University of Exeter 2007-2011 & University of Warwick 2013-2016
BSc (Hons) Conservation Biology & Ecology & MSc (Hons) Food Security & Sustainable Agriculture
Heritage Seeds. The company is primarily a seed merchant, selling seed to farmers, but also carried out environmental assessments.
University of Warwick & The Horticultural Development Company (HDC)
Favourite thing to do in my job: I particularly enjoy learning about other peoples research, at conferences or in casual corridor chats, and seeing how their research ideas might be applied to my own in a new way.
Crops and Robbers- Insect Vs. Fungi
By 2050 world food production will have to increase by 50% to feed an estimated global of 9 billion people. Thats a lot of mouths to feed! Insect pests, such as aphids (tiny sucking insects) can lead to crop losses due to direct feeding damage, plant virus transmission and/or supermarket rejections. The number of chemicals available to control insect pests is declining due to new European laws. As such there is a need to develop new ways of controlling insect pests in a sustainable way and this is where my research comes in.
The organism I’m working on to control aphids is called Pandora neoaphidis. It is a fungus that kills aphids and poses no harm to other insects.
The effectiveness of using fungi as organisms to control aphid populations is greatly effected by the temperature in the field, since fungi are living organisms. Under extremes of high and low temperatures the fungi are unable to grow and therefore kill aphids. As part of my work i am looking at the ranges of temperatures under which certain species of fungi used as biological control agents can function and therefore be effective at killing aphids.
The picture below is of one such experiment. The spores of the fungus are stained blue so we can see them more clearly under the microscope. You can see that most of the spores have germinated meaning they have squiggly lines growing out of them.
Other organisms as well as fungi can kill aphids. Parasitic wasps do this in a pretty gruesome way! They lay their eggs inside an adult aphid. The wasps eggs develop and the adult wasp eats its way out of the aphid! Straight out of a horror movie. This is a picture of one of these wasps under a microscope…
My Typical Day
Bioassays with insect killing fungi
A typical day consists of an exciting mix of reading papers, analysing data, killing aphids with fungus, walking through fields looking for sick looking insects, eating cake and drinking a hell of a lot of coffee!
What I'd do with the prize money
Team up with some colleagues and build an education program for schools with an emphasis on biology and agriculture
How would you describe yourself in 3 words?
A bearded man
What's the best thing you've done in your career?
I really enjoyed working with bumble bees. The danger of potentially being stung kept me on my game! Also found out that bumble bees can squirt the contents of there guts at you when threatened… who knew
What or who inspired you to follow your career?
I’ve always been interested in biology and the environment so i guess it was just a natural progression to study the two
Were you ever in trouble at school?
If you weren't doing this job, what would you choose instead?
A beer taster (is that a job, sounds like it should be)
Who is your favourite singer or band?
Hmmm difficult one, would have to say London Grammar and SOHN at the mo
What's your favourite food?
What is the most fun thing you've done?
Ummmm would have to be any one of the festivals i’ve been too… Oh no actually a prank we played on one of my friends involving laxatives- enough said
If you had 3 wishes for yourself what would they be? - be honest!
1) wish i was a professional rugby player 2) a never ending vat of coffee & 3) enough resources to carry out all the research I want to do
Tell us a joke.
Two fish in a tank… one says i’ll shoot you drive