Professional summary

Research Interests

My research concerns genetic diversity, gene flow and adaptation in plants. Working with UK and international partners, I study how genetic variation is organised in populations and how this diversity arises from population history and adaptation. I use a combination of molecular and quantitative genetic approaches to identify the demographic and evolutionary factors that shape genetic diversity, and to assess genetic resources for conservation and use. As well as general activities aimed at conserving and making use of genetic diversity in trees, I am currently working on projects on European temperate tree species (Pinus sylvestris, Juniperus communis, Taxus baccata, Quercus spp, Betula spp.) and African dryland tree species (Acacia senegal & tortilis, Melia volkensii, Moringa oleifera & stenopetala, Osyris lanceolata).

Qualifications: PhD, University of Edinburgh (2002); MSc Ecology, University of Wales, Bangor (1998); BSc Chemistry, University of Edinburgh (1994). 

Current Research Projects

newLEAF - Learning to adapt to an uncertain future: linking genes, trees, people and processes for more resilient treescapes (Future of UK Treescapes, NERC with ESRC, AHRC, DEFRA, Welsh & Scottish Govt.s)

FORGENIUS - Improving access to FORestGENetic resources Information and services for end-USers (EU Horizon 2020)

Scotlands Plant Health Centre - Scottish Government Centre of Expertise on Plant Health

EVOLTREE - A research network combining Ecology, Genetics, Genomics and Evolution, to address global issues that European forests are currently facing, such as environmental changes and the erosion of biodiversity. Includes 32 research groups in 23 European countries.

Recent Projects

B4EST - Adaptive breeding for productive, sustainable and resilient forests under climate change (EU Horizon 2020)

SUNRISE - Sustainable use of natural resources to improve human health and support economic development (NERC)

GENTREE - Optimising the management and sustainable use of forest genetic resources in Europe (EU Horizon 2020)

PROTREE - Promoting resilience of UK tree species to novel pests and pathogens: ecological and evolutionary solutions. A collaborative research project from the Living With Environmental Change programme and part of the Tree Health and Plant Biosecurity Initiative.

GAP - Genomics of Adaptation in Pines. A NERC discovery science grant focussed on the genetic basis of adaptation in Scots pine and its close relatives to environmental variation across their ranges.

Largescale - An international research project, funded by the German  government, to develop a DNA-based system for species identification and origin tracking of tropical timber. 

MaPFGR - Forest Genetic Resources of Marginal and Peripheral tree populations. An EU COST action to promote collaboration in research on the genetic resources of unique and threatened range edge populations of European forest trees.

Current PhD & MSc Students

Conor Watret (University of Strathclyde), Modelling heterogeneous host and pest populations for UK forests - co-infections and host variability, University of Strathclyde.

Daisy Crowson (NERC E4 DTP) Ecological genetics of the invasive tree pathogen, Phytophthora austrocedri, and its host, Juniperus communis. University of Edinburgh

Joshua Musau (IFS), Evaluating leaf and flower phenology in Melia volkensii, South East Kenya University

James Baker (MSc; Scottish Forestry Trust, Woodland Trust, The Botanist Foundation, Forest Research) Dynamic conservation of genetic diversity in Juniper, University of Edinburgh.

Past PhD Students

Jim Downie (University of Edinburgh), Tracie Evans (NERC), Cristina Rosique-Esplugas (Forestry Commission), Richard Whittet (Forestry Commission, ClimatExchange), Patricia Gonzalez-Diaz (Scottish Forestry Trust), Annika Perry (CEH, Forest Research), Kevin Donnelly (NERC), Giovannia Zucca (CNR), Emily Barlow (NERC), Frazer Sinclair (NERC), Cathy Fiedler (NERC), Matti Salmela (Scottish Forestry Trust), Sam Davies (EU).