School of Natural and Environmental Sciences

Staff Profile

Dr Marion Pfeifer

Lecturer in Ecology, Conservation & Management


I am a statistical ecologist with complementary skills in remote sensing and an active research programme on biodiversity and biophysical structure underpinning ecosystem services in forest-savannah landscapes of the tropics.

Google Scholar Page, Academia page 

Brief CV


Academic employment
2012-2015: Research Associate in Landscape Ecology; Imperial College London, UK
2011-2012: Consultant in Remote Sensing and Ecology; University of York, UK
2009-2011: Marie Curie Intra-European Fellow - ‘ECODYNAMIC-AFRICA; University of York, UK
2007-2009: German Research Foundation Fellow - ‘MODGLOB’; University of Potsdam, Germany
2006:  DAAD Fellow; University College London, UK

2002-2005: Ph.D. Biology (University of Jena, Germany)
1998-2002: M.Sc. (hons) Biology (University of Jena, Germany), Thesis “Spatial distribution pattern of pioneer and non-pioneer tree species in a dry tropical forest of Northern Queensland (Australia)”


Service as Reviewer – Scientific journals (partial list)
Progress in Physical Geography; Biological Conservation; Conservation Biology; African Journal of Ecology; Environment, Development and Sustainability; Evolutionary Ecology; Forest Ecology and Management; Insect Conservation and Diversity; Journal of Biogeography; Journal of Ecology; Journal of Tropical Ecology; Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B; PLOS One; Remote Sensing of Environment

Service as Reviewer – Books
Oxford University Press

2015-Present: Review Editor, Frontiers in Ecology and Biogeography
2015-Present: Website Editor, the Global LAI project:
2013-Present: Website Editor, BIOFRAG project:


Research funding
2015: Co-Applicant; Research Priming Fund at University of York: “Forest Restoration and Climate Experiment (FoRCE)”; £15,000
2015: Named Researcher; British Ecological Society Travel Grant; “Measuring biophysical structure from the edge to the core in coastal forests”; £10,000
2013: Named Researcher; Marie-Curie Intra-European Fellowship Award; “ASEC-Dryland-Forests: Avoiding the socio-ecological collapse of remnant forests in the desert: the case study of Marsabit, Kenya”; €180,000
2009: Principal Investigator; Marie-Curie Intra-European Fellowship Award; “ECODYNAMIC-AFRICA: Tropical forests in East Africa: biodiversity and ecosystem function”; €180,000
2007: Principal Investigator; Research Grant by German Research Foundation (DFG); “MODGLOB: Modelling species' environmental envelopes and prediction of species' response to global change”; €140,000
2006: Principal Investigator; European Science Foundation Travel Grant to work with Dr Pico (CSIC, Seville, Spain; “Conservation genetics: Genetic diversity of Himantoglossum hircinum”; €1,500
2006: Principal Investigator; Fellowship Award by German Academic Exchange Service to work with Dr Disney and Prof Lewis (Remote Sensing Lab, University College London); “ASARVE: 3D modelling of Sitka spruce - Relating canopy structure to terrestrial carbon studies”; €18,000
2004: Principal Investigator; LUBOM - Women in Science Grant; €2,100
2004: Principal Investigator; DFG - Travel Grant for Conferences; €1,000
2002: Principal Investigator; PhD Support Award (2 years) by the Thuringian Government; €19,200


2015:  Paper covered by Nature (Research Highlight) and Mongabay News
2015:  Interviewed by New Scientist for article on wildlife fencing in Kenya
2013:  Paper covered by Nature, environmental blogs, BBC News, and Science
2012:  Paper covered by Mongabay and news agencies, including Reuters Norway
2012:  Report on ‘land grabs’ in the Omo River Delta (Ethiopia) has been taken up for the video presentation ‘Lower Omo: Local Tribes under Threat’ by the Oakland Institute
2012-present: Majority of my recent papers published in Open Access funded through Imperial College London Library
2012-present: Tweeting on environmental change topics


Understanding biodiversity responses to fragmentation (BIOFRAG) project (
* Principal Investigator of project that involves more than 50 researchers around the world
* Database going online soon
* Project to be presented as invited talk at European Ecological Federation Congress in Rome, Symposium: “Patterns and processes in tropical forests”, 2015
* Project presented as invited Seminar talk at University of Stirling, 2014

Tropical Canopies - the Global LAI project (
* Principal Investigator of project that involves more than 20 researchers: ecologists and remote sensing scientists
* Understand climate and disturbance dependencies of biophysical structure in tropical ecosystems
* Network for data sharing and analysis
* Metadata of project accessible online

Land Use Forum London (
* Co-Founder of this Knowledge Exchange Network
* Particularly aimed at students

Organisation and convening of workshops and conference symposia
2014: Organiser and Convenor of workshop; “Linking plot and satellite data at SAFE”/ Ascot/ UK
2014: Session Chair; “Science@SAFE” meeting/ Ascot/ UK/ sponsored by SAFE
2014: Organiser of 5-days capacity training workshop; “Vegetation from Space and From the Ground”. Based in Nairobi. 16 participants (14 from developing countries)/ Nairobi/ Kenya/ Sponsored by ICIPE CHIESA.
2013: Organiser of 5-days capacity training workshop; “Vegetation from Space and From the Ground”. Based in Nairobi. 17 participants (16 from developing countries)/ Nairobi/ Kenya/ Sponsored by ICIPE CHIESA
2012-2013: Co-Organiser Silwood Seminar Series/ Ascot/ UK
2012: Co-Organiser and Session Chair; “Science@SAFE” meeting/ Ascot/ UK/ sponsored by SAFE
2006: Co-Organiser and Session Chair; “Plant Population Ecology and Global Change”; GFOE Meeting/ Marburg/ Germany
2004: Co-Organiser and Session Chair; “Winter Symposium at Institute of Ecology”; University of Jena/ Jena/ Germany

