Tomasz Samojlik

Special guest

Education and scientific degrees
PhD: 2007, Jagiellonian University, Cracov, Faculty of Biology and Earth Sciences
MSc: 2002, Maria Curie-Skłodowska University in Lublin, Inter-faculty European Study

Research Profile
The main area of my research interest is the environmental history of Białowieża Primeval Forest (BPF). My study aim at reconstructing the main ways of past human interactions with the BPF and determining their impact on the ecosystem. The time-frame of the project embraces the last 2,500 years - from the first traces of human settlements in BPF to our times. The study will help to answer the question, what circumstances were necessary to preserve the pristine forest to the beginning of 20th century, and may later serve as a reference point for similar research in environmental history. The reconstruction of the extent, durability, type, and role of human impact on the forest through time is highly relevant to the understanding of ecological processes observed in the BPF nowadays.

Due to its cross-disciplinary nature, the project involves different methods: field surveys and inventory of traces of past human presence in BPF, including remnants of traditional forest use, archaeological excavations in cooperation with the Institute of Archaeology and Ethnology of the Polish Academy of Sciences, archival surveys in Polish and foreign archives and the analysis of historical sources (documents, maps, drawings, photographs) paying special attention to past management and utilisation methods. Also dendrological studies carried in cooperation with the Forest Research Institute in Białowieża and palynological analyses performed at the Laboratory of Palaeoecology and Archaeobotany at Biology Department of Gdańsk University provide substantial data for the project.

The results of the first stage of the research, incorporating the period from 500 BC to 1800 AD formed the basis of my PhD thesis (thesis supervisor: Prof. dr. Bogumiła Jędrzejewska), defended in 2007 at the Biology and Earth Sciences Department of the Jagiellonian University in Kraków.

My current research focuses on:
The history of fires and their role in shaping BPF's environment
The role of livestock grazing in modifying woodlands of Białowieża Primeval Forest in the last five centuries;
Environmental history of BPF in the 19th and 20th centuries.

International experience
2010: 2-month postdoc visit to Sheffield Hallam University, UK (supervisor: Prof. Ian Rotherham)

Research projects
Environmental history of BPF in the 19th and 20th centuries
Environmental history of Białowieża Primeval Forest in the light of the palynological studies (project coordinated by the Gdańsk University)
European bison - Historical and contemporary pattern of habitat use and diet
Fire history and its role in shaping the Białowieża Primeval Forest
Anthropogenic changes of Białowieża Primeval Forest environment until the end of the 18th century

Additional functions
Polish Regional Representative of the European Society for Environmental History (
UKEconet collaborator (

Membership and Awards
2007 - „Master in science popularisation - Golden Mind" Award from the head of the Polish Academy of Sciences
2010 - The Artur Rojszczak Award from the Scholarship Holders Club of the Foundation for Polish Science
2012 - Science Populariser Award from the Ministry of Science and Higher Education and the Science&Scholarschip in Poland website (

Supplementary information
Apart from the research duties, I am involved in popularising science and scientific knowledge using books, comics and graphic novels for children. My aim is to instil the curiosity for nature, wildlife and science in kids during workshops, seminars and lectures in entire Poland. One of the graphic novels, „The Last bison", telling the story of European bison extinction in Białowieża Primeval Forest, is available free online in DJVU format at RCIN, the Polish Digital Repository of Scientific Institutes

Tomasz Samojlik has been a guest on 1 episode.