Photo of Dr Emma Pilgrim

Dr Emma Pilgrim

Research Fellow


+44 (0) 1392 725011

Lazenby House 1.01

I am an interdisciplinary scientist with over 15 years’ experience in field ecology, and a long-standing interest in innovative public engagement.

I am particularly interested in alternative methods of food production which led to my BBSRC sponsored Daphne Jackson Fellowship. This was an interdisciplinary project with Professors Juliet Osborne (Environment and Sustainability Institute, Penryn) and Michael Winter (Land, Environment, Economics and Policy Institute (LEEP), Politics, Streatham).


For an updated list of my publications please visit my ESI homepage

Research interests

My interest lies in alternative approaches to food production such as Forest Gardens. These tree based agricultural systems, have been developed in the Tropics for over 12,000 years. There, known as Home Gardens, they are established close to people’s homes and typically managed to provide numerous social, economic and environmental benefits. The majority of crops in the system are perennials, grown over several levels. This predominance of perennial plants is believed to result in less maintenance, soil disturbance and fertiliser, than annual crops thereby reducing the system’s environmental impact.

Robert Hart first introduced his temperate Forest Garden concept, based on the home garden approach, into the UK in the 1980’s. Subsequently it has been gaining popularity here among the public as a more sustainable form of food production. However there was little if any research on multi-layered agroforestry in temperate climates which led to my Daphne Jackson Fellowship, funded by the BBSRC. My interest lay in looking at potential benefits of these systems in the UK for society, wildlife and raspberry. This work has furthered my interest into how communtiy based food production systems influence human health and well-being.

Other information

Member of the British Ecological Society’s Public Engagement Working Group


External impact and engagement

During my time at Exeter University I have achieved the following:

Being invited to be a Fellow of the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts Manufactures and Commerce

Being an invited member of the British Ecological Society’s (BES) Chelsea Flower Show 2017 Steering Group.Assisted in their 2017 garden design and planning which won a Bronze Medal.

Being Invited by Einstein’s Garden to be part of their 2016 Greenman Festival exhibit.  The event, the Edible Forest was re-delivered at the Royal Cornwall Show and subsequently promoted by local media (2017)

Being a Welcome Trust Crunch Ambassador, discussing our food’s origins with infant school children (2016)

Being invited to be School Liaison Officer for the Friends of the Byes, Sidmouth (2016).

Being invited to write an article for the Eden Project’s Green Spaces booklet (2015).

Being invited to join Food Forest Research International’s Steering Group (2015).

Being invited to write a blog for the BES’s Forest Ecology Special Interest Group’s (2014).

Being invited to join the Royal Society of Biology led Returners to Biosciences Focus Group. (2013 – 2016).  


I read an Animal and Plant Biology degree at the University of Leeds before studying for a Ph.D. at Silwood Park, Imperial College. After completing my thesis I became People for Plants Officer for the wild plant charity Plantlife, where I ran their citizen science projects. This included designing and promoting their 2003 Bluebells for Britain survey. However the lure of research beckoned and I moved to Devon to work as a researcher for Rothamsed Research. After taking maternity leave I took a career break before obtaining my Daphne Jackson Fellowship. I am now a Research Fellow in the Centre for Rural Policy and Research.