Elspeth Macdonald

Lecturer and Researcher content

Lecturer and Researcher

I studied forestry at the University of Aberdeen, obtaining a BSc (Hons) in 1989 and an MSc by research in 1991 (thesis topic was “Effects of Fertiliser Application on the Wood Quality of Sitka Spruce”). I joined the Forestry Commission in 1990 and worked initially in forest districts in North Scotland, mainly on the management of harvesting and marketing operations. In 1997 I joined Forest Research to establish a new programme of research in the area of silviculture and timber quality. Over the following 17 years I worked on a range of projects relating to the assessment and prediction of wood and timber properties of the main commercial conifer species grown in the UK, and the use of timber in construction. Many of these projects involved close collaboration with both the forest management and wood-processing sectors of the forest industry in the UK. I also worked on a number of European Union funded collaborative projects, with partners in Finland, Sweden, Norway, France, Germany and Italy. During this period I also spent 18 months seconded to the Forestry Contracting Association to work on a number of timber transport projects, including establishing the Timber Transport Forum.

Email: Elspeth.Macdonald.ic@uhi.ac.uk

Courses Taught

I have worked at Inverness College since 2014, in a role which combines teaching at the Scottish School of Forestry with forestry and timber research.

I teach students on the HND Forestry programme across a range of courses including Forest Science, Forest Harvesting, Forest Mensuration, Forestry Operations: Work Programming, Forestry Graded Unit 1 and Forest Industries: Market Evaluation. In all of these courses there is an opportunity to integrate recent research information and introduce students to innovative technology and software, including decision support systems (such as Ecological Site Classification) developed to support sustainable forest management. I am also working with colleagues on the development of new modules to be included in the BSc Honours degree programme.

In my research role I am working with colleagues to develop and strengthen forestry research activities within Inverness College, and to develop research-teaching linkages. My current research focus is on the genetic variation of wood properties in Sitka spruce, which is the topic of my part-time PhD studies. Other recent research includes a Forestry Commission Scotland funded project on the status of elm in the Highlands and the development of management responses to Dutch elm disease. In addition I am leading Inverness College’s participation in a consortium (with partners in Sweden, Finland and Ireland) that is developing a bid for EU funding for a project aimed at improving business skills and competitiveness in the forestry contracting sector .

Professional memberships

  • Member of the Institute of Chartered Foresters


  • Planning and management of silvicultural and harvesting operations
  • Wood science and technology, wood processing and the use of timber in sustainable construction
  • Developing and managing research projects


  • Genetic variation in wood properties
  • The influence of climate, site factors and silvicultural practices on wood and timber properties
  • The use of timber in sustainable construction

Current research

Improving the mechanical properties of Sitka spruce through selection and breeding (with Forest Research and the University of Aberdeen – part-time PhD project)

Elm in the Highlands: current status and potential management responses to Dutch elm disease. (funded by Forestry Commission Scotland)

Forest Business Innovation and Advancement in the Northern Periphery (application submitted to the EU Northern Periphery and Arctic Programme - funding decision in March 2017)

Past research

Scots pine timber quality and utilisation (funded by the EU Northern Periphery Programme, Forestry Commission, Scottish Enterprise and Highlands and Islands Enterprise)

Timber quality from complex stand structures (Funded by Forestry Commission and the Scottish Forestry Trust)

The use of timber in sustainable construction (Funded by Forestry Commission Scotland)

Compression wood in conifers (Funded by Forestry Commission and the European Union 5th Framework programme)

Stem straightness in Sitka spruce (Funded by Forestry Commission, the Scottish Forestry Trust, Scottish Woodlands Ltd., Tilhill Forestry Ltd. and the United Kingdom Forest Products Association)

Elspeth MacDonald