I am an evolutionary geneticist interested in how organisms interact and evolve with the bacteria that reside with them. I utilise many disciplines and techniques within my research including field studies, evolutionary theory, molecular biology, population genetics, genomics, bioinformatics and insect physiology.
Broadly there are two main themes to my research:
1. The interaction between insects and bacteria that alter host reproduction
My work in this area started during my PhD in Evolutionary Genetics at UCL and subsequent postdoc position at the University of Liverpool. During this time I studied the tropical butterfly Hypolimnas bolina, which carries a male-killing bacteria Wolbachia. One highlight includes the discovery of a host suppressor of the male-killing phenotype that evolved and spread rapidly under very strong natural selection. This work initiated an interest in genomics, which I trained further in during a postdoc position at the University of Helsinki.
My current position at the University of Liverpool, continues my study of H. bolina and Wolbachia, but focuses on a new system - that of the lacewing Mallada desjardinsi infected with male-killing Spiroplasma bacteria. Within this role I employ my experience of studying host-endosymbiont interactions alongside utilising the latest sequencing technologies and analyses to ascertain what genomic changes occur as a result of co(evolution) between the parties.
2. The interaction between insects, their bacterial microbiome and the environment
Prior to my current position, I was awarded a Marie Curie International Overseas fellowship held at the University of Cambridge with a period also spent at Penn State University, USA. During this time I started my research theme to study the influence of changing environmental conditions, particularly temperature, on the interaction between insects and their bacterial microbiome. My main study system are Colias butterflies, but I also collaborate extensively using other systems such as Drosophila and mosquitoes. I am interested in understanding if and how the microbiome influences insect host adaptation under changing environmental conditions.
As part of my research I supervise undergraduate and Masters students and welcome enquiries from interested Masters and PhD applicants. Contact me if you are interested in projects involving host-symbiont interactions, particularly in the context of climate change and environmental stresses/challenges.
KEYWORDS: Arthropods; Insects; Butterfly; Endosymbiont; Microbiome; Bacteria; Wolbachia; Spiroplasma; Genome; Genetics; Evolution; Suppression; Male-killing; Temperature; Climate Change; Adaptation; Natural Selection
Main insect groups studied: butterflies, lacewings, Drosophila, mosquitoes, ladybirds aphids
Main symbionts studied: Wolbachia, Spiroplasma, Rickettsia