A UNIVERSITY graduate has been appointed onto a panel developing a tree-improvement plan for oak used in timber. 

The Future Trees Trust (FTT) has announced Eamonn Cooper, 24, has joined the ‘Genetic characterisation of oak for the breeding and conservation’ studentship, funded by the FTT and Forest Genetics Resources Trust (FGRT) Ireland. 

A University College Cork graduate, Eamonn will be supervised by Dr Trevor Hodkinson, Trinity College Dublin; Dr Colin Kelleher, National Botanic Gardens in Glasnevin; and Dr Jo Clark, head of research at FTT. 

Eamonn, from Limerick, south-west Ireland, said: “I have always been interested in plant biology and I am thrilled to be able to work on a project that will have a positive impact for the future of oak trees. 

“Thank you to both Future Trees Trust and Forest Genetics Resources Trust for the opportunity – it’s a dream come true.” 

Since the 1990s, FTT and FGRT Ireland have been developing a tree-improvement programme for oak (Quercus petraea and Q. robur) in the UK and Ireland. The work selects superior trees (plus trees) for improvement for timber production. 

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A series of progeny trials were established in 2003 to investigate these trees showing excellent growth and straightness. The project will provide wider information for oak conservation genetics and breeding for timber and the changing climate.  

Dr Clark said: “We are delighted to have found an enthusiastic and highly motivated student to genetically characterise oak for breeding and conservation purposes. Eamonn’s research will provide much-needed support for the tree-improvement programme.”