Siobhán O’Brien awarded BBSRC Discovery Fellowship

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Siobhan O'Brien

Dr Siobhán O’Brien has been awarded a prestigious BBSRC Discovery Fellowship for her research: ‘Exploring how species interactions shape adaptive evolution in soil microbial communities’.

Discovery Fellowships support the transition of early stage researchers to fully independent research leaders. These three year awards support researchers wishing to undertake independent research and gain leadership skills. Up to ten fellowships are awarded per year to the UK’s most promising early career researchers.

Understanding how microbial communities evolve and function is a key global challenge, with implications for human health, agriculture and biotechnology. The goal of Siobhán’s work is to learn how species interactions in soil microbial communities can influence the ability of constituent microbes to adapt to stressful environments, particularly in the context of global change. Siobhán will perform real-time experimental evolution of soil microbial communities to understand how species interactions can shape evolutionary responses to agricultural environmental stressors, such as pesticides, antibiotics and salinity.

Dr O’Brien said: “By bridging the gap between simplified single-species experimental systems and observations made in the natural world, this work will shed some light on how interactions between microbes may be playing a vital role in determining the efficacy of our soil microbes – with clear implications for agriculture and food security”.

Congratulating Siobhán on the award of her fellowship, Professor Mark Viney, Head of Evolution, Ecology and Behaviour said: "I'm delighted that Siobhán and her work is being supported.  This is a critical time for the natural world and we need a rigorous evolutionary understanding of the biological processes on which we all ultimately depend".