This work aims to identify surviving elms and infected elms that are still sprouting in three case study areas of Scotland (The Borders, Highlands and Islands).

Funding Amount:

Defra funded

A man with sunglasses sits on grass next to a brown dog

Project Summary:

The green leaves of a wych elm treeThe Wych Elm is the only native elm species in the UK and, much like the English Elm or clone of the Field elm, millions of trees have been infected and killed by Dutch elm disease (DED) leaving eerie standing skeletons across the landscape. However, even in the most infected areas, individual trees still survive, indicating that resilience to DED exists.

During this fellowship, Dr Euan Bowditch will focus on identifying and collecting samples from surviving wych elms in three areas of Scotland, including the Borders and Highlands where the repeated intensive spread of DED has occurred, as well as the Scottish Islands that safeguard isolated populations that remain untouched by DED.

Over 300 surviving and infected sprouting trees will be sampled and genetically analysed from these areas using microsatellite markers to understand the genetic diversity and similarity of the species across the landscape, identify the potential resilience of different populations, and establish any similar traits between surviving trees.

Additionally, techniques will be learnt for breeding and reproducing elms by mixing resilient individuals together to naturally regenerate over time, to help the creation of resilient seed banks for local restoration.

Alongside this scientific exploration of resilience, Dr Euan Bowditch will produce a children’s book to raise awareness of the elm and highlight ways in which citizen scientists from all over the country can become involved in the elm hunt.


Dr Euan Bowditch is a Researcher – Forestry & social ecology at the University of the Highlands and Islands. His background is in forest management, which combines diverse practical experience with ongoing education and professional development. Including a B.Sc (Hons) in Forest and Woodland Management from University of Central Lancashire (Newton Rigg), a Masters in Environmental Law from Nottingham University and a Ph.D in Forestry and ecosystem approaches from Aberdeen University (UHI). He has worked in the forest sector in Guatemala, USA, Portugal and Germany, which focused upon the role of forest management in community and urban forestry projects. Dr Bowditch is a qualified arborist (ISA Cert) with strong links to municipal management, social outreach and enterprise projects.

Twitter: @Splendidtrees


STATUS: Ongoing

Project Lead

Dr Euan Bowditch, University of the Highlands and Islands


Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh