Keynote speakers


Sandra Albro
Research Associate, Holden Forests & Gardens

Vacant to Vibrant – transforming vacant sites into green infrastructure

Sandra Albro is a research associate at Holden Forests & Gardens in Cleveland, Ohio. Here, she has been investigating how improving soil and plants can boost the ecological and social value of urban vacant lots in the U.S. Great Lakes region.

Her work includes the ‘Vacant to Vibrant’ project, where communities in Ohio, Indiana and New York have been engaged in pilot raingarden projects on vacant plots. The projects aim to test whether low-cost, low-maintenance urban greening projects can effectively manage stormwater which has been flushing raw sewage from overwhelmed Victorian sewer systems into the nearby Great Lakes. The project has also been tackling social inequality, teaming up with neighbourhoods that are experiencing decline rather than those that are stable and wealthy.

Sandra also serves as co-chair for the Cleveland Tree Coalition, a collaborative group of more than 40 businesses, organisations, and branches of local government that are working together to grow the citywide urban tree canopy from 19% to 30% by 2040.


Mathew Frith
Director of Conservation, London Wildlife Trust

Repurposing public/open space – learning from London

Mathew Frith is an urban ecologist with 30 years’ experience of land management policy and practice in nature conservation. He has managed nature reserves, and worked with various organisations to develop and promote better understanding of biodiversity conservation in urban areas, whether it’s in private gardens, parks or housing estates. He currently oversees the management and development of the London Wildlife Trust’s nature reserves, develops the policy base to advocate the protection, creation and promotion of a wilder city, and furthering the trust’s research work.

Projects led by London Wildlife Trust include those which began in the 1980s such as the Camley Street Natural Park, a former coal drop for the railways near King’s Cross that had naturalised to become a flower-rich wasteland and was rescued from plans in 1981 to turn the space into a lorry park, to more recent projects such as Woodberry Wetlands, an operating reservoir which has been carefully transformed into an urban wetland oasis and opened to the public for the first time since it was built in 1833.

Mathew is a full member of the Chartered Institute of Ecology & Environmental Management, the Society for the Environment, and a Green Flag Award judge. He has a particular interest in the relationship between nature and society in towns and cities.