Alan Crivellaro


I’m a plant stem anatomist,

biogeographer and teacher.


I love working with inspiring colleague scientists. I have been inspiring students from the beginning of my teaching career. I am an enthusiastic speaker. 

Bio sketch

I am a plant scientist exploring the links between the anatomical structure of plant stems and the environment. I investigate how plant cells respond to the interacting physical and biological processes that drive their adaptation and evolution over timescales varying from single cold spells to millennia. This is useful to understand how plants respond to the changing climate, identify and interpret archaeological wood remains, and identify modern timbers in trade to combat illegal logging.

My research faces globally significant themes, including:

Vegetation dynamics: population age structure; treeline and ecotone dynamics; shrubs and herbs; age structure of Artemisia alba population on arid fields.

Climate change mitigation and adaptation

Wood decay: wood decay under the microscope; quantification of wood decay; properties of decayed wood.

Cell wall lignification: global dataset on the degree of lignification in plant stems.

Wood identification: Development of a macroscopic features list; visibility of macroscopic features in longitudinal sections; wood identification on cultural heritage artefacts; new technologies in wood identification.

Archaeobotany: plant height estimation from charcoal remains; wood and bark anatomical identification.

Bark anatomy: definition of bark anatomical features; visibility of bark anatomical features on charcoal remains; anatomical variation of barks along plant stems; photosynthetic bark.

Ecological stem anatomy: Age and growth rate in Salix herbacea from the N-Apennines (Italy); Blue ring formation in trees; starch location in plant stems; anatomical, physical and mechanical properties variation along with plant stems; a biogeographical perspective on wood ring-porosity.

Succulent plants: anatomical structure of the hydraulic pathway; succulent quantification to anatomical structure; the role of mucilage in water storage.

Timber structures: historic timber structure efficiency; evaluation of wood decay.

Much of my work is interdisciplinary and collaborative, and I have undertaken research projects with Geographers, Ecologists, Archeologists, Biochemists and Material Science experts. I have been collaborating on several public outreach projects with colleagues in Cambridge and London-based museums.

After completing a BSc in Wood Science, a Ms in Forestry and Environmental Science and a PhD in Ecology at the University of Padova, I held Post-Doctoral Research Fellowship in various Research Institutions and Universities before joining the Department of Geography at the University of Cambridge as Research Associate.

I have a passion for teaching, and I love creating the right conditions to learn, no matter the topic. I am supervising students in Biogeography, teaching university courses and delivering international residential training programmes.

I am one of the Topic Editors of Plants and sit on the steering groups of the Quantitative wood anatomy NETwork - Qnet and the International Association of Wood Anatomists. I am also an independent member of the International Biogeography Society and the Association of British Science Writers.