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Dr Yoseph Araya

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Professional biography

Dr Yoseph Araya, is a Senior Lecturer in Ecology & Environmental Sciences within the Ecosystems and Biodiversity Research discipline. 

Contact: Yoseph [dot] Araya [at] open [dot] ac [dot] uk

Research interests

My particular research interest is in the functional relationships between plants and their environment (particularly water and nutrients). I especially enjoy integrating experimental studies with field investigations. I also am an enthusiastic communicator of science and environmental education.

Some projects I have been involved include:

  • Soil Moisture gradients and biodiversity in the Cape Flora, Western Cape, South Africa: looking at niche segregation, plant coexistence, ecohydrological management, evolution of plant diversity; as well as plant and soil micobial diversity relationships e.g. UK, Spain

  • Environmental education for the public and engagement in science, including Citizen Science on water, plants, hedges ... e.g. iSpot and in more formal way paraecologists

  • Quantitative Ecology i.e. querying plant record databases for trends and also collaborating with statisticians to test new methods e.g. Foodplain Meadows management

  • Valuing of Ecosystem Services for multiple purposes and stakeholders for sustainable wholistic environmental management - as part of wholistic evaluation

  • ​Macadamia tree growth and nut production in response to provenance, agroclimatic zone and management practices with Neno Macadamia Trust and Emmanuel Zuza Jr. Here is an excellent outreach video with Emmanuel describing an aspect of his project (

  • Microplastics in soil is a project looking at their fate and impact in the environment, working with Joanna Jesionkowska, Pallavi Anand  and collaborators in Severn Trent Water.

  • Habitat fragementation and butterfly conservation in urban ecosystems with Willow Neal, Phil Wheeler and collaborators in MK Parks Trust.

Teaching interests

Prior to my role as a central academic, I have been an Associate Lecturer with the OU for a number of years, on various science, ecology and environmental science modules (from undergraduate to postgraduate) across faculties. I teach online, face-to-face and in the field, in addition to supporting research students. I particuarly enjoy modules that bridge across disciplines and involve approaches in technology-enhanced learning.

Some modules i have been involved are: Environmental Science (S206/SXF206), Biology of Survival (S295), Environmental Management (T219), Journey's in a changing Environment (U116), SXE390 (Science Project - Environment strand), Environment responding to change (SDT306). A free taster for SDT306 is entitled as 'Eating for the Environment'.

I write public education blogs at OU's OpenLearn website.

Impact and engagement

I have been priviledged to be an academic consultant and contribute to an OU-BBC production of Green Planet, a 5 episode exploration of how plants survive and support our earth. There is a dedicated website with poster and other articles, with my colleagues Prof. David Gowing and Dr Julia Cooke here: One of the meet the team discussion we had at Northern Ireland's Science Festival is available here: The Power of Plants Event - YouTube

Other programmes include BBC Two's Springwatch 3 week series, where I consulted in 2023 and 2024.

I also participate in mentoring programmes for underrepresented groups with British Ecological Society, Institute for Environmental Science and more recently with the Equator Mentoring Network (funded by NERC).

Another recent project is Walking the Talk (with Dr Marcus Badger, Prof. Clare Warren and others) which aims to understand and encourage outdoor engagement of underrepresented groups. A follow up was Landscape Stories and more recently Mitti Matters.

I am involved in the role of public parks for public health and aging well with Dr Jitka Vseteckova and MK Parks Trust ( and The Parks Trust podcats.

In summer 2022 I coordinated a couple of web workshops on Art-based global sustainbility education with Dr Maria Nita and citizen science training (upskilling) for employment with British Ecological Society. 

Some other events and media clips:

New Scientist Live October 2022 (London): 

Feeding the earth: sustainble food production example from Malawi. Thinking Faith Network

International Development Festival at Open University: International Development and Innovation Research Centre at Open University

About Open University students and minorities: Islam TV

Worktree charity for supporting careers and employment for disadvantaged: Career Snapshot

External collaborations

I have active collaborations with colleagues in other institutions within the UK as well as overseas e.g. Spain, Germany, Malawi, and South Africa.

I am an active and passionate member of our professional body, British Ecological Society and its special interest group of Ecology Teaching and Learning as well as public engagement. 

I am a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy.

I am a trustee of a local NGO: Teach, Learn, Connect (UK registered).

I am a trustee of  The Parks Trust, Milton Keynes.

