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UOA 16 - Agriculture, Veterinary and Food Science
RA5a: Research environment and esteem
Building on the successful collaboration between leading scientists in the Aberystwyth University (AU) Institutes of Biological Sciences and Rural Sciences (IBS and IRS) and the BBSRC-sponsored Institute of Grassland and Environmental Research (IGER) under the auspices of the Aberystwyth BioCentre (ABC), we are now in the process of formally merging IGER into AU to create the new Institute of Biological, Rural and Environmental Sciences (IBERS). As part of this process, which will be completed by April 2008, research leaders from IGER have been transferred to AU and are accordingly entered as category A staff for this submission. Timing of the merger and restructuring dictates that we cannot report the considerable funding attracted by IGER scientists, and other recent high profile appointments. This detrimentally perturbs our income/staff and PhD student/staff ratios. The evolution of ABC into the nascent IBERS, cements together a large, coherent, multidisciplinary scientific team with complementary expertise and cognate interests. Supported by an extensive infrastructural framework, we make a prominent contribution to agriculture and cognate scientific fields. We generate innovative, internationally excellent research to: (a) develop and exploit new technologies of benefit to the agricultural, horticultural and associated industries; (b) enhance knowledge of biological processes operating across agricultural and associated landscapes at the cellular, whole organism and ecosystem levels; (c) understand and predict the impacts of changing land use and climate on the natural world. Over this assessment period we have attracted ca £19M in (recordable) research grant income, published well in excess of 1,000 research papers, books and articles, developed new plant breeding lines and varieties, filed patents and contributed prominently to the economic development of the agri-industry and the legislative protection of the broader environment.
Research activity focuses on a series of crosscutting themes addressed by four research groups, each of which comprises academic staff, postdoctoral and postgraduate researchers and technical staff. Groups meet regularly to discuss research agendas. The Research Planning Committee (RPC) provides overall strategic direction and coordinates activity between groups. The integrative nature of the structure is further assured because several staff are active in two or more groups.
1. The Genetics and Animal and Plant Breeding (GAPB) Group (Armstead, Donnison, Davies-Morel, Draper, Haresign, Ironside, G. Jenkins, Jones, I. King, Meade, Mur, Ougham, Rose, Scott, Skøt, H.Thomas [Leverhulme Emeritus Fellow, 2007-8], Thorogood, Wilkinson). The group has attracted ca £3.5M of external funding to support modern genetic approaches to: (a) plant and animal breeding; (b) increasing biological understanding of crop and livestock species. The contribution of GAPB to crop improvement is demonstrable, innovative and wide-ranging. For example, Armstead, Donnison, I. King, Ougham and H.Thomas exploited genomic co-linearity and positional cloning approaches to identify and isolate a gene that confers the commercially important trait of ‘stay-green’ (non-senescing) leaves in forage/amenity grasses. This gene also has historic significance, as it is a homologue of a pea gene originally described by Mendel. Their work generated many publications, including one in Science. The GAPB group is similarly applying molecular approaches to the genetic improvement of commercial plant species from both temperate
(e.g. forage grasses, lupin, clover and ornamentals) and tropical regions (e.g. cocoa, cashew and oil palm), using financial support from Industry, Defra and BBSRC. Examples include the important contributions of Donnison, I. King, Ougham, Skøt and Thorogood to ongoing long-term breeding programmes to generate improved varieties of forage grasses, forage legumes and cereals (Lolium, Festuca, Trifolium, oats, barley and maize). The research outputs are correspondingly diverse and include improved germplasm stocks, publications, patents, breeding systems, morphometric selection criteria, breeding material and varieties. The group ethos is to assimilate cutting edge science and technical methodologies into existing and ongoing germplasm improvement programmes. Recent initiatives include the deployment of epigenomic approaches to help understand the interaction between agronomy and breeding. To this end, Wilkinson secured substantial funding from the Dutch Ministry of Agriculture and the Cocoa industry to develop epigenomic strategies to enhance cocoa production. His team has similarly pioneered the use of high-resolution melt analysis for linkage mapping, a development that led to an invited, industry-sponsored seminar tour of Australia in 2007. More fundamentally, GAPB has deployed various strategies to uncover the molecular mechanisms controlling plant phenotype. For instance, Meade developed numerous modelling strategies that will allow breeders to place phenotypic and genetic divergence into an evolutionary context (published in Nature and Science). Scott and Donnison (with Cardiff) determined the evolutionary hierarchies of conserved blocks in 5' non-coding sequences of rbcS genes among dicotyledons. Skøt used leading edge association genetics methods to assess linkage disequilibrium between SNPs associated with genes regulating flowering-time and carbohydrate metabolism in grasses and thereby identified several SNP alleles with functional significance.
