I am a terrestrial ecologist with a particular interest in understanding how plants interact with the myriad organisms that live in soil, especially symbiotic mycorrhizal fungi, and the consequences of these interactions for biogeochemical cycles. My research falls under three main areas: i) how components of biodiversity (functional groups, species and genotype) regulate ecosystem functions such as greenhouse gas production and nutrient cycling, ii) the ecological and evolutionary implications of multi-trophic interactions, including those mediated below ground by mycorrhizal fungal networks, and above ground via vertebrate and invertebrate herbivores and seabirds, and iii) impacts of land-use, climate and environmental change on ecosystem processes. My work cuts across several scales, from genotypes to communities, and involves working in a diversity of environments to answer particular questions. For example, current research is concerned with tropical forests, boreal forest, extensive and intensive grassland, and cropping systems. To address many of my research questions, I use radio and stable isotope tracers both in the laboratory and the field, and take a reductionist approach to manipulate critical components of biodiversity. Much of my research is supported by grants from NERC and BBSRC.
Feb 2017-present. N8 Chair in Microbial Ecology, The University of Manchester
Oct 2014-Feb 2017. Director of Research, School of Biological Sciences, University of Aberdeen
2008-Feb 2017. Lecturer, Senior Lecturer, Reader, Professor, School of Biological Sciences, University of Aberdeen
2003-2008. NERC Advanced Fellow, based at the University of Aberdeen
1998-2003. Research Associate at University of Sheffield. I focused on understanding how arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi regulate carbon and nutrient cycling in grasslands, including the discovery that springtails disrupt the functioning of hyphal networks.
1997-1998. Research Assistant at University of Sheffield demonstrating how UV-B radiation impacts nutrient cycling in Arctic heathlands
1998. PhD University of Sheffield. I investigated how atmospheric deposition of nitrogen impacts on above and below ground components of grasslands and heathlands. A key discovery was the demonstration that even modest inputs of nitrogen substantially change the demand and use of phosphorus. Supervised by Profs Jonathan Leake and John Lee.
I am also the founder and secretary of the British Ecological Society’s special interest group Plants, Soils, Ecosystem.