I am a population biologist whose work involves ecology, evolution and epidemiology. I am also interested in the interplay of science and policy, especially in the areas of the environment and food security.
Activities in my group are currently in three main areas.
In work co-led by Ailsa McLean we make extensive use of the pea aphid as a model system to explore a variety of different problems in ecology and evolution. We are particularly interested in the role and dynamics of facultative bacterial symbionts and how they affect their host’s interaction with its food plant and its pathogens and parasitoids. We also use the aphid system to study indirect ecological interactions, ecological speciation and host-natural enemy coevolution.
I am interested in insects that vector human diseases, how they may be controlled using modern genetic interventions, and the population genetics and population dynamics involved. I am part of a large consortium (Target Malaria, led by Austin Burt at Imperial) working on the control of the mosquitoes that transmit malaria in Africa.
With collaborators in Oxford I am interested in food system dynamics and how one can simultaneously explore the health, environmental and economic consequences of different food system policies. More generally on science and policy, Angela McLean & I lead the “Restatements” project which aims to provide succinct summaries of the science evidence base for highly contentious but policy relevant topics.
And finally I am interested in the taxonomy of a group of tiny and obscure braconid wasps.
At Oxford I am the Director of the Martin School, where I direct the Oxford Martin Programme on the Future of Food, which seeks to link together all research in the University that is related to food. I am currently a Visitor at the Oxford Botanic Garden and at the Oxford Natural History Museum.
Outside the University I am Chair of Defra’s (the UK’s environment and agriculture department) Science Advisory Council, and am a Trustee Director of Rothamsted Research and a trustee of the Food Foundation. I sit on the Balzan (science) and Heineken (environmental science) Prize committees. Other committees include the Royal Commission for the Exhibition of 1851 (fellowships), Science Advisory Council of the Natural History Museum, Strategic Advisory Board, Scottish Government's Rural and Environment Science and Analytical Services science programme, and the Initiation Strategic Advisory Group of RCUK’s Global Challenges Research Fund.
Previously I have been a Trustee of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, a member of NERC Council, President of the British Ecological Society, and I chaired the Lead Expert Group of the UK Government’s Foresight Project on the Future of Food and Farming.