I am in the advisory board for a citizen science project (South Africa) - "Diamonds in the soles of their feet".

I am in the editorial board for Biofuels, Bioproducts and Biorefining, Carbon Management and Plant Conservation, Studia Botanica.

I am external examiner for MSc in Agroecology at the Royal Agricultural College

Externally funded projects

CENTA2 DTP 2022 Intake
RoleStart dateEnd dateFunding source
Co-investigator01 Oct 202230 Sep 2026NERC Natural Environment Research Council

The Central England NERC Training Alliance (CENTA), is a consortium of research intensive Universities (Open, Birmingham, Leicester, Loughborough, Warwick and Cranfield) and research institutes who together to provide excellence in doctoral research training. CENTA encompasses research activities within three broad themes: Climate and Environmental Sustainability; Organisms and Ecosystems; and Dynamic Earth. The Open University STEM Faculty has match-funded 3 studentships per year throughout the project.

Landscape stories: engaging with environmental science through storytelling
RoleStart dateEnd dateFunding source
Co-investigator25 Jul 202228 Feb 2023NERC Natural Environment Research Council

We will work with a grassroots ethnic minority walking organisation to co-design walking routes that showcase aspects of the geological, landscape and ecological evolution of their local area that specifically link to OU research. This will: • Improve visibility of EES (and EES careers) within diverse communities who are under-represented in EES research • Engage these communities in cutting-edge EES from the Open University • Encourage confidence in walk leaders to communicate the science of the environment to their walk participants. • Train Earth/environmental scientists in mixed-methods approaches to public engagement evaluation

Walking the Walk: Co-producing approaches to diversifying participation in Earth and environmental science education and careers
RoleStart dateEnd dateFunding source
Co-investigator01 Dec 202130 Jun 2022NERC Natural Environment Research Council

For many people working in the environmental sciences today, the first spark of interest in the field came from experiences in nature. Whether walking, hiking or visiting the coast, immersion in the natural world can often plant the seeds of curiosity that lead to a lifelong desire to know more about how and why it works. In the UK, much of the natural “the countryside” is perceived as an overwhelmingly “white” space, hostile to people from non-white backgrounds. Not only does this mean that for many that seed is never planted, but the lack of familiarity with experiences in “the outdoors” means the fieldwork seen as necessary for an environmental education (and commonly required for accredited degree programs) presents a barrier to degree level study. This is a major problem for the field, as environmental impacts such as those driven by climate change affect everyone. Financial, cultural and opportunity barrier to accessing the outdoors, are recognised by both environmental organisations and grassroots groups. This project will bring together environmental scientists and grassroot community groups to tackle barriers in order to make outdoor learning accessible to all. We will test approaches to bring environmental science learning directly to those trying to make the UK countryside a more inclusive environment and learn from the experiences of both environmental scientists and activist groups in spending time immersed in nature.


Farmer preference for macadamia varieties and constraints to production in Malawi (2024)
Zuza, Emmanuel Junior; Araya, Yoseph N.; Maseyk, Kadmiel; Bhagwat, Shonil; Brandenburg, Rick L.; Emmott, Andrew; Rawes, Will; Phiri, Patrick and Kenamu, Edwin
PLoS ONE, 19, Article e0293488(2)

Influence of canopy structural complexity on urban woodland butterfly species richness (2024)
Neal, Willow; Araya, Yoseph and Wheeler, Philip M.
Journal of Insect Conservation ((early access))

Crop species diversity: A key strategy for sustainable food system transformation and climate resilience (2024)
Zuza, Emmanuel Junior; Lambert, Kestrel; Macmillan, Tom; Chiyemura, Frangton; Araya, Yoseph; Bowskill, Vicky; Oluseye, Ayomide; Ng’endo Kanui, Mary; Keding, Gudrun; Butler, Gillian; Breman, Elinor; King, Israel Oliver; Matumba, Limbikani; Heddenhausen, Jessica; Nordin, Stacia and Bhagwat, Shonil
Food and Energy Security, 13, Article e558(3)

Promoting climate-smart sustainable agroforestry to tackle social and environmental challenges: The case of macadamia agroforestry in Malawi (2023-12)
Araya, Yoseph N.; Emmott, Andrew; Rawes, William and Zuza, Emmanuel Junior
Journal of Agriculture and Food Research, 14, Article 100846

