Steve Lee, Bsc, PhD

Programme Group Manager

Steve LeeEmail:

Tel: +44 (0)300 067 5900
Tel direct: +44 (0)300 067 5950
Fax: +44 (0)131 445 5124

Forest Research
Northern Research Station
Midlothian EH25 9SY

After graduating in Ecological Sciences at Edinburgh University in 1977, Steve spent six years as a forest manager with the Forestry Commission in South Scotland. He joined Forest Research in 1983 to become the project leader for Conifer Breeding. Steve gained a PhD in the quantitative genetics of Sitka spruce in 1997, again from Edinburgh University. As well as experience of breeding conifers in Britain, Steve has spent time studying the breeding of loblolly pine in North Carolina and radiata pine in New Zealand. Steve has been involved in a number of consultancies around the world over the last 20-years.

Current role

Programme Group Manager for ‘Genetic Improvement’

Responsibilities cover all aspects of work relating to the breeding of conifer (Sitka spruce, Douglas Fir, Scots pine, Corsican pine, Larch) and broadleaf species (Birch, sycamore, ash, oak) in Britain. Overall, the work involves: selection of best origins for planting in Britain, consideration of emerging species in the light of climate change, planning experiments, co-ordinating data collection and analysis, estimation breeding values, composition of breeding populations, promotion and demonstration of genetic gain in the forest, and investigation of new DNA-based and tissue culture-based techniques which may speed up the rate of genetic gain getting to the forest. 

Conifer species:

  • Clonal Forestry
    Promoting the potential of Sitka spruce clonal forestry in Britain - demonstrating the superior gains from this means of deployment by analysing data from existing trails and establishing new field-based clonal trials.
  • Marker Aided Selection
    A new bio-tech. programme designed to identify superior Sitka spruce genotypes in the laboratory years before traditional field trials. Initial work involves planting the world’s largest Sitka spruce clonal test to ensure the best possible correlation between field performance and molecular markers in the lab.
  • Forward selection in full-sib progeny trails
    Bringing together Best Linear Unbiased Predictor (BLUP) -generated breeding values for a number of different traits into a single index value, which indicates an individual’s overall economic value.
  • Deployment of improved planting stock
    Promoting the best-available planting stock to the forest industry from seed orchards, family mixtures or use of new clonal-forestry technologies. Involves efficient management of pollination and grafting programmes and close liaison with scientist working on somatic embryogenesis and cryopreservation. Species involved are Sitka spruce, Scots pine, Hybrid Larch and Douglas Fir.
  • Wood quality studies
    In conjunction with colleagues in the Timber Quality team, investigating the genetic variation and economic value of various internal traits contributing towards the strength of Sitka spruce timber with the objective of increasing the proportion of timber satisfying higher construction grades.

Broadleaf species:

  • Future Trees Trust (FTT; previously known as BIHIP)
    Work closely with FTT to develop the breeding programmes for birch, sycamore, oak and ash.  Broadleaf breeding programmes are a lot less advanced and consist mainly of selecting good quality phenotypes then bringing grafted copies or seedlings from the phenotypes together so that they can inter-mate and produce improved seed for industry.

Current programmes and contracts

Affiliations and achievements

Research areas

  • Tree breeding
  • Progeny and clonal testing
  • Prediction of economic and genetic gains
  • Estimation of breeding values
  • Early selection

Main recent publications

S.G. Kennedy, A.D. Cameron, S.J. Lee. (2013) Genetic relationships between wood quality traits and diameter growth of juvenile core wood in Sitka spruce. Canadian Journal of Forest Research, 2013, 43(1): 1-6, 10.1139/cjfr-2012-0308

Brothestone, S.,  White, I.M.S., Sykes, R., Thompson, R., Connolly, T., Lee, S. and Woolliams, J. (2011). Competition Effects in a Young Sitka Spruce (Picea sitchensis, Bong. Carr) Clonal Trial. Silvae Genetica 60, 3–4 pp149-155.

