‘Rhodocop’ awarded J D R and Gwyneth Thomas Fund prize

From left: Dr Iwan Gittins Owen, Gruffydd Lloyd Jones and Dylan Jones.

07 March 2018

An Aberystwyth University researcher who is looking for ways of controlling rampant rhododendron is the first recipient of a rural science and economy scholarship.

Gruffydd Lloyd Jones, who is studying for a PhD in Ecology at the Institute of Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences (IBERS), has been awarded the Cronfa J D R and Gwyneth Thomas Fund prize.

The award has been established by J D R Thomas, Professor of Chemistry at Cardiff University, and his late wife Gwyneth, in memory of Prof Thomas’ father John Thomas, who studied Agriculture at Aberystwyth.

The fund offers a prize of £500 over an academic year to support a Welsh-speaking Aberystwyth University postgraduate student studying rural science or the rural economy.

Gruffydd, who is originally from Pwllheli, said: “It is an honour to be awarded the Cronfa J D R and Gwyneth Thomas Fund prize. These funds will be valuable not only in supporting me in continuing my studies, but also in supporting vital research to preserve Wales’ biodiversity.”

Gruffydd’s research project aims to find ways to control the aggressive spread of rhododendron plants in Wales, and has been dubbed ‘Rhodocop’.

Wales’ biodiversity is under threat from this alien invader according to Gruffydd who is passionate about his research.

“Coming from a farming background, I have first-hand experience of the effects rhododendron overgrowth can have on land-use and livestock health”, he said.

Gruffydd’s research aims to slow down the spread of rhododendron growth by making the soil unwelcome for new seeds to germinate and establish in the future.

Dr Iwan Gittins Owen, lecturer in Agriculture at IBERS and one of the award judges, said: “The J D R and Gwyneth Thomas Fund represents a valuable and unique opportunity for Welsh language students to apply for additional support to continue their postgraduate studies and research in rural science and the economy.”

“The calibre of applications was very high indeed which is testament to the wealth of scientific and academic talent we have here at Aberystwyth University”.

Talking about Gruffydd’s research Dr Owen added: “This is an emerging area of study that will benefit from this additional support from the fund.”

Dylan Jones from Aberystwyth University’s Development & Alumni Relations team said: “We are deeply grateful to J D R Thomas for his continued support of our students and the University.”

“His philanthropy is inspiring, not only in terms of the ambitions he has to make a difference to the students and the departments, but also in his and late wife Gwyneth’s initial wish and generosity to establish the fund in honour of their deep family connection with Aber.”

“As a university founded on philanthropic support over 145 years ago, Aberystwyth is uniquely privileged to enjoy the continued support of our alumni and friends from around the world, and we look forward to sharing the impact achieved through this award with Professor Thomas and all our supporters.”