Personal profile

Summary

I am a Senior Lecturer in in the School of Biological Sciences.

Biography

  • Senior Lecturer, Zoology, University of Portsmouth.
  • Lecturer, Zoology, University of Portsmouth.
  • Research Fellow, University of Southampton. 
  • Demonstrator, University of Southampton.
  • PhD Engineering and the Environment, University of Southampton. 
  • MSc Biological Anthropology, Bournemouth University. 
  • BA Biological Sciences, University of Oxford.

Teaching Responsibilities

Module lead:

  • Biodiversity and Evolution
  • Experimental Biology

Lecturer

  • Biodiversity and Evolution
  • Experimental Biology
  • Animal Adaptations
  • Ecology, Plants, and Human Impact
  • Introduction to the Biological World
  • Ecology, Evolution, and Environment

Research project supervisor

Tutor

Research Interests

I study the interactions between form, function, and environment to understand the physical basis for and constraints in evolution and development. In previous work, this has included traits-based approaches to large scale ecology questions, 3D morphometric approaches to understanding evolution and development in extant and extinct animals, and interdisciplinary approaches to environmental processes. I have two main study systems: evolution and development in modern and fossil birds, with a particular focus on skeletal microstructure, and the plant-soil continuum. In both cases, I am driven by making the invisible visible – bringing new insight to questions of adaptation in biology through visualisation and modelling of structures and processes that are usually difficult if not impossible to see. With a background in biology, a masters in anthropology, and a PhD in engineering and the environment, I also really enjoy bringing together ideas and approaches from different disciplines, particularly applying engineering approaches to biological questions.

For my PhD, I developed metrics for interpreting the age of fossil birds through studying the bone microstructural development of extant model species. I am now working on similar questions on the causes of intraskeletal variability in modern birds, including sexual dimorphism, developmental constraints, and biomechanical function. In these projects, I gather data from modern animals to make interpretations about animals we can no longer study in life.

In parallel, I am also interested in physical interactions between plants and their environments, largely in the context of developing more sustainable agricultural practices. This was work that I began through a post-doc position and have maintained and built on through established and new collaborations. In this work, I again focus on visualising adaptive and environmental processes, and collaborate with highly interdisciplinary teams.

In previous projects, I have studied how root morphology and soil properties influence a plants ability to take up phosphorus, how the properties of root exudates can influence soil hydraulics, and how plants defend against biofilms in the deadly plant disease Xylella fastidiosa.

I am currently working on a number of projects that come together to develop monitoring and analysis approaches for plant-soil imaging, with the aim of better understanding plant adaptations and responses to environmental challenges.

Initial projects in this area involve plant morphology and morphometrics, including developing new imaging techniques to allow gross morphological and cell-scale details to be visualised in 3 dimensions. For the current project, this will be linked with genetic studies on the evolution and development of nectar spurs in flower, and these techniques will later be applied to the more difficult system of roots growing in substrates.

My main technique expertise is in X-ray imaging, most often in synchrotron-based systems (beamlines at Diamond Light Source, Swiss Light Source, and ESRF). I have also used X-ray diffraction, light microscopy, microdialysis for chemical sampling, and often work with mathematicians and engineers to develop mathematical modelling approaches to explore processes in more detail. A new collaboration will be looking at monitoring soil microbiota using acoustic methods.

I am always open to applying innovative techniques to interesting problems and am keen to collaborate, particularly on interdisciplinary projects.

I supervise PhD students and undergraduate projects in the areas of skeletal biology and evolution, plant-soil interactions, and techniques in 3D imaging and quantitative morphological analysis.

 

PhD students (co-supervisor):

Abi Crane - The biology of Mesozoic birds. INSPIRE DTP.

The Sounds of Soil – understanding the relationships between soil structure, biodiversity and ecoacoustics – SoCoBio DTP (successfully funded for 2024 start)

 

External collaborations:

  • Siul Ruiz, Bioengineering, University of Southampton
  • Neil Gostling, Evolution and Palaeobiology, University of Southampton
  • Tiina Roose, Biological and Environmental Modelling, University of Southampton
  • Daniel McKay Fletcher, Scotland’s Rural College
  • Christopher Sandom, University of Sussex
  • Alice Eldridge, University of Sussex
  • James le Houx, ISIS proton and muon source
  • Sharif Ahmed, DIAD, Diamond Light Source
  • Elis Newham, Bioengineering, Queen Mary University, London
  • Chiara Petroselli, Chemistry, University of Perugia
  • Claire Clarkin, Developmental and Skeletal Biology, University of Southampton
  • Katy Rankin, mu-VIS X-ray imaging, University of Southampton
  • Amanda Korstjens, Behavioural Ecology, Bournemouth University

 

Internal collaborations:

  • Lena Grinsted, School of Biological Sciences
  • Tom Lowe, School of Education, Languages and Linguistics
  • Joanna Brindley, School of Education, Languages and Linguistics
  • Matt Guille, School of Biological Sciences
  • Annie Godwin, School of Biological Sciences
  • Steven Dodsworth, School of Biological Sciences
  • Charles Wood, Zeiss Global Centre
  • Natalia Przelomska, School of Biological Sciences

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 2 - Zero Hunger
  • SDG 3 - Good Health and Well-being
  • SDG 7 - Affordable and Clean Energy
  • SDG 13 - Climate Action
  • SDG 15 - Life on Land

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