Mullin, T.J., Andersson, B.,Bastien, J.-C., Beaulieu, J., Burdon, R.D., Dvorak, W.S.,King, J.N., Kondo, T., Krakowski, J., Lee, S.J., McKeand, S.E., Pâques, L., Raffin, A., Russell, J.H., Skrøppa, T., Stoehre, M. and Yanchuk, A. (2011). Chapter 2: Economic Importance, Breeding Objectives and Achievements. Pp. 40-127 In: Genetics, Genomics and Breeding of Conifers.  Edited by: C. Plomion, J. Bousquet and C. Kole.  Science Publishers, Inc., Enfield, NH; Edenbridge Ltd., UK

Lee, S., and Connolly, T. (2010). Finalizing the selection of parents for the Sitka spruce (Picea sitchensis (Bong.) Carr) breeding population in Britain using Mixed Model Analysis. Forestry, Vol. 83, No. 4, 423-431. 

Mochan, S., Lee, S. and Gardiner, B. (2008). Benefits of improved Sitka spruce: volume and quality of timber (PDF-534K). Forestry Commission Research Note 3. Forestry Commission, Edinburgh.

Vanderklein, D., Martinez-Vilalta, J., Lee, S.J. and Mencuccini, M. (2007). Plant size, not age, regulates growth and gas exchange in grafted Scots pine trees. Tree Physiology 27 (1), 71-79.

Lee, S.J., Woolliams, J., Samuel, C.J.A. and Malcolm, D.C. (2007). A study of population variation and inheritance in Sitka spruce. Silvae Genetica 56 (1), 36-44.

Lee, S.J. (2006). It's a family affair. 'Full-sib' families are a new generation of improved Sitka spruce planting stock (PDF-398K). Forestry & British Timber 35 (12) December 2006, 14-16.

Lee, S.J. and A'Hara, S. (2006). Marker aided selection in Sitka spruce. Forestry & British Timber 35 (1) January 2006, 14-16.

Nuopponen, M.H., Birch, G.M., Sykes, R.J., Lee. S.J. and Stewart, D. (2006). Estimation of wood density and chemical composition by means of diffuse reflectance mid-infrared Fourier transform (DRIFT-MIR) spectroscopy. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry 54, 34-40.

Hubert, J. and Lee, S.J. (2005). A review of the relative roles of silviculture and tree breeding in tree improvement: the example of Sitka spruce in Britain and possible lessons for hardwood breeding. In: Genetic improvement of broadleaved trees. Papers resulting from a conference 'Better trees, better profits' organised by the Royal Forestry Society of England, Wales and Northern Ireland, March 2004, edited by G Hemery and P Savill. Special issue Forestry 78 (2) 109-120.

Cameron, A.D., Lee, S.J., Livingston, A.L. and Petty, J.A. (2005). Influence of selective breeding on the development of juvenile wood in Sitka spruce. Canadian Journal of Forest Research, 35:(12) 2951-2960.

Philippe, G.,  Lee, S.J., Schüte, G. and Héois, B. (2004).  Flower stimulation is cost-effective in Douglas-fir seed orchards. Accepted by Forestry.

Lee, S.J. (2004). The products from conifer tree breeding in Britain. Forestry Commission Information Note 58, Edinburgh, Scotland.

Lee, S.J., Cottrell, J., and John, A. (2004) .Advances in biotechnology - powerful tools for tree breeding and genetic conservation. Forestry Commission Information Note 59, Edinburgh, Scotland.

Lee, S.J. and Connolly, T. (2004). Selection of parents for the Corsican pine breeding population in Britain. Forestry, Vol 77, No. 3.

Lee, S.J. and Matthews, R. (2004). An indication of the likely gains from improved Sitka spruce planting stock (PDF-100K). Forestry Commission Information Note 55, Edinburgh, Scotland, pp 6.

Lee, S.J (2003). Breeding Hybrid Larch in Britain. Forestry Commission Information Note, Edinburgh, 3p.

Lee, S.J., Woolliams, J., Samuel, C.J.A. and Malcolm, D.C. (2002). A study of population variation and inheritance in Sitka spruce: II Age trends in genetic parameters and for vigour traits and optimum selection ages. Silvae Genetica 51, 2-3, 55 - 64.

Lee, S.J., Woolliams, J., Samuel, C.J.A. and Malcolm, D.C. (2002). A study of population variation and inheritance in Sitka spruce: III Age trends in genetic parameters and optimum selection ages for wood density, and genetic correlations with vigour traits. Silvae Genetica 51, 4,  143-151.