Lecturer in Evolutionary Biology, University of York

I am an evolutionary biologist interested in eco-evolutionary dynamics of species interactions in multi-trophic communities. I conduct my research by the way of experimental evolution in laboratory microcosms with various microbes including bacteria, bacteriophages and protists. I am specifically interested in understanding the interplay between environment and ecology in determining the evolution of species interactions and how rapid adaptation might affect the composition, stability and ecosystem functioning of complex microbial communities.

Studying adaptation in real time

Experimental evolution is study of evolution in real time. The method involves culturing replicate populations of study species, such as microbes, in defined laboratory environments for hundreds or thousands of generations. The experimenter will control the environmental conditions but does not directly impose the selection. Instead, selection results from the “struggle for existence” between individuals within each population, and thus, selection is natural.

I use various species of bacteria, protists and phages as my study species. These microorganisms have inherently large population sizes and short generation times that favour rapid evolution. Species can be further cryopreserved in suspended animation, which allows direct comparisons between evolved, ancestral and control populations. Many microorganisms have relatively simple and well-understood genomes, which allow both genetic manipulation and identification of the genetic targets for selection.

Current projects

Eco-evolutionary dynamics of predator-prey and host-parasite interactions in complex communities
Microbial community responses to environmental change
Cascading effects of antibiotics in multi-trophic microbial communities
Trophic interactions and the maintenance of within-species cooperation
Phage therapy in clinical and agricultural contexts

Experience

  • –present
    Lecturer in Evolutionary Biology, University of York