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Overview of Current Research

We study the diversity, structure and function of environmental microbial communities, including their role in ecosystem processes such as soil carbon, nitrogen and phosphorus cycling, their effects on plant growth and nutrition, and their role in the degradation of pollutants. A particular focus is the plant rhizosphere microbiome. We are interested in understanding the factors which interact to control microbial community assembly, the way in which plants respond to their microbiome and the characteristics which determine whether the microbiome is beneficial or detrimental to its host. This includes studying the diversity and dynamics of key rhizosphere inhabitants, such as mycorrhiza fungi and pathogenic biota, and processes involved in nutrient dynamics.

Our work contributes to the sustainable management of soil and crop health in agricultural systems, and understanding of the effects of climate change, particularly extreme weather, on ecosystem functions. We also study processes which determine biodegradation and availability of pollutants in soil and water, in order to inform development of more realistic methods to characterise the environmental fate and persistence of anthropogenic chemicals such as pesticides and antibiotics.

Current research grants
Current collaborators include:
  • Megan Ryan, University of Western Australia: ecology of arbuscular fine root endophytes
  • Niall McNamara, Centre for Ecology and Hydrology: microbial resilience to extreme weather
  • Ian Clark, Tim Mauchline, Rothamsted Research: microbiome assembly and function
  • Chris van der Gast, Manchester Metropolitan University: microbiome assembly processes
  • David Bass, Natural History Museum: diversity of microbial eukaryotes
  • Liz Wellington, Dave Scanlan, Warwick School of Life Sciences: rhizosphere phosphorus cycling
  • Isabelle Carre, School of Life Sciences, Warwick: circadian dynamics in the rhizosphere
  • Graham Teakle, Murray Grant, School of Life Sciences, Warwick: rhizosphere bioengineering
  • John Clarkson, School of Life Sciences, Warwick: soil and rhizosphere pathogens
  • Samantha Marshall, Laurence Hand, Syngenta: pesticide fate and transformation processes
  • Jason Snape, AstraZeneca: microbial diversity and chemical biodegradation
  • Hendrik Schafer, School of Life Sciences, Warwick: degradation of pollutants in the phyllosphere
  • Jonty Pearson, School of Engineering, Warwick: pollutant biodegradation and hyporheic exchange



3D core
3D representation of a soil core. Courtesy of Chris O'Grady and University of Nottingham.
roots pf
Photo showing luminescence of bacteria living on roots. Courtesy of Amy Newman.