GAPB is equally active in livestock improvement. Its outcomes guide industrial and legislative practice both nationally and internationally. One major focus is the development of sheep breeds suited to UK market expectations and changing climatic conditions. Haresign has led several large Industry-, Government- and Defra-funded projects, and recently secured BBSRC LINK funding to apply QTL analysis to predict lean meat yield and quality in sheep. Outputs from this research have directly influenced current practice in sheep production worldwide. For example, his team’s research optimising laproscopic procedures for AI and embryo transfer now underpins the exploitation of breeding technologies for the genetic improvement of sheep. New lines of sheep are being commercialised via a KTP fellowship (AU/Innovis), and his team’s work on breeding for scrapie resistance and associated modelling of breeding strategies provided the platform for the UK National Scrapie Plan. Davies-Morel similarly impacted on the equine industry by identifying factors associated with multiple ovulations in thoroughbred horses. Some 25% of pregnancies are potentially non-viable because of this, equating to a loss of approximately £5M pa to the industry. As a result of her work, (particularly older) animals are now routinely scanned for multiple pregnancies during gestation. GAPB continues to pursue new areas that have strategic importance to the UK agriFor example, Rose developed an in vitro model of mammary cell function (with colleagues in Japan) that is being used to characterise bacterial adhesion during mastitis (with Eastman Dental School).
GAPB has a long-term commitment to address agri-industry needs using appropriate model species and systems, informatics data and genetic resources. For instance, following initial support from the Gatsby Foundation, Draper, G. Jenkins and Mur played a key role in establishing Brachypodium distachyon as a new model grass. This species has greater relevance to the main temperate cereals (wheat, barley, oats, rye) than rice; a deeper understanding of its biology and genetic makeup will disproportionately benefit the UK. A “not for profit” company (Brachyomics) meets the demands for germplasm and a ‘research hotel’ has been established in the AU Botanic Gardens. In 2006, the B. distachyon model was launched in a dedicated session at the prestigious Plant and Animal Genome Congress in San Diego (PAGXIV), with G. Jenkins providing the opening presentation. At PADXV (2007) Brachypodium featured in 8 papers in 3 sessions.
Finally GAPB undertakes fundamental work to discover the genetic basis of traits and developmental processes of agricultural importance. Examples include G. Jenkins’s and Jones’s work on plant B chromosomes and on the control of recombination during meiosis in rye, and by Wilkinson’s work (with Reading) towards characterising and isolating the gene that controls seasonality of flowering in Fragaria. Moreover, Ironside’s work on the inheritance and diversity of sex chromosomes in Silene may ultimately find application to monoecious and dioecious crops, including oil palm, maize and figs.
2. The Pests, Pathogens and Stress (PPS) Group (Barrett, Brophy, Davey, Draper, Gallagher, Griffith, Hamilton, Haresign, Hoffmann, Humphries, Ironside, Kaderbhai, Kingston-Smith, Macduff, Mur, Ougham, Scott, Skøt, Smith, C.Thomas, Young) aims to improve the capacity of the agri-industry to respond to existing and emerging problems associated with pests, diseases and abiotic stress (particularly those relating to climatic change). PPS has attracted ca £4.2M of external funding, mainly from the BBSRC, in pursuit of these goals.
PPS breeds parasite-resistant animals and develops a more predictive molecular understanding of parasite biology and host-parasite interactions in order to address the serious global economic problem caused by parasites of agricultural livestock. Intestinal strongyles in sheep alone account for UK economic losses of £80M and so Haresign and colleagues pioneered the breeding of sheep for strongyle resistance. Mycoplasmas are the aetiological agents of a wide range of diseases in livestock (sheep, goats, pigs) resulting in considerable economic losses. Davey has developed improved flow cytometric methods to detect and evaluate the antimicrobial sensitivity of these important pathogens. A deeper understanding of the genetic control of parasite-host interactions is vital for the longer-term goal of more targeted parasite management strategies. To this end, Hoffmann uses transcriptomic methods to study the biology of a human parasite (Schistosoma) that threatens the utility of much of the land employed for rice cultivation, as does Humphries who works on the relationship between this parasite and its intermediate molluscan host. Proteomic approaches are being employed to explore the biology of parasitic nematodes (e.g. the sheep parasite, Fasciola hepatica and the Caenorhabditis elegans model) and the roles of glutathione S-transferases (Barrett and Brophy), signalling molecules and their receptors, and innate immunity (Hamilton and Humphries) in host-parasite interactions. Protein secretion, which plays a critical role in these processes, is the focus of Kaderbhai and Gallagher’s work on molecular chaperones and protein targeting to defined cellular compartments. A novel, cytochrome b5-based method for monitoring recombinant protein production invented by Kaderbhai has been patented and developed for industrial exploitation. A family of secreted proteins with important therapeutic and diagnostic potential in the continuing battle to control and eradicate bovine and human tuberculosis was discovered as a result of ongoing BBSRC-funded research by Young on bacterial stress responses, particularly the molecular mechanisms that cause latency, dormancy and loss of culturability. The AERAS Global TB Vaccine Foundation has recently negotiated a license with AU to use these proteins for vaccine purposes. In addition, the original work on the founder protein in Micrococcus luteus was an important factor leading to determination of the genome sequence of this organism. PPS is also active at the other end of the spectrum, characterising the effects of parasites on their hosts. For example, Ironside studies the fitness implications of host feminisation associated with infection by microsporidian parasites. His work on their facultative adoption of a sexual phase is providing new insights into their life history and population biology.
