and practice or, more often, help others to make those connections. Earlier this month, I had a highly enjoyable day hosting my former PhD student Claire Wood (senior geospatial information scientist at UKCEK) to work on a paper describing the legacy of Bob Bunce’s survey data, followed by kicking off the first Edinburgh Forest and Landscapes Networking event.

What (or who) got you involved in landscape ecology?

During by studies, I enjoyed a landscape ecology course led by Rob Jongman, a long-time IALE treasurer. While working on my PhD a few years, Rob introduced me to Bob Bunce who was working in Wageningen at the time. Bob became my second PhD supervisor and encouraged me to attend IALE conferences. He also persuaded me to organise a couple of landscape ecology field trips in Europe, where I met Geoff Griffiths, who was ialeUK president at the time. When I moved to the UK in 2007 it didn’t take long before I was persuaded to join the ialeUK committee.

What caught your interest in landscape ecology?

It was inspiring to find a discipline (or is it an undiscipline?) that brings together a fascinating diversity of folk interested in the complex processes (human, biotic, abiotic) at a visible and tangible scale where land use decisions are made and experienced.

What is your favourite UK landscape?

I have a weak spot for Shetland, with its rough land- and seascapes and rich cultural history.

What are you working on at the moment?

I’m not ashamed to admit I’m a bit of an opportunistic scavenger with broad interests. Current work mainly tries to understand how natural capital concepts can help land management. But it includes collaborative efforts to understand how natural colonisation could form a complementary woodland expansion strategy to planting and I also work hard to promote transdisciplinary research with and for policy and practice, including as president of ialeUK.

What are the landscape ecology resources that you couldn’t do without?

My network of colleagues, especially those working outside academia.

Whose work inspires you?

The work of my PhD students and post-docs.

Which of your projects/papers has had the most impact, and why?

If only I knew!

What advice would you give to anyone considering a career in landscape ecology?

To end on a slightly philosophical note: I think it is useful to consider ‘landscape’ as a boundary object that is understood and used in different ways but nevertheless facilitates communication and collaboration. As such, landscape ecologists often work on exciting but ‘messy’ problem-based, integrative, interactive challenges that require strong forms of collaboration and partnership. These are characteristics of ‘undisciplinary’ working (cf Robinson, 2008), that require an understanding and appreciation of wide-range of approaches and ways of thinking (cf Haider et al., 2017). Concretely, this requires landscape ecologists to have a diverse technical skillset, collaborative interpersonal skills, and the resilience and creativity to find solutions in complex situations.


@mj_metzger (Twitter)