Photo of Dr Stewart Plaistow

Dr Stewart Plaistow

Senior lecturer in Evolutionary Biology Evolution, Ecology & Behaviour


Personal Statement

I am an evolutionary biologist with a primary focus on understanding the interaction between ecology and evolution. The overarching goal of my research is to understand how genes, environments and other non-genetic aspects of heredity shape the responses of populations to environmental change. At a simple level, this involves understanding how individuals differ from each other, how these differences are transmitted across generations and how selection operates on these differences.

My lab primarily uses Daphnia (water fleas) as a convenient model system for studying evolutionary processes at all levels from epigenetic mechanisms through to population dynamic and ecosystem level consequences. However, I have also worked on a number of other invertebrate systems including soil mites, Calopterygid damselflies, amphipods and horned beetles and have broader research interests related to ageing, the evolution and maintenance of polymorphisms, and the effects of plastic pollution on natural environments. Our work is conducted in the field, in a well-equipped lab in the Biosciences building and at Ness Botanic Gardens where we have built a dedicated lab space and state-of-the-art mesocosm facility consisting of 48 'smart' ponds (3000L each) that allow us to manipulate thermal profiles and continuously monitor aspects of the environment.

I teach Evolutionary biology (years 2-4, LIFE 213 module coordinator) and Tropical Ecology (Year 2) on a Uganda field course that I co-established in 2012. We welcome BSc, MSc, MBIOL, PhD and post-docs to the lab who are interested in studying mechanism underpinning adaptation to environmental change or any other aspect of life-history evolution.

I am currently the fellowship lead in the Institute of Infection, Veterinary and Ecological Sciences and work alongside a broader fellowship team whose primary goal is to increase the number and quality of fellowship applications submitted and help early career researchers navigate this tricky career stage.

Keywords: Evolution; Ecology; Phenotypic plasticity; Non-genetic inheritance; Maternal effects; Epigenetics; Daphnia; Freshwater Ecology; Rapid adaptation; The Lansing Effect; Ageing; Mesocosms; nanoplastics; Planktoscope
Organisms: Daphnia magna; Daphnia pulex; Chlorella vulgaris; Mnais costalis; Sancassania berlesei; Calopteryx xanthostoma; Allomyrina dichotoma

Prizes or Honours

  • ASAB Easter meeting, best talk prize (ASAB, 1996)
  • W.G. Rathbone Scholarship (University of Liverpool, 1993)
  • Ellis prize for Animal Behaviour & Sociobiology (University of Liverpool, 1993)

Funded Fellowships

  • Visiting Researcher, CER, Kyoto University (CER, Kyoto University, 2011)
  • NERC Post-doctoral fellowship (Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), 2005)