PPS is equally active in addressing problems associated with pests, pathogens and stress responses in plants. For instance, Macduff has worked extensively on nitrogen-use efficiency in N-limited Brassica and Lolium, whilst Ougham (with Bangor) has characterised leaf extension growth in barley at low temperatures. Skøt, also working with barley, has investigated gene expression in epidermal cells of barley following infection with powdery mildew and Kingston-Smith has characterised the proteases responsible for foliar protein turnover following abiotic stress in white clover. Mur developed novel methods to detect NO production in planta that were highlighted as “breakthrough technology” by Plant Physiology. Mur (with Scott, Smith and Draper) publishes extensively on the roles of a variety of plant signalling molecules (NO, salicylate, jasmonate, ethylene and H2O2) in plant responses to abiotic and biotic stress. He also published the first metabolomic description of a plant-pathogen interaction. In a BBSRC-funded project Scott, together with Draper and colleagues in AU’s Department of Computer Science (DCS), are using hierarchical metabolomics to elucidate gene function and mode of action in plants.
To ensure PPS activity addresses national and international policy agendas, the group also focuses on increasing capacity to describe and predict parasite spread at the regional, national and global scales. C. Thomas is co-PI and work-package coordinator of the NERC-funded “Centre of Excellence in Earth Observation: Climate and Land Surfaces Systems Interaction Centre (CLASSIC)” (>£700k), and has published extensively on his spatial modelling work.
The eventual goal of truly predictive modelling of pest, pathogen and disease spread is largely limited by the need for accurate parameterisation data. PPS is therefore developing tools to enable large-scale data gathering. For example, Griffith has pioneered the use of flow cytometry for high-throughput analysis of air samples for detecting plant pathogens (eg. Phytophthora infestans).
3. The Agriculture and the Environment (AE) Group (Beckmann, Christie, Clifton-Brown, Collins, Dennis, Donnison, Draper, Gallagher, Fazey, Gamarra, Garrod, Gee, Griffith, Gwynn-Jones, G. Jenkins , Kingston-Smith, McEwan, Macduff, Newbold, Scullion, Smith, C. Thomas, H.Thomas, Warren, Whitworth, Wilkinson) has attracted ca £6M external funding to develop a fuller understanding of the interactions between agricultural, natural and semi natural ecosystems, and assess the environmental consequences of changed agricultural practice (with DH). On a broader canvas, AE combine an increased capacity to predict the impact of agricultural change with targeted efforts by GAPB to develop new tools to facilitate the adoption of more balanced and sustainable agricultural practices. For instance, Wilkinson has developed predictive models of gene flow from GM crops and its associated ecological consequences. A major BBSRC/NERC project to use Brassica napus as an exemplar model species for this purpose generated sixteen refereed publications and an associated book. One study (published in Science) estimated the scale of hybridization UK-wide and another study evaluated hybrid fitness in wild communities. The European Food Safety Authority working group that regulates GM crops has drawn on his expertise and he is regularly consulted on risk assessment issues by various governmental bodies from around the world. Similarly, in a major Defra-funded project H.Thomas, Warren and G.Jenkins are modelling pollen dispersal from maize under UK conditions to assess the feasibility of proximate co-existence of GM and non-GM farms. McEwan and Newbold were work package coordinators in an EU-funded project to investigate horizontal gene flow from plants to ciliate protozoa in ruminants. Scullion (with Draper, Gwynn-Jones, Goodacre and Griffith) developed SENTINEL technology to assess the probability and ecological consequences of gene flow from GMOs released into the environment in a major BBSRC-funded project.
