About the role

Our Chief Forester for Scotland is a part-time role with 3 main work activities:

  • to give professional advice to ministers
  • to act as Head of Profession with the responsibility to promote and maintain professional standards amongst foresters working in Scottish Forestry, Forestry and Land Scotland and the wider public sector in Scotland
  • to promote professional forestry

About Helen

Since August 2020, Dr Helen McKay OBE has been in post as Chief Forester for Scotland. 

After receiving a scholarship from the University of Edinburgh, she was allowed to define her own PhD topic - on the benefits of Sitka spruce mycorrhizae - and then lectured in Dublin to Environmental Science MSc students. After moving back to Scotland, she was offered work within a large EU-funded contract investigating the growth of spruce and pine mixtures before moving into Forest Research to improve the quality of seedlings in forest nurseries.

Over the next 30 years, she dedicated her time to research underpinning sustainable forestry and the resulting police and practice.

Currently, as an honorary Fellow of Forest Research, Helen is focussed on helping research scientists to produce a series of short factsheets on the role of forests, woodlands and trees in climate change. She is an editor of the scientific journal Forestry: An International Journal of Forest Research and a Fellow of the Institute of Chartered Foresters. She is also a Trustee of the Scottish Forestry Trust and has recently registered as a STEM ambassador for forestry.

In 2020, Helen was awarded an OBE for her work in forest science and forestry.