One hundred important questions facing plant science: an international perspective (2023-04)
Armstrong, Emily May; Larson, Emily R.; Harper, Helen; Webb, Cerian R.; Dohleman, Frank; Araya, Yoseph; Meade, Claire; Feng, Xiangyan; Mukoye, Benard; Levin, Maureece J.; Lacombe, Benoit; Bakirbas, Ahmet; Cardoso, Amanda A.; Fleury, Delphine; Gessler, Arthur; Jaiswal, Deepak; Onkokesung, Nawaporn; Pathare, Varsha S.; Phartyal, Shyam S.; Sevanto, Sanna A.; Wilson, Ida and Grierson, Claire S.
New Phytologist, 238(2) (pp. 470-481)

Factors affecting soil quality among smallholder macadamia farms in Malawi (2023)
Zuza, Emmanuel Junior; Maseyk, Kadmiel; Bhagwat, Shonil A.; Chemura, Abel; Brandenburg, Rick L.; Emmott, Andrew; Rawes, Will; Hancock, Wayne; Mnthambala, Frank and Araya, Yoseph N.
Agriculture & Food Security, 12(1)

Climate suitability predictions for the cultivation of macadamia (Macadamia integrifolia) in Malawi using climate change scenarios (2021-09-09)
Zuza, Emmanuel Junior; Maseyk, Kadmiel; Bhagwat, Shonil A.; de Sousa, Kauê; Emmott, Andrew; Rawes, William and Araya, Yoseph Negusse
PLOS ONE, 16, Article e0257007(9)

Review of Macadamia Production in Malawi: Focusing on What, Where, How Much Is Produced and Major Constraints (2021-02-12)
Zuza, Emmanuel Junior; Maseyk, Kadmiel; Bhagwat, Shonil; Emmott, Andrew; Rawes, Will and Araya, Yoseph
Agriculture, 11, Article e152(2)

Teaching and learning in ecology: a horizon scan of emerging challenges and solutions (2021-01)
Cooke, Julia; Araya, Yoseph; Bacon, Karen L.; Bagniewska, Joanna M.; Batty, Lesley; Bishop, Tom R.; Burns, Moya; Charalambous, Magda; Daversa, David R.; Dougherty, Liam R.; Dyson, Miranda; Fisher, Adam M.; Forman, Dan; Garcia, Cristina; Harney, Ewan; Hesselberg, Thomas; John, Elizabeth A; Knell, Rob; Maseyk, Kadmiel; Mauchline, Alice L.; Peacock, Julie; Pernetta, Angelo P.; Pritchard, Jeremy; Sutherland, William J.; Thomas, Rebecca L.; Tigar, Barbara; Wheeler, Philip; White, Rachel L.; Worsfold, Nicholas T. and Lewis, Zenobia
Oikos, 130(1) (pp. 15-28)

Does functional soil microbial diversity contribute to explain within-site plant beta-diversity in an alpine grassland and a dehesa meadow in Spain? (2017-09-01)
Araya, Yoseph N.; Bartelheimer, Maik; Valle, Cipriano J.; Crujeiras, Rosa M. and García-Baquero, Gonzalo
Journal of Vegetation Science, 28(5) (pp. 1018-1027)

Beyond ecosystem services: valuing the invaluable (2017-04)
Gunton, Richard M.; van Asperen, Eline; Basden, Andrew; Bookless, David; Araya, Yoseph; Hanson, David R.; Goddard, Mark A.; Otieno, George and Jones, Gareth O.
Trends in Ecology and Evolution, 32(4) (pp. 249-257)

Differences between urban and rural hedges in England revealed by a citizen science project (2016-07-22)
Gosling, Laura; Sparks, Tim H.; Araya, Yoseph; Harvey, Martin and Ansine, Janice
BMC Ecology, 16, Article 15(1) (pp. 45-55)

Contributions of paraecologists and parataxonomists to research, conservation, and social development (2016-06)
Schmiedel, Ute; Araya, Yoseph; Bortolotto, Maria Ieda; Boeckenhoff, Linda; Hallwachs, Winnie; Janzen, Daniel; Kolipaka, Shekhar S.; Novotny, Vojtech; Palm, Matilda; Parfondry, Marc; Smanis, Athanasios and Toko, Pagi
Conservation Biology, 30(3) (pp. 506-519)

