I am a senior lecturer in the School of Biological Sciences at Bangor University. I specialise in understanding the taxonomy and evolutionary history of pitvipers in Asia, and have also been studying the evolution of their venom. Most of all, I like getting out into the field, where the animals and the people I meet provide my inspiration and motivation.
My research interests focus on the role of natural selection in population divergence, to which I apply a wide range of methods including multivariate morphometrics, statistical hypothesis-testing, innovative field experiments and DNA analysis. Knowledge of the phylogenetic history of organisms is also important in fields other than evolution (e.g. behaviour, ecology) as it has been recognised that all species operate within its constraints. I have two main lines of phylogenetic research on disparate organisms in different geographical regions (Anolis lizards in the Caribbean and Asian pit vipers), which are unified by being essentially focussed on the interface between evolution and ecology, and with an emphasis on the integration of genetic and phenetic data.
Development of collaborations to add other “omics” aspects to my genomic-focused research has provided an opportunity to evaluate the evolution of genes affecting complex traits directly, e.g., toxin genes in Asian pitvipers. As well as relying on the availability of the organismal phylogeny, this brings together disparate strands of organismal biology and ecology, evolutionary theory, comparative genomics, bioinformatics and proteomics to present an integrated picture of the evolution of snake venom components.
While working on the more academic side of snake venom research, it is difficult to ignore the realities of snakebite, especially among the rural poor, and hence I am also actively involved in collaborative work with several Indian research institutions to address the problem of snakebite in that country. My research also includes honeybees and other pollinators, with the focus on providing genetic tools to assist their conservation. For example, I obtained the first genome sequence from a historical specimen of the endangered UK native race of honeybee, and am currnetly seeking funding to investigate the historical decline of the native honeybee.