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Professor Gary Bending

Professor of Environmental Microbiology

Deputy Head of School (Academic)


Phone: 024 765 75057

Office: B117

Twitter: @garybending

Research Clusters

Environment and Ecology

Plant and Agricultural Biosciences

Warwick Centres and GRPs

Warwick Environmental Systems Interdisciplinary Centre (WESIC)

Vacancies and Opportunities

For PhD and postdoctoral opportunities, and interest in potential collaborations, please contact me at the above email address.

Research Interests

My research group studies the diversity and roles of microbial communities inhabiting plants, soil and water. We work across a range of natural and agricultural systems. We take a broad approach to studying the biodiversity of microbiomes, with expertise in studying virus, bacterial, fungal, protist and nematode communities. We investigate the processes which control how complex microbial communities assemble, and the way this is influenced by factors such as plant species/ genotype, soil characteristics and climatic variables. A particular focus is unravelling how microbes interact with plants and the wider environment, including their contributions to plant health and the cycling of carbon, nitrogen and phosphorus in soil.

We work with industry on a range of projects, including studying the environmental fate of chemicals such as pesticides and pharmaceuticals, and the way in which plant-associated microbial communities affect crop growth. We collaborate widely with researchers in the UK, Australia, Ireland and Sweden.

Research: Technical Summary

Several current research projects investigate the diversity and functioning of the rhizosphere microbiome. We take a holistic approach to understanding these communities, and have expertise in unravelling the interactions of viral, bacterial, fungal, protist and nematode communities with plants and the wider environment.

We are particularly interested in the ecology and functioning of arbuscular mycorrhizal symbioses, including the recently discovered Mucoromycotinian arbuscular symbiosis which form characteristic fine root morphology within plant roots. Recently we have begun studying other plant endophytic fungal groups which may benefit plant health including Tetracladium spp.

Projects also investigate interactions between climate change and microbial communities which inhabit soil. This includes studying microbial communities which assemble at the soil surface and their role in protecting soil against erosion caused by extreme weather. We also study climate feedbacks associated with the effect of extreme weather on microbiota, including ectomycorrhizal fungi in forest soils.

Work with industry investigates factors which influence the environmental fate of chemicals such as pesticides and pharmaceuticals in the environment. This work focuses on improving the environmental realism of regulatory chemical testing regimes.

Work with collaborators at Warwick includes development of low cost environmental sensors for measuring greenhouse gas fluxes, identifying the fate of microplastics in streams, the stabilisation of engineered soils using microbiota, and microbial transformation of pollutants, including carbon monoxide, in the phyllosphere.

Since 2023: NERC Peer Review College Chair

Since 2021: Deputy Head (Academic), School of Life Sciences

Since 2021: Director, Warwick Environmental Systems Interdisciplinary Centre

Since 2021: Editorial Advisory Board, Journal of Sustainable Agriculture and Environment

Since 2014: Associate Editor, Frontiers in Sustainable Food Systems

Since 2012: Member, NERC Peer Review College

2013-2018: Member, UK Government's Expert Committee on Pesticides

2011-2016: Member, BBSRC Pool of Experts

PhD Plant-Soil-Microbe Interactions, University of Sheffield

BSc (Hons) Biological Sciences, University of Exeter