I am currently exploring mechanisms for digesting woody plant detritus in the marine environment. The interdisciplinary nature of this work has developed through collaborations with members of the Centre for Enzyme Innovation and IBBS in Portsmouth (structural biology: Prof McGeehan; transcriptomics: Dr. Robson; molecular biology: Prof Guille), and also with the Centre for Novel Agricultural Products at the  University of York (enzymology, biotechnological implications: Prof McQueen Mason) and the Department of Biochemistry at the University of Cambridge (hemicellulose enzymatic breakdown: Prof Dupree). These collaborations have been funded sequentially by the University, Leverhulme Trust, BBSRC then a strategic LoLa from BBSRC. My work has a significant international  dimension with a BBSRC-funded partnering fund enhancing the biotechnological (US National Renewable Energy Lab: Dr Gregg Beckham) and  biodiversity aspects (Ocean Genome Legacy: Prof Dan Distel; University of Massachussetts: Barry Goodell). The wood biodeterioration aspects of the work were reported as a highly rated Impact Case Study in REF 2014 and are now being developed through a consortium of Scandinavian partners funded by the Research Council of Norway and through EU COST activities. My team is exploring  environmental implications of  woody detritus processing in the sea through the tropical sites run by Operation Wallacea and through my membership of the Mangrove Specialist Group of IUCN (the International Union for the Conservation of Nature).

I studied Zoology with Marine Zoology at Bangor, then moved just across the Menai Straits to work at the NERC Unit of Marine Invertebrate Biology headed by Professor Dennis Crisp FRS, where I completed a PhD under the supervision of Dr Jim Nott and Dr Llyr Gruffydd on the sense organs and behaviour of scallop larvae. Then I took up a post as a scientific civil servant working at the Office of Forests, Papua New Guinea, applying my marine zoological knowledge to the acute problem of attack on coastal construction by marine wood borers. I also coordinated mangrove research collaborating with the Office of Environment and Conservation. After a period of rich and varied experiences plus widening responsibilities (eventually Assistant Secretary - Utilization) at the Department of Forests) in Papua New Guinea, I became a Research Fellow at Portsmouth Polytechnic working on preservative-resistant borers found in tropical and subtropical waters. My academic career started at Buckinghamshire College of Higher Education progressing from Principal Lecturer to Reader then to Professor of Wood Science. In order to focus on marine zoology, I moved to the University of Portsmouth, first as a Principal Lecturer (1997), then as Reader (2009) before becoming Professor of Marine Zoology in 2014.

Research interests

Wood Marine wood borers: the isopod Limnoria, teredinids (shipworms, Bivalvia) and the weevil Pselactus

Innovative approaches to wood protection in the sea

Teredinid and other bivalve larvae: anatomy and behaviour

Borer-microorganism interactions:

  • ecology of epibiosis of ciliates on limnoriid exoskeletons
  • microorganisms in guts of borers

The role of marine wood borers in maintaining biodiversity in mangrove ecosystems