Climate Change Impacts on Hydrological Niches of Restionaceae Species in Jonkershoek, South Africa (2016-03-30)
Guo, Danni; Midgley, Guy F.; Araya, Yoseph N.; Silvertown, Jonathan and Musil, Charles F.
Journal of Water Resource & Hydraulic Engineering, 5(1) (pp. 20-28)

Hydrological niches in terrestrial plant communities: a review (2015-01-07)
Silvertown, Jonathan; Araya, Yoseph and Gowing, David
Journal of Ecology, 103(1) (pp. 93-108)

Preparing for an interdisciplinary future: a perspective from early-career researchers (2013-09)
Bridle, Helen; Vrieling, Anton; Cardillo, Monica; Araya, Yoseph and Hinojosa-Valencia, Leonith
Futures, 53 (pp. 22-32)

Does soil nitrogen availability mediate the response of grassland composition to water regime? (2013-05)
Araya, Yoseph N.; Gowing, David J. and Dise, N.
Journal of Vegetation Science, 24(3) (pp. 506-517)

Quantifying soil hydrology to explain the development of vegetation at an ex-arable wetland restoration site (2013-04)
Stroh, Peter A.; Mountford, Owen; Araya, Yoseph N. and Hughes, Francine M. R.
Wetlands, 33(2) (pp. 311-320)

Raising Awareness about Water Issues: The Role of Water Symbolism and Proverbs (2013)
Sindik, Joško and Araya, Yoseph Negusse
Journal of Water Resource and Protection, 5(4A) (pp. 34-39)

Do niche-structured plant communities exhibit phylogenetic conservatism? A test case in an endemic clade (2012-11)
Araya, Yoseph N.; Silvertown, Jonathan; Gowing, David J.; McConway, Kevin J.; Linder, H. P. and Midgley, Guy
Journal of Ecology, 100(6) (pp. 1434-1439)

Experimental investigation of the origin of fynbos plant community structure after fire (2012)
Silvertown, Jonathan; Araya, Yoseph N.; Linder, H. Peter and Gowing, David J.
Annals of Botany, 110(7) (pp. 1377-1383)

A fundamental, eco-hydrological basis for niche segregation in plant communities (2011-01)
Araya, Yoseph N.; Silvertown, Jonathan; Gowing, David J.; McConway, Kevin J.; Linder, H. Peter and Midgley, Guy
New Phytologist, 189(1) (pp. 253-258)

Variation in δ13C among species and sexes in the family Restionaceae along a fine-scale hydrological gradient (2010-11)
Araya, Yoseph; Silvertown, Jonathan; Gowing, David; McConway, Kevin; Linder, Peter and Midgley, Guy
Austral Ecology, 35(7) (pp. 818-824)

Nitrogen mineralization from cabbage crop residue and its uptake efficiency by rye grass (2010-01)
Araya, Yoseph Negusse; De Neve, Stefaan and Hofman, Georges
Acta Agriculturae Scandinavica, Section B - Plant Soil Science, 60(1) (pp. 33-39)

A controlled water-table depth system to study the influence of fine-scale differences in water regime for plant growth (2010-01)
Araya, Yoseph N.; Gowing, David J. and Dise, Nancy
Aquatic Botany, 92(1) (pp. 70-74)

Understanding how water resources shape our flora (2009-06)
Araya, Yoseph and Walker, Nick
Veld and Flora, 95(2) (pp. 96-97)

Linking 'citizen scientists' to professionals in ecological research, examples from Namibia and South Africa (2009)
Araya, Yoseph N.; Schmiedel, Ute and von Witt, Caitlin
Conservation Evidence, 6 (pp. 11-17)

Global public water education: the World Water Monitoring Day experience (2006-12)
Araya, Yoseph Negusse and Moyer, Edward H.
Journal of Applied Environmental Education and Communication, 5(4) (pp. 263-267)

Young peoples' involvement in global water issues (2004-06)
Araya, Yoseph Negusse and Kabakian, Vahakn
Futures, 36(5) (pp. 603-609)

Determination of Hydrological Niche of Restionaceae Species in Silvermine, South Africa (2021-12-11)
Guo, Danni; Arnolds, Judith L.; Midgley, Guy F.; Araya, Yoseph N.; Silvertown, Jonathan and Musil, Charles F.
In: Lo, Kwong Fai Andrew ed. Current Advances in Geography, Environment and Earth Science (pp. 1-12)
ISBN : 978-93-5547-102-4 | Publisher : B P International

