My research focuses on how shared evolutionary history shapes species’ interactions, and how such interactions influence species level & community responses to environmental change. Here community and population level consequences of mutualistic & antagonistic interactions with keystone species are particularly informative. I am considering their adaptive backgrounds as local adaptation or phylogeographic histories and how these affect associated communities of parasites/herbivores and their parasitoid natural enemies. Examples include the ecology and evolution of social parasites in ant societies and determinants of community structure and community dynamics of herbivorous insects on oak and their associated parasitoids. Lately have included the microbiota of the foundation species and investigate how their communities are shaped by the genetic background of their host (= the extended phenotype) and how their communities might affect interactions with the higher trophic levels.
I have been focussing on two study systems: (1) trees their associated herbivores and their natural enemies and (2) ants and their social parasites. In both I assess their adaptive potential and the impact on the wider community particularly in relation to Climate Change and community resilience to environmental change. My current work considers tree microbomes in the context of tree health (e.g. Red Needle Blight, Scots Pine & Acute Oak Decline)
In a separate line of research I continue studies of biological invasions and the post-invasion recruitment of natural enemies. Our current focus is the Oriental Chestnut Gallwasp that is well established in the Mediterranean and was recently recorded from the UK. I have been involved in horizon scanning exercises for the UK and the EU and have worked on minimum standards of risk assessments for invasives.
Selected research projects:
2020 - 2023 NERC Standard Discovery Grant: TRICOMM - Structure, Assembly and Evolution of Natural Tritrophic Communities with Graham Stone and Ally Philimore at the University of Edinburgh
2016 - 2019 THAPBI Grant: PuRpOsE funded under the LWEC Tree Health and Plant Biosecurity Initiative: PRotect Oak Ecosystems, an integrative approach to impove understanding threats to oak health and means to manage and mediate impacts.
2018 - to date PhD project: Natural Enemy Recruitment During Two Recent Gallwasp Invasions: Patterns emerging in Plagiotrochus quercusilicis and Dryocosmus kuriphilus. PhD Koorosh McCracken co-supervised with Graham Stone, University of Edinburgh, Joan Cottrell, Forestry Research
2017 - to date PhD project: Impacts of tree diversity and drought on forest resilience to pathogens. PhD Elsa Field co-supervised with Andrew Hector, University of Oxford, Melanie Gibbs, CEH and Nadia Barsoum, Forestry Research.
2015 - 2019 PhD project: Evaluating the impact of emergent disease on microbial and insect populations in the tree ecosystem. PhD Shyamali Roy co-supervised with Robert W. Jackson, University of Reading, Melanie Gibbs, CEH and Richard Harrison, East Malling Research.
2014 – 2017 THAPBI Grant: ProTree funded under the LWEC Tree Health and Plant Biosecurity Initiative: Promoting resilience of UK tree species to novel pests and pathogens: ecological and evolutionary solutions
2011 – 2015 PhD project: Community assembly over evolutionary and ecological timescales: gallwasps as a model system (The invasion of Europe by Dryocosmus kuriphilus the chestnut gallswasp). PhD Julja Ernst co-supervised with Graham Stone, University of Edinburgh
2010 – 2014 PhD project: The population biology of two sympatric alien gallwasps and their recruitment of natural enemies. PhD Ian Townsend co-supervised with James Cook, University of Reading, Steven White, CEH
2009 – 2012 EU Biodiversa Grant: CLIMIT: CLimate change impacts on Insects and their MITigation. EU ERA-net, BiodivERsA in collaboration and coordinated by Josef Settele, UfZ
2009 - 2012 NERC EHFI Grant: CLIMAFO: Climate Change and Management of Forest Biodiversity: predicting the impacts of climate change adaptation strategies on plant-herbivore – enemy interactions. In collaboration with Graham Stone, University of Edinburgh;
2008 - 2012 PhD project: Community level consequences of adaptive management through Climate Matching: oak galls as a model system. PhD Frazer Sinclair co-supervised with Graham Stone, University of Edinburgh, Stephen Cavers, CEH
2004 - 2007 NERC Standard Grant: Host associated population substructure in generalist parasitoids: cynipid oak gall communities as a model system. In collaboration with Graham Stone & Sean Nee Edinburgh University, Reading University;
2000 - 2003 NERC Standard Grant: Phylogenetic analyses of community structure using oak gallwasps as a model system. In collaboration with Graham Stone Edinburgh University and James Cook, Reading University;
2001 NERC Small Grant: Volatile chemistry of cynipid galls and the host finding behaviour of associated parasitoid species, NERC small grant
- Since 2017 Group Leader Community & Restoration Ecology
- Since 2004 Band 4 (Principal Scientific Officer)
- 2001 – 2004 Band 5 (Senior Scientific Officer)
- 1999 – 2001 Band 6 Researcher (Higher Scientific Officer) at the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology
- 1996 – 1999 Postdoctoral Research Fellow at now Queen Mary College, University of London
- 1994 – 1996 Postdoctoral Researcher at Imperial College
- 1990 – 1994 Research Assistant and PhD student at Imperial College
1994 PhD thesis at Imperial College London, University of London, including a Diploma of IC
1990 Christian Albrechts Universität, Kiel, Germany - MSc (Diplom) in Biology (Grade: 1st)
- Since 2015 – Associated Editor Proceeding of the Royal Society - B
- Since 2013 – Member of the expert panel of the Fund for Scientific Research in Belgium and
- Since 2013 – Member of the expert panel of the Australian Research Council.
- 2010 – 2018 Senior visiting Research Fellow at Reading University
- 2009 – 2018 Membership Committee of the British Ecological Society
- 2009 - Member of the NERC panel to select the top 25 contributions to science in 2008
- Since 2008 – Associate Editor and now Editor of the Journal Insect Conservation & Diversity published by the Royal Entomological Society
- 2005 - 2008 – Member of the NERC Peer Review College
- 2005 –2006 – Member of the Steering committee overseeing the Inductively Coupled Plasma NERC facilities (ICP-ES & ICP-MS)
- 1990 - Fellow of the Royal Entomological Society
- 1990 - Member of the British Plant Gall Society