My main interest lies in the exploration of microbial diversity in natural environments, with a particular focus on bacterial communities in soil ecosystems.
Despite the immense global importance of microbes, our knowledge of their ecology is limited due to their small size and the difficulties in both differentiating them, and working out what they do in their natural environment. My research therefore extends from the development of methods for studying microbes, to ecological applications in exploring biodiversity patterns in both simple and complex natural ecosystems.
Key knowledge gaps I address include understanding the drivers of microbial biodiversity particularly with respect to environmental change, and also determining how biodiversity change relates to change in ecosystem functioning. These questions are especially pertinent in soil systems, since many of the life sustaining services provided by soils are dependent upon the activities of microbes.
- 1994-1997 BSc Microbiology University of Liverpool
- 1997-1998 MSc University of Newcastle upon Tyne including research project at CABI, Egham.
- 2000-2003 PhD University of Newcastle upon Tyne
My foray into soil microbial ecology began in 2000 when I did my PhD and then first post-doc working on the NERC Soil Biodiversity Programme, exploring soil bacterial biodiversity and functioning in an upland grassland. Since then I have worked on a NERC funded project examining drivers of bacterial biodiversity at the national scale; and then more recently on an EU project exploring the drivers of soil biodiversity and roles in ecosystem functioning across Europe (ECOFINDERS - “Ecological Function and Biodiversity Indicators in European Soils”). I lead a large NERC funded project "U-GRASS", funded under the Soil Security Programme and also contribute to several other NERC funded projects incluing WESSEX BESS, LOMBOK and BALI (both funded under NERC HmTF programme). In all these projects I am using next generation sequencing approaches to explore how human land use affects soil biodiversity across a variety of habitats; in order to further understanding of the biotic mechanisms underpinning soil ecosystem functions.
For publication list please see my google scholar profile