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Professor Robin Allaby



Phone: 024 765 75059

Office: D128

Allaby web page

Research Clusters

Environment & Ecology

Plant & Agricultural Biosciences

Vacancies and Opportunities

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

Research Interests

My principal research interest over the past 30 years has been to understand the evolution of domestication in plants. I have done this working with archaeologists, developing and using archaeogenomic techniques as well as connecting archaeological data with genetics through computational models. My group’s research has shown that the origins of domestication lie far back in time and are associated with deep human ecologies that have yet to be understood. The selection pressures that led to domestication appear have begun deep in the epi-palaeolithic and past societies seem to have been surprisingly capable of maintaining biodiversity, and increasingly it is apparent they were connected over large distances. Work continues in my group to unravel these deep human ecologies and understand how plants have adapted to the human environment.

A second area of research, which connects in some ways to the first, is the reconstruction of palaeoenvironments using sedimentary ancient DNA (sedaDNA). By reconstructing past environments we can track the resilience of the environment during the latter stages of the last ice age and the subsequent periods of warming and associated sea level rises. The timeframe here matches closely with the Mesolithic Neolithic transitions considered in the evolution of domestication and provides a wider context for that research.

Research: Technical Summary

My research focuses on the evolution of plant domestication, looking for general principles across species. We aim to understand how crops came into being and to use genomes retrieved from archaeological samples (archaeogenomics) to elucidate the stages of the process in ‘real time’. To do this we use ancient DNA facilities at Warwick, and use a range of next generation technologies (MiSeq, NextSeq and NovaSeq) to generate genomes. We use comparative genomics and population genomics to identify signatures of selection, characterize diversity over time and reconstruct population structures.I also employ genetics models to help understand the process, exploring selection limits as well as selection processes such as competitive selection believed to underpin increases in seed size in many species. Using and developing these approaches I hope to further unravel the very long-term ecological interactions between humans and plants that ultimately led to domestication. Our evidence indicates that the road to domestication began a long time before cultivation of any known description in the epi-Palaeolithic.

Connected to these interests, my group also studies sedaDNA to reconstruct past environments. Here we develop models of taphonomy to understand how DNA persists in the environment, and how it moves once deposited post-mortem. With these factors accounted for, we can reconstruct and interpret past environments from the latter stages of the Devensian through to the warming period of the Holocene and associated marine inundation.

A research image


For a full list of publications, see WRAP

PhD, University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology, 1996
BSc Hons, King's College London, 1991

Fellow of the Linnean Society
Fellow of the Society of Biologists
Associate Editor, PLosOne Journal
Associate Editor, Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences