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Personal profile


I have a BSc and PhD in Marine Biology from the University of Wales (Bangor). From 1980 until 2008 I worked in the School of Biological Sciences at the University of Bristol, where I was Head of School from 1998. In 2008 I was appointed to my current role as Dean of Science at the University of Portsmouth. I am a phycologist and microbial ecologist. Most of my research has focused on gaining an improved understanding of the biology and ecology of cyanobacteria in both marine and freshwater environments. The cyanobacteria are a diverse group of photosynthetic prokaryotes that play important roles in primary production and in the global nitrogen cycle. Some cyanobacteria produce potent toxins and their growth in lakes and reservoirs impacts negatively on supplies of drinking water and on the recreational use of such water bodies.

Research Interests

The initial focus of my research was to generate an understanding of the molecular structure of gas vesicles, the mechanisms that allow their accumulation and the selective forces that have shaped their evolution: these structures provide buoyancy and thus allow access to light in important groups of photosynthetic primary producers that would otherwise sink out into darker, deeper waters. More recently my research focus has switched to the genetic structure of microbial populations and communities. The aim has been to explore and quantify the interaction between the environment and microbial genomes in an attempt to understand succession and evolution in the microbial communities that form the base of the food chain in aquatic ecosystems.

Current work focuses on freshwater planktonic cyanobacteria and the viruses that help shape their population structures. Working with colleagues at the Natural History Museum in London, I have contributed to an improved understanding of the taxonomy of morphologically depauperate species of the red algae and of both green and brown algal endophytes growing within seaweed hosts.

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 13 - Climate Action
  • SDG 14 - Life Below Water
  • SDG 15 - Life on Land


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