My academic research

Over the course of my academic career I have developed an interest in ecology, carbon and nitrogen biochemical cycles, data analysis and modelling, and complex statistical techniques. This has motivated me to gain a broad knowledge of these topics and acquire a multifaceted and multilingual scientific background. I have been awarded with prestigious fellowships that secured funding and allowed me to pursue my ideas and build my own projects. I have a strong network of international collaborators and have lead work teams. I hold an excellent record of scientific publications in leading and high impact journals. My research has been transferred to industry and used by decision makers.


I completed my degree as a Forest Engineer in Madrid, Spain, with Distinction. Succeeding, I was awarded with a fellowship to complete my self-designed PhD project: the study of spatial organization and ecology of tree species in tropical montane cloud forests; one of the most endangered and less known ecosystems on earth. I went to the Andes and carried out a detailed inventory followed by exhaustive analyses. I oversaw my field work design, thesis organization, and a field work team. My study was the first explaining organization of cloud forest species and identifying the conditions required to regenerate, essential knowledge to protect or restore the ecosystem. Along with the ecological insights, I developed new statistical tools that are now being used in other ecological studies. My thesis was awarded a Cum Laude.

During my first postdoctoral position I collaborated on the Liana Ecology project, funded by the Smithsonian Research Institute. That study identified, for the first time, the mechanisms that determine liana diversity and distribution within forests. This short position allowed me to expand my network internationally and I have continued to collaborate with researchers I met here on future projects. It also demonstrated my capacity to immerse myself in new topics and teach myself new statistical methods and helped me start developing the practice of open source coding.

After, I was awarded the prestigious Marie-Curie fellowship, where I used a novel statistical approach to shed light on our understanding of carbon accumulation and carbon dynamics in tropical forests. This knowledge is highly timely given the current debate over whether tropical forest will be a sink or a source of carbon in the future. During that study I noticed a misleading estimation about root biomass and contacted leading researchers, with who I carried out the first study of root:shoot variation on individual trees at a global scale. The improvement of biomass estimation methods has direct applications in programs and policies such REDD+.

In recent years I expanded my field of research from forest to agroforest and agricultural lands. I also started to develop mechanistic models, like the Perennials-GHG. This is the first model that estimated greenhouse gas emissions from perennial crops such as coffee or vineyards in depth. I am recoding this model in python so that it can be incorporated into the Cool Farm Tool, one of the main carbon footprint calculators available in the market. This is a direct transfer from my research to the industry. During this period, I noticed a lack of effective knowledge about the effect of perennial crops on soil carbon. For bridging this gap, I created and published the first global database on the topic, leading and coordinating a group of more than 20 leading international researchers. Subsequently, I carried out a meta-analysis to understand global trends on changes in carbon under perennial crops and fit a model to predict changes in sol carbon stocks at a global scale. For the first time, there is robust evidence that under proper management, perennial crops can help storing carbon in the soil, while delivering food or goods. This is a key finding and I am working on a publishing the results.

All the above demonstrates that I am a highly qualified researcher and experienced decision maker with a wide range of skills. I am a motivated team player with the ability to work on my own initiative.





Alicia Ledo