since 12/2019: Research Fellow (University of Aberdeen)
2018-2019: Bioinformatician (CGEBM, University of Aberdeen)
2015-2018: Post-doctoral research fellow (University of Aberdeen)
2011-2015: PhD Biological Science (University of Aberdeen)
2008-2011: BSc (Hons.) Biology, 1st class (University of Aberdeen)
I am an evolutionary biologist with broad interests in fundamental questions regarding the evolution of phenotypes, physiology, behaviour, ecology and biodiversity, spanning all levels of biological organisation from cells to ecosystems. The main themes of my research include phylogenomics, comparative genomics, transcriptomics, epigenomics and conservation genetics. I am particularly interested in genome evolution and the role of epigenetics in the evolution of functional phenotypic diversity.
My research emphasises the use of high-throughput sequencing to characterise genomes, transcriptomes and epigenomes in wild and laboratory systems, and involves a large amount of bioinformatics data mining. A large component of my computational interest is the utility of long-read sequencing using Oxford NanoPore and PacBio technology for characterising environmental samples, obtaining full-length transcript repertoires and assembling complex eukaryotic genomes.
Speciation genomics in intertidal isopods (Jaera albifrons)
The Jaera albifrons species complex comprises five species that are reproductively isolated via subtle differences in male leg morphology and female preference for tactile stimulation by the male's legs during courtship.
My work aims to examine genome-wide sequence variation among the species to understand the evolutionary history and the underlying genomic architecture of reproductive isolation within the species complex. A particular exciting focus is to identify candidate genes that are functionally involved in leg development and/or courtship behaviour and manipulate these genes in vivo to generate novel species diversity.
Functional behavioural genomics in the slime mould Physarum polycephalum
The slime mould Physarum polycephalum is a single-celled eukaryotic organism that forms a large amorphous blob termed a plasmodium. The plasmodium can grow indefinitely and contains millions of nuclei that govern complex problem-solving behaviour in response to environmental conditions, famously finding the most efficient path through a maze or replicating efficient national rail or road networks.
I am investing the fundamental functional genomic mechanisms responsible for driving this cognitive behaviour. The main focus is on epigenetic patterns that may affect gene expression and confer cellular memory. These insights are achieved via experimental trials and direct manipulation of the cellular epigenetic machinery.
Host-parasite functional genomics in the honey-bee/Varroa/DWV symbiosis
Honey bees are experiencing a drastic decline with serious consequences for pollination rates in the wild and agricultural food security. One important cause for the decline is the parasitic mite Varroa destructor which transmits deadly viruses such as the deformed-wing virus (DWV).
My research considers the functional genomics basis of this intricate three-way symbiosis with particular focus on epigenetic factors affecting host-parasite interactions and virus transmission.