School of Biological Sciences


Photo of Dr Alex Ford

Dr Alex Ford

  • Qualifications: BSc Hons) MSc PhD
  • Role Title: Reader in Biology
  • Address: Institute of Marine Sciences Laboratories, Langstone Harbour, Ferry Road, Eastney, Portsmouth, P04 9LY
  • Telephone: 023 9284 5805
  • Email:
  • Department: School of Biological Sciences
  • Faculty: Faculty of Science


I studied Biological Sciences as an undergraduate at Plymouth University (1993-1996), followed by an MSc in Environmental Biology at University of Wales Swansea (1997). After spells working as a Nature Conservation Officer, Pollution Control Officer and Turtle Biologist, I settled down to a Senior Research Assistant post back in Wales (Swansea University 1991-2001) where I worked on a large European funded project identifying and mapping the epibenthic diversity of the North Sea. A PhD followed at Napier University (Edinburgh) investigating the effects of pollution on the endocrine systems of crustaceans (2001-2004).

On completion of my PhD I spent two and a half years lecturing at Napier University (2004-2007) followed by a Senior Research Fellowship post at the UHI Millennium Institute (2007-2008) based in Thurso (N. Scotland). I joined the School of Biological Sciences at Portsmouth University in August 2008 as a Senior Lecturer in Marine Zoology and became a Reader in Biology in 2012.

Teaching Responsibilities

I am the course leader for the MSc programme Applied Aquatic Biology and unit leader for the courses Marine and Terrestrial Ecology (1st yr), Marine Ecophysiology (3rd yr) and the MSc unit Ecotoxicology and Pollution. I also contributes to the teaching team for the units Biodiversity and Evolution, Marine Organisms and Ecosystems, Animal Science, Coastal Ecosystems and Ecosystem Function and Management.

Research Interests

My research focuses mainly on marine ecology and ecotoxicology. I have particular interests in the diversity and evolution of different reproductive systems found within the Crustacea and what happens when sex determination or sexual differentiation ‘goes wrong’ resulting in intersexuality and gymandromorphism. Ecotoxicological studies have focused particularly on how novel compounds (endocrine disrupters; nanoparticles; pharmaceuticals) may impact marine invertebrates. 

I have a keen interest in marine parasitology and wonderful ways in which parasites and pollution can alter the physiology, morphology, sex and behaviour of marine organisms. More recently, utilising high-throughput gene sequencing technologies (Roche 454; ABI SOLID & Illumina), I have been awarded a Natural Environmental Research Grant (NERC) grant to identify the genes associated with sexual differentiation in amphipods and investigate what genes are being “switched on or off” if a parasite and/or pollution causes a crustacean to changes sex. This has enabled follow on grants to look at the impact of novel environmental pollutants (antidepressants) and how they impact aquatic crustaceans.


View all publications on Parade…


  • (PI) Neuroendocrine disruption in crustaceans. EU INTERREG program entitled Peptide Network of Excellence (PeReNE; 2013-2015). (€2,000,000 with €210,000 contribution to AF)
  • (CoI) Effects of radiation on aquatic microbes, invertebrates and fish (Chernobyl: a pilot study with Smith, Thorpe, Watts & Ford). Strategic Research Grant - UoP (£25,000)
  • (PI) NERC Standard Research Grant (NE-G004587-1), (£338,000 contribution to Portsmouth (FEC); £49,160 to Cardiff). Differential gene expression in normal and intersex crustaceans: New horizons for investigating pollution, parasitism and climate change (2009-2013). Including NERC funded studentship completed in Oct 2012. In collaboration with Dr Kille (CoPI) Cardiff University).
  • (PI) 4xNERC Facilities Grant (NE-G004587-1), (£50,000 contribution to Portsmouth). Differential gene expression in normal and intersex crustaceans: New horizons for investigating pollution, parasitism and climate change (2009-2013).
  • (Consultant/CoPI) FCT €158,867 (€7,100 contribution to Portsmouth) 2011-2014 PTDC/MAR/111537/2009 INPACTAR- Long-term effects of intersexuality and other impacts on populations of Echinogammarus marinus


  • Dr Alison Dunn, University of Leeds, England, UK
  • Prof Doug Glazier, Juniata College, Pennsylvania, USA
  • Dr Peter Kille, University of Cardiff, Wales, UK
  • Dr Irene Martins, University of Coimbra, Portugal
  • Prof Judith Smith, University of Salford, England, UK
  • Dr Brita Sundelin, University of Stockholm, Sweden
  • Dr Thomas Gnigge, University of Le Harve, France
  • Dr Jean-Claude LeMevel, University of Brest, France

Postgraduate Research Supervised


  • Dr Stephen Short (2009 to date) - Differential gene expression in normal and intersex Crustcea (
  • Dr Maryline Bossus (2013 to date) - Neuroendocrine disruption in Crustacea (
  • Dr Yasmin Guler (2012 to date) - Effects of radiation on Chernybol amphipods & Effects of antidepressants on amphipods (

Completed PhD Students

  • Gongda Yang (2007 to 2011) - Endocrine disruption in Crustacea: Linking genes to physiology (Director of Studies: Dr Alex Ford)
  • Robbie Mutton (2006 to 2011) - Novel compounds in intertidal macroalgae (Director of Studies: Dr Kenneth Boyd)
  • Yasmin Guler (2009 to 2012) - Sex determination in Echinogammarus marinus (Director of Studies: Dr Alex Ford)
  • Yasmin Guler (MPhil 2008 to 2009) - Ecotoxicology of pharmaceuticals in amphipods (Director of Studies: Dr Alex Ford)
  • Amaia Etxabe (2008 to 2013) - Functional anatomy of digestive tract in woodboring and non-woodboring crustaceans ((Director of Studies: Dr Simon Cragg)

Current PhD Students

  • Robert Mansergh (2009 to 2013) - Crustacean epibionts in pollution monitoring (Director of Studies: Dr Alex Ford)
  • Tamela Brown (2009 to date) - Intersexuality in Gammarus minus (Director of Studies: Dr Alex Ford)
  • Rueben Shipway (2009 to date) - The biology and ecology of shipworms (Director of Studies: Dr Simon Cragg)
  • Jenifer Pini (2010 to date). Biomarkers of pollution in marine polychaetes (Director of Studies: Dr Gordon Watson)
  • Nick Schofield (2011 to date). Ecology of common cuttlefish populations along the coast of southern England (Director of Studies: Dr Paul Farrell).
  • Adrian Love (2011 to date). Impacts of water water effluent and pharmaceuticals on the amphipod Gammarus pulex (Director of Studies: Dr Alex Ford)
  • Aiden Vey (2011 to date). Honest and dishonest signalling between plants and pollinators (Director of Studies: Prof Scott Armbruster)


Fellow of Linnean Society
British Ecological Society