Training Research Assistants
2014:  Training RAs in sampling and processing deadwood for estimates of deadwood density, Stability of Altered Forest Ecosystem Project/ Borneo/ Malaysia
2013:  Training students in measuring tropical vegetation canopies, WWF Tanzania REDD+/ Nairobi/ Kenya
2011:  Training student in measuring tropical vegetation canopies, WWF Tanzania REDD+/ Morogoro/ Tanzania

Invited conference presentations
2016 (forthcoming) Invited speaker; “Managing oil palm landscapes”, European Conference of Tropical Ecology/ Goettingen/ Germany
2015  Invited speaker; “Patterns and processes in tropical forest ecology”, 13th European Ecological Federation (EEF) Congress/ Rome/ Italy
2015  Invited speaker; “Forests”, Remote Sensing and Photogrammetry Society (RSPSoc) 2015 Annual Conference/ Southampton/ UK
2014 Keynote speaker; “Tropical Ecosystems - from process to policy” meeting, University of York, sponsored by British Ecological Society/ York/ UK
2014 Invited speaker; “Science@SAFE” meeting, sponsored by SAFE/ Ascot/ UK
2013 Invited speaker; “Science@SAFE”, sponsored by SAFE Project/Ascot/ UK
2013 Invited speaker; “Buffer zones and land use change around protected areas: connecting socio-economic and ecological systems”, International Congress for Conservation Biology/ Baltimore/ US

Invited research seminars
2014: University of Stirling, Biological & Environmental Sciences Research Seminar Series/ Stirling/ UK
2013: Imperial College London, Department of Life Sciences/ London/ UK
2012:  National Museums Kenya/ Nairobi/ Kenya


My research quantifies and predicts ecological responses to anthropogenic and climatic drivers from local to global scales. In particular, I focus on measurements and modelling at appropriate scales to develop conservation and land management strategies for socio-ecological tropical landscapes (Ecol. Evol. 2015, Rem. Sens. 2015). I have set up two global initatives: the LAI project and the BIOFRAG project.

I have extensively used earth observation (EO) data, which I reviewed for vegetation applications (Glob. Ecol. Biogeogr. 2012), with ecological field data to quantify deforestation, drivers and leakage in East Africa (PLOS One 2012, Environ. Cons. 2013) and Borneo, and responses of vegetation canopy structure to rainfall and human pressure (Rem. Sen. Environ. 2012, Rem Sens. 2014, Rem. Sens. Environ. 2015). More recently, I have led (Science 2014) and contributed to (Glob. Environ. Change 2013, Ecol. Lett. 2014 a, b) publications on conflicts arising when ‘wilderness areas’ meet human resource demands. I am also involved in research projects looking at forest regeneration in tropical African landscapes (e.g. working with Dr Marshall, University of York, in the Udzungwa Mountains in Tanzania in a project funded as pilot by the University of York; working with Dr Olivier, University of Pretoria, on coastal forests in South Africa funded as pilot by the British Ecological Society) from a scientific perspective and from a management perspective.

The global BIOFRAG project ( Understanding biodiversity responses to fragmentation”. A global network and database compiling primary data on biodiversity measurements in fragmented landscapes. The network currently comprises more than 50 researchers globally. I am collaborating with Prof Watling (John Carroll University) and with Prof Chase (German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig) to look at different aspects of that biodiversity response in more detail. The set up of the project was funded through the ERC TERRAGEN grant.

The Tropical Canopies (LAI) project ( I have set up the global Leaf Area Index (LAI)  database on tropical biophysical structure and the global BIOFRAG project  on biodiversity responses to forest fragmentation.  I am PI of two European Space Agency projects and currently co-leads two subprojects at the Stability of Altered Forest Ecosystems (SAFE) project within the ecosystem processes module: ‘Biophysical vegetation traits’ and ‘Linking plot and satellite data’. I have been measuring biophysical structure in natural and anthropogenic biomes across East and South Africa in fieldwork campaigns between 2010 and 2015. I developed a standard protocol for measuring tropical canopies in the field, which is now used in research projects across tropical landscapes (e.g. collaborators have been measuring at SAFE, in South America, in Gabon, in Indonesia, in South Africa and in Thailand).

Capacity Training: During the last three years, I have worked with international NGO- and university-led ecosystem service projects in East Africa (Climate Change Impacts on Ecosystem Services and Food Security in Eastern Africa: CHIESA, WWF Tanzania REDD+) providing remote sensing and ecological advise and capacity training (during two workshops in Nairobi). I also held a workshop at the University of Pretoria in July 2015.

Google Scholar Profile


Lectures in BIO2028 (Biodiversity and Conservation).

Tutoring in Bio1010 (Biology in Action)

Lectures & workshop in Bio3039 (Biodiversity Science and Management)

Project supervision:

'Residential Field Course' (Kielder Forest, UK)

MSc projects: BIO8060 (Wildlife Research Projects)

Undergraduate projects: BIO3197 , BIO3198, BIO3199 (Literature reviews, Information projects, Research projects)