Stuart A’Hara

BSc, MSc, PhD

Related research

Research topic

Genetic conservation

This project conducts research on adaptive and neutral genetic variation in our native tree species and woodland dwelling organisms. The results of the work contribute to the development of appropriate policy relating to future resilience of our native woodlands.

Status: Current


  • Genetics
Research topic


Forest Research is collaborating with several organisations in order to harness this novel DNA approach for a range of applications in which monitoring of forest biodiversity is required.

Status: Current


  • Ecosystem services

Genetic Conservation

  • Monitoring presence of bird and mammal species using molecular markers designed for use with faecal samples.
  • Development and application of microsatellite DNA markers in Twinflower (Linnae borealis) and squirrel.
  • Supporting Forest Reproductive Material (FRM) regulations for black poplar and aspenby identification of clones used in propagation.
  • Genetic investigation of Pine-tree Lappet moth using mitochondrial sequence data and microsatellite markers.

Selection and testing of conifers
Responsible for development of Marker Assisted Selection program in Sitka spruce, including the generation of a Sitka genetic linkage map and QTL discovery for commercial traits of interest.

Involved with NovelTree EU project (2008-2012) which aimed to mobilise and integrate European scientific research and resources on forest tree genetics to (i) develop genomic tools for plant breeding, efficient gene isolation, and optimised exploitation of genetic resources and (ii) demonstrate novel/improved methods to breed trees with improved quality and quantity parameters. This work continued in the EU funded PROCOGEN project (2012-2015). Currently, involved with the BBRSC funded Sitka Spruced project and the PuRpOsE oak health WP2.

Related publications

Research Note

Conservation of black poplar: insights from a DNA fingerprinting approach

Black poplar is Great Britain’s rarest native hardwood and there is considerable interest in conserving the genetic diversity present in the remaining population. However, multiplication by vegetative propagation has led…


  • Genetics
Peer reviewed papers

The genetic consequences of long term habitat fragmentation on a self-incompatible clonal plant, Linnaea borealis L.

Study finds twinflower in Scotland exhibits genetic effects of chronic population fragmentationHabitat fragmentation is widely thought to contribute to the decline of plant species. In part, this is due to…


  • Genetics

Barsoum, N., A’Hara, S., Cottrell, J. and Green, S. (2018) Using DNA barcoding and metabarcoding to detect species and improve forest biodiversity monitoring. Forestry Commission Research Note 32. Forestry Commission, Edinburgh.

Moore R, Cottrell J, A’Hara S and Ray D. (2017) Pine-tree lappet moth (Dendrolimus pini) in Scotland: Discovery, timber movement controls and assessment of risk. Scottish Forestry 71 (2), 34-43.

Kubasiewicz, L M, Quine, C P, Summers, R W, Coope, R, Cottrell, J E, A’Hara, S W and Park, K J. (2017) Non-invasive genotyping and spatial mark-recapture methods to estimate European pine marten density in forested landscapes. HYSTRIX - The Italian Journal of Mammalogy. Accepted for publication.

P. M. Evans, A. C. Newton, E. Cantarello, P. Martin, N. Sanderson, D. L. Jones, N. Barsoum, J. E. Cottrell, S. W. A'Hara, L. Fuller 2017 Thresholds of biodiversity and ecosystem function in a forest ecosystem undergoing dieback. Scientific Reports 7(1) DOI: 10.1038/s41598-017-06082-6

Tree Genetics & Genomes 13:33 (2017): QTL analysis and genomic selection using RADseq derived markers in Sitka spruce: the potential utility of within family data. P. Fuentes-Utrilla, C. Goswami, J. E. Cottrell, R. Pong-Wong, A. Law, S. W. A’Hara, S. J. Lee Email and J. A. Woolliams

Reconstructing the plant mitochondrial genome for marker discovery: a case study using Pinus (2016). Donnelly K, Cottrell J, Ennos RA, Vendramin GG, A'Hara S, King S, Perry A, Wachowiak W and Cavers S. Molecular Ecology Resources, doi: 10.1111/1755-0998.12646

M. Coleman, S.W. A’Hara, P.R. Tomlinson, and P.J. Davey Elm clone identification and the conundrum of the slow spread of Dutch Elm Disease on the Isle of Man.New Journal of Botany Vol. 6 , Iss. 2-3,2016

Duncan S. Procter, Joan E. Cottrell, Kevin Watts, Stuart W. A’Hara, Michael Hofreiter and Elva J. H. Robinson Does cooperation mean kinship between spatially discrete ant nests? Ecology & Evolution DOI: 10.1002/ece3.2590

Konnert, M., Fady, B., Gömöry, D., A’Hara, S., Wolter, F., Ducci, F., Koskela, J., Bozzano, M., Maaten, T. and Kowalczyk, J. 2015 Use and transfer of forest reproductive material in Europe in the context of climate change. Publ. European Forest Genetic Resources Programme (EUFORGEN), Bioversity International, Rome, Italy. ISBN 10: 978-92-9255-031-8

R. Axel W. Wiberg, Andrew R. Scobie, Stuart W. A'Hara, Richard A. Ennos, Joan E. Cottrell. (2016) The genetic consequences of long term habitat fragmentation on a self-incompatible clonal plant, Linnaea borealis L. Biological Conservation. Volume 201 Pages 405–413.

