Biodiversity and evolution
Our research in Biodiversity and Evolution aims to expand our knowledge of the diverse organisms that exist across the Tree of Life – from microbes to whales. There are still more species unknown to science than those that have already been described. Our research deals with identifying and describing new species as they're discovered.
We search for new biotechnological potential in the genome of lesser-studied organisms, and through our explorations of the diversity of organism function and ecology, help create a basis for assessing the phase of rapid extinction which human beings are causing and struggling to prevent.
We also aim to inspire the public and demonstrate the value of scientific curiosity, by providing examples of the diversity of life and the unexpected capabilities of organisms.
Our research is also regularly featured in publications, such as Nature, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States, Nature Communications and Current Opinion in Chemical Biology.
Our research focuses on the following topics
- Taxonomy and systematics – identifying and naming organisms, and determining their evolutionary relationship to other organisms
- Functional morphology – analysing and comparing how organisms function
- Genetics – the diversity of genes and their evolution
- Autecology – the interaction of an organism with its environment
- Synecology – the interactions of populations of organisms within an environment
Facilities and research methods
We use field and laboratory-based techniques to capture the diversity of life, including traditional survey and microscopy methods: confocal, fluorescence, scanning electron (SEM), transmission electron (TEM), atomic force (AFM) and micro computed tomography (micro CT).
Collaborations and funding
We regularly collaborate on research with academic partners around the world, plus governmental and non-governmental agencies and commercial partners. We have worked on projects with the Natural History Museum, Diamond Light Source, the British Antarctic Survey, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, USA (NREL), the Forestry Commission, and the National Oceanography Centre (NOC).
We've received research funding from major funders such as the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), National Science Foundation, USA, the Research Council of Norway, the European Union and the Leverhulme Trust.
Recent publication highlights
Biotechnology for Biofuels 11:59 (2018), DOI: doi.org/10.1186/s13068-018-1058-3, Federico Sabbadin, Giovanna Pesante, Luisa Elias, Katrin Besser, Yi Li, Clare Steele‑King, Meg Stark, Deborah A. Rathbone, Adam A. Dowle, Rachel Bates, J. Reuben Shipway, Simon M. Cragg, Neil C. Bruce, Simon J. McQueen‑Mason
PeerJ 7:e6431, DOI 10.7717/peerj.6431, Luke Helmer, Paul Farrell, Ian Hendy, Simon Harding, Morven Robertson, Joanne Preston
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 115, 45, p. 11561–11566, 2018, Raunsgard, A., Opedal, Ø. H., Ekrem, R. K., Wright, J., Bolstad, G. H., Professor Scott Armbruster & Pélabon, C.
Biology Letters, 13, 20170447, 2017, Dr Trevor John Willis, Berglof, K., McGill, R., Musco, L., Piraino, S., Rumsey, C., Vega Fernandez, T. & Badalamenti, F.
Ecology and Evolution, 15, 2019, Regina Kolzenburg, Nicastro, K. R., McCoy, S. J., Professor Alex Ford, Zardi, G. I. & Dr Federica Ragazzola
Plant Biology. 20, S1, p. 118–127, 2018, Dr Rocio Perez-Barrales, Abarca, C. A., Santos-Gally, R., Schiestl, F. P. & Arroyo, J.
Discover our areas of expertise
We explore new ways to treat genetic disorders, identifying novel targets for drugs and searching for advances in treatment that could impact the lives of millions.
We're examining how humans impact ecosystems, and developing new ways to assess and counteract our impact on the environment.
Through our research in marine science, we're working to improve the marine environment for future generations, and to make marine activities more sustainable.
We're searching for new antibiotics and other important enzymes and molecules – and developing the new technology needed to harness microbes for human benefit.
Interested in a PhD in Biological Sciences?
Browse our postgraduate research degrees – including PhDs and MPhils – at our Biological Sciences postgraduate research degrees page.