Richard Buggs is interested in the mechanisms of evolution. How do new species originate? How are they maintained? What causes them to go extinct?
His lab works on genomic aspects of the evolution and conservation of plants, especially trees. It has active research programmes in three areas:
(1) Genome sequencing of the ash tree Fraxinus excelsior. This has been funded by an urgency grant from NERC, as part of a rapid response to the spread of ash dieback in the United Kingdom. The whole genome sequence of a British ash tree will contribute to a wider research programme to identify genes in ash conferring resistance to Hymenoscyphus pseudoalbidus. More details may be found on the project website www.ashgenome.org.
(2) Birch trees on Scottish mountains. Dwarf Birch is rare and found mainly above the tree line, whereas Downy Birch is widespread below the tree line. The two species hybridise a great deal. We are using new DNA sequencing methods to work out how the two species maintain their identity in the face of hybridization, and the extent to which hybridization impedes the conservation of dwarf birch. We are especially interested in how global warming affects the dynamics of this system. This work is funded by a Fellowship from the Natural Environment Research Council. We have recently sequenced the whole genome of Betula nana. More details may be found on the project website www.birchgenome.org.
(3) Hybridisation of Tragopogon species (Daisy family) in south-east England. We are studying diploid hybridisation between Tragopogon pratensis and T. porrifolius, which results in T. x mirabilis. We have found abundant hybrids in natural mixed populations in London and have preliminary evidence that they are reproducing. This work is funded by a pump-priming SYNTAX grant in collaboration with Andrew and Ilia Leitch.
Richard was previously a post-doctoral research associate at the University of Florida, in the lab of Doug and Pam Soltis examining the evolutionary genetics of plant species with different numbers of chromosome sets. He studied the rapid loss and silencing of genes after natural whole genome duplication events.
He holds a DPhil from the University of Oxford for a doctoral thesis on the evolutionary ecology of two closely-related plant species. He received his undergraduate education at the University of Cambridge, where he was elected Bateman Scholar at Trinity Hall, and gained a first class Bachelor’s degree in Natural Sciences.