I am a population biologist whose work involves ecology, evolution and epidemiology. I am also interested in the interplay of science and policy, especially in the areas of the environment and food security.
Since January 2018 my main role at Oxford has been as Director of the Oxford Martin School. Before that I co-led with Ailsa McLean a project that made extensive use of the pea aphid as a model system to explore a variety of different problems in ecology and evolution. We were particularly interested in the role and dynamics of facultative bacterial symbionts and how they affect their host’s interaction with its food plant and its pathogens and parasitoids. We also used the aphid system to study indirect ecological interactions, ecological speciation and host-natural enemy coevolution.
I am interested in insects that vector human diseases, how they may be controlled using modern genetic interventions, and the population genetics and population dynamics involved. I am part of a large consortium (Target Malaria, led by Austin Burt at Imperial College) working on the control of the mosquitoes that transmit malaria in Africa. With Ace North I work on modelling genetic intervention is Africa and with Owen Lewis, Fred Aboagye-Antwi, Talya Hackett and Dave Hemprich-Bennett I study the ecological consequences of manipulating mosquito populations.
I am interested in food system dynamics and how one can simultaneously explore the health, environmental and economic consequences of different food system policies. I direct the Oxford Martin Programme on the Future of Food and with Susan Jebb lead the cross-disciplinary Wellcome-funded Livestock, Environment and People Project (LEAP). More generally on science and policy, Angela McLean & I set up the “Restatements” project which aims to provide succinct summaries of the science evidence base for highly contentious but policy relevant topics.
And finally, I am interested in the taxonomy of a group of tiny and obscure braconid wasps.
Outside the University I am a Trustee Director of the UK Centre for Ecology and Hydrology and a Trustee of the Food Foundation. I sit on the Balzan (science) Prize committee.
Previously I have been a Trustee of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, a member of NERC Council, President of the British Ecological Society, a Trustee Director of Rothamsted Research, Chair of Defra’s (the UK’s environment and agriculture department) Science Advisory Council and I chaired the Lead Expert Group of the UK Government’s Foresight Project on the Future of Food and Farming. In 2018 I chaired a review of England’s bovine TB control strategy.