Pankhurst M., A'Hara S. and Cottrell J. (2015). The Fraternal Four. British Wildlife Vol 26 No.3

A’Hara S., Samuel S. and Cottrell J. (2009) The role of DNA-fingerprinting in the conservation of the native Black Poplar. British Wildlife Vol 21 No.2

Charlotte Bickler, Stuart A’Hara, Joan Cottrell, Lucy Rogers & Jon Bridle 2013. Characterisation of thirteen polymorphic microsatellite markers for cowslip (Primula veris L.) developed using a 454 sequencing approach. Conservation Genet Resources 5:1135-1137.

S A'Hara & J Cottrell 2013. Development and characterisation of ten polymorphic microsatellite markers for the pine-tree lappet moth Dendrolimus pini (Lepidoptera: Lasiocampidae). Conservation Genetics Resources 5: 1135-1137.

Tytti Vanhala, Kevin Watts, Stuart A’Hara & Joan Cottrell 2014 Population genetics of Formica aquilonia wood ants in Scotland: the effects of long-term forest fragmentation and recent reforestation. Conservation Genetics DOI 10.1007/s10592-014-0584-1

A’Hara, S.W., Scobie, A.R., Broome, A., Long, D. & Cottrell, J.E. (2011). Development of microsatellite markers in twinflower (Linnaea borealis L.), a rare Scottish pinewood plant. Molecular Ecology Resources 12(1):185-9.

A'Hara, Stuart W. & Cottrell, Joan Elizabeth (2009). Development of a set of highly polymorphic genomic microsatellites (gSSRs) in Sitka spruce (Picea sitchensis (Bong.) Carr.). Molecular Breeding, 23, 349-355.

A’Hara, S., Hancock, M., Piertney S. B.and Cottrell J.E. (2009). The development of a real-time PCR assay to distinguish droppings of black grouse (Tetrao tetrix) from those of capercaillie (Tetrao urogallus) and red grouse (Lagopus lagopus scoticus). Wildlife Biology, Vol. 15, Issue 3, 328-337.

Green, S., Laue, B., Gunnar-Fossdal, C., A’Hara,and S., Cottrell, J. (2008). Quantitative real-time PCR detection of Pseudomonas syringae pv. aesculi in Horse Chestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum). Plant Pathology (2009) 58, 731–744.

A'Hara, S.W. and Cottrell, J.E (2007). Characterization of a suite of 40 EST-derived microsatellite markers for use in Sitka Spruce (Picea sitchensis (Bong.) Carr). Slivae Genetica.56 (3-4) p. 138-141

Lee, S.J. and A'Hara, S. (2006). Marker Aided Selection in Sitka. Forestry and British Timber: 35(1), January 2006, 14-16.

Keary, K., A'Hara, S., Whitaker, H. and Cottrell, J. (2005). Assessment of genetic variation in black poplar in Ireland using microsatellites. Irish Forestry: 62, 6-18.

A’Hara, S. and Cottrell, J.E. (2004). A set of microsatellite markers for use in Sitka Spruce (Picea sitchensis) developed from Picea glauca EST sequences. Molecular Ecology Notes 4(4), 659-663.

Schmid, M., Nandra, I., Guttenbach, M., Steinlein, C., Hoehn, H., Schartl, M., Haaf, T., Weigend, S., Fries, R., Buerstedde, J.M., Wimmers, K., Burt, D.W., Smith, J., A’Hara, S. et al. (2000). First report on chicken genes and chromosomes 2000. Cytogenetics and Cell Genetics 90 (3-4) 169-218.

A’Hara, S., Harling, R. and McKinlay, R. (2000). Application of molecular marker technology in practise: population structure in the spiders Lepthyphantes tenuis and Enoplognatha ovata. Proceedings of the Workshop on Molecular Marker Techniques, CIPM, Institut Pertanian Bogor, Indonesia.

A’Hara, S. and Burt, D. (1999). SNPs in Poultry. Proceedings of the Second International Meeting on Single Nucleotide Polymorphism and Complex Geneome Analysis.

A’Hara, S., Harling, R. and McKinlay, R. (1998). RAPD profiling of spider (Aranea) DNA. Journal of Arachnology, 26, 397-400.

Fenton, B., Malloch, G., Jones, A.T., Armine, J.W., Gordon, S.C., A’Hara, S., McGavin, W.J. and Birch, A.N.E. (1995). Species identification of Cecidophyopsis Mites (Acari, Eriophyidea) from different Ribes Species and countries using molecular genetics. Molecular Ecology 4(3), 383-387.