Study on Climate Change Impacts on Restionaceae Species in Jonkershoek, South Africa (2021-12-11)
Guo, Danni; Arnolds, Julie; Midgley, Guy; Araya, Yoseph; Silvertown, Jonathan and Musil, Charles
In: Andrew Lo, Kwong-Fai ed. Current Advances in Geography, Environment and Earth Science (pp. 13-27)
ISBN : 978-93-5547-094-2 / 978-93-5547-102-4 | Publisher : B P International | Published : West Bengal, India / London, UK

Using Citizen Science to Raise Public Awareness and Engagement with Water Issues (2020-04)
Araya, Yoseph
In: Maurice, Patricia A. ed. Encyclopedia of Water: Science,Technology and Society
ISBN : 978-1-119-30075-5 | Publisher : John Wiley & Sons Inc. (In Press)

Hydrosphere (2020-04)
Araya, Yoseph
In: Maurice, Patricia A. ed. Encyclopedia of Water: Science,Technology and Society
ISBN : 978-1-119-30075-5 | Publisher : John Wiley & Sons Inc.

Agriculture and food (2015-07)
Araya, Yoseph; Dorward, Andrew; Gideon, Jasmine; Kock, Richard; Smith, Laurence and Waage, Jeff
In: Waage, Jeff and Yap, Chris eds. Thinking Beyond Sectors for Sustainable Development (pp. 45-50)
ISBN : 978-1-909188-42-6 | Publisher : Ubiquity Press | Published : London

Evolution of hydrological niches in Restionaceae: a project update (2008)
Araya, Y. N.; Silvertown, J.; Linder, H. P; Gowing, D. J.; Midgley, G. F. and McConway, K. J.
In: Mucina, L.; Kalwij, J. M.; Smith, V. R.; Chytry, M.; White, P. S.; Cilliers, S. S.; Pillar, V. D.; Zobel, M. and Sun, I-Fang eds. Frontiers of Vegetation Science - An evolutionary angle (pp. 15-16)
ISBN : 9780958476690 | Publisher : Keith Phillips Images | Published : Somerset West

Ecology of Water Relations in Plants (2007-03)
Araya, Yoseph Negusse and Garcia-Baquero, Gonzalo
In: Encyclopaedia of life sciences [26 vol. set]
ISBN : 9780470066515 | Publisher : Wiley

Hydrosphere (2005)
Araya, Yoseph Negusse
In: Lehr, Jay H and Keeley, Jack eds. Water Encyclopedia
ISBN : 9780471441649 | Publisher : John Wiley & Sons, Inc. | Published : USA

Exploring perspectives of minoritized community walking group leaders to make access to nature more equitable, diverse and inclusive (2023-04-14)
Holliman, Richard; Smith, Kelly; Khatwa, Anjana; Warren, Clare; Araya, Yoseph; Ansine, Janice and Badger, Marcus
In : International PCST Conference : Creating Common Ground (11-14 Apr 2023, Rotterdam)

Extent and Impact of Microplastics on Availability of Soil Nutrients: A Trade-off Assessment (2023)
Jesionkowska, Joanna; Araya, Yoseph; Anand, Pallavi; Vale, Peter and Fraser, Wesley
In : SETAC Europe 33rd Annual Meeting (30 Apr - 4 May 2023, Dublin, Ireland) (pp. 357-358)

Maximising the benefit of urban woodlands for butterflies (2023)
Neal, Bradley; Araya, Yoseph and Wheeler, Philip
In : British Ecological Society Annual Meeting 2023 (12-15 Dec 2023, Belfast, Northern Ireland, UK)

Urban Woodland Butterfly Habitat Suitability (2022-12-19)
Neal, Bradley; Araya, Yoseph and Wheeler, Philip
In : British Ecological Society (BES) Annual Meeting 2022 (18-21 Dec 2022, EICC, Edinburgh, UK)

iSpot: a citizen science platform for inclusive learning and teaching (2018-06-03)
Ansine, Janice; Araya, Yoseph; Dodd, Michael and Robinson, David
In : European Citizen Science Association (ECSA) Conference 2018 (3-5 Jun 2018, Geneva, Switzerland)

Co-constructing ‘third spaces’ for engagement between minoritized community groups and environmental scientists (2024-02-27)
Holliman, Richard; Ludhra, Geeta; Warren, Clare J.; Khatwa, Anjana; Araya, Yoseph; Smith, Kelly; Ansine, Janice and Badger, Marcus P.S.