Adaptation to Environmental Change


The world's natural and agricultural resources face major challenges from a changing climate and a growing human population. We aim to understand the fundamental biology of how organisms respond to environmental change. This will help develop solutions to safeguard biodiversity and the productivity of agricultural systems.

Our approach to these complex and multi-layered problems spans all biological scales from the molecular to the ecological community. We combine state-of-the-art molecular technologies with experimentation, field studies, and mathematical-statistical modelling.

We study a diversity of organisms, including:

  • Microorganisms
  • Invertebrates
  • Vertebrates
  • Plants

and environmental factors, such as:

  • Temperature
  • Drought
  • Chemical toxins
  • Oxygen
  • Nutrients
  • Air pollution
  • Habitat fragmentation

Areas of research

Our research activity is directed at three interrelated problems:

What are the different ways in which animals and plants may respond to extreme or altered environments?

In certain situations, species are able to tolerate extremes through physiological and behavioural responses, while in others the adjustment occurs through development. When these mechanisms reach their limits, species are forced to move to a better location, undergo evolutionary genetic change – or perish.

How can we improve the long-term survival prospects of vulnerable species and ecological communities faced with environmental change, particularly with respect to the dual impact of habitat loss and climate change?

A key objective is to provide a predictive framework to inform and facilitate integrated landscape conservation management that is both general and specifically relevant to target species and ecosystems in the UK and around the world.

How can we improve the sustainability and output of food production globally, across a wider range of environments?

We specialise in characterising and harnessing genetic diversity, in domesticated and wild species, to improve the resilience of food and biofuel crops. We also apply an integrative approach to developing sustainable agricultural and aquaculture systems, and novel strategies for controlling pests.

Theme lead

Dr Ilik Saccheri