Upland farming and land management are important components of the Welsh agricultural economy. AE is therefore committed to improving our capacity to predict and monitor the effects of all drivers of change in natural and agri-related ecosystems. This requires a means of distinguishing between ‘statistically significant’ and ‘ecologically significant’ change. To this end, Warren works on the origin, maintenance and exploitation of biodiversity, and aims to develop measures for quantifying changes in biodiversity in rural landscapes (Defra-funded). An innovative and open source computer model of vegetation diversity was developed (with NERI, Denmark) and used to model the resilience of pastures to invasive species. With NERC funding, Gee has been quantifying (a) the extent of dispersal of stoneflies, a significant component of the diet of salmonid fish in upland streams (a major source of rural income), between river catchments and (b) the important role of aquatic insects in the food chain in these nutrient-poor moorland environments. Dennis studies the role of structural heterogeneity in maintaining anthropoid diversity in upland pastures. He coordinated a SERAD grant (with SAC, RSPB Edinburgh, CEH and Stirling) on grazing and upland bird diversity, and led a work package on insect herbivory and plant chemistry in another SERAD project ‘Processes in Biological Diversity of Ecosystems’. He is also work package co-ordinator in the EU Alter-net project (€.95M) tasked with monitoring and measuring biodiversity. The capacity to predict ecosystem change on a larger scale requires integration of empirical data into landscape-level modelling. The AE group is therefore active in this area, with several significant modelling publications by C.Thomas, Gamarra and Wilkinson.
AE is equally active in anticipating the impact of alternative farm practice strategies. To illustrate, Griffith studies silage fermentations, plant pathogen dispersal (e.g. late blight) and the role of root endophytes, rumen fungi and basidiomycetes in nutrient cycling and maintenance of soil fertility in grasslands. Whitworth studies the physiological and genetic mechanisms that underpin the fitness and population dynamics of Myxococcus xanthus, an organism characteristically associated with cultivated soils; his work on molecular interactions in signalling processes provides a link with cognate activity in the PPS group. Scullion investigates how mycorrhizal fungi and earthworms influence soil remediation and he studies the environmental impact of landfill leachates (BBSRC- and BIFFA-funded). These investigations aid the development of approaches to land use that maximise biodiversity of both farms and associated ecosystems. Collins works on genetic drift and interactions between grasses and legumes in grassland ecosystems, whereas diurnal variations in nutrient uptake by grasses (Macduff) have important implications for fertiliser strategies to minimise cost and collateral environmental damage.
Within the rural sector, the needs of both agricultural and tourist/recreational industries must be accommodated. Furthermore, while provision of desirable land-use options is important for any programme encouraging sustainable landscape husbandry, it is vital that we have a priori predictions about which alternatives are most likely to be adopted by stakeholders. This requires understanding of the factors governing the behaviour of land users, and is central to our sociological work on sustainable land use. Garrod and Fazey have pioneered novel techniques to evaluate the actions and opinions of land users. Fazey works on methods to develop more ecologically sustainable rural societies. He collaborates with Dovers (Canberra) on policy and sustainability, and Noss (Florida) on conservation biology. Garrod focuses on revenue generated from nature-based tourism and other aspects of the management of people in the environment to create sustainable outcomes within rural based industries. Christie works on the drivers of environmental policy and has evaluated the socioand environmental costs/benefits of farmland biodiversity, red kite conservation and the 2001 FMD epidemic.
AE is also active in improving capacity to predict and adapt to change on a global scale. For example, Gwynn-Jones studies the effects of climate change, N-deposition and increased solar UV irradiation on plant productivity and ecosystem function, particularly in arctic regions (Nature, 2002). Below ground activity is an important facet of ecosystem function, and Gwynn-Jones and Smith have employed metabolomics to explore plant-plant interference and to evaluate ecosystem health, whilst Beckmann explored the dynamics of greenhouse gas (CO2 and CH4) release from Swedish peat cores. Global climate change (and the reality of future fossil fuel depletion) has stimulated interest in renewable energy resources (bioenergy/biofuels). Clifton-Brown has worked extensively on Miscanthus as a potential UK energy crop and in line with projected UK climate change, has characterised the water stress responses of a slow-senescing Miscanthus line. Donnison is similarly exploring the value of senescence-induced promoters to control the expression of fungal cellulases, with a view to the breeding of “self-processing” plants for bioenergy applications.
Finally, the AE group also engages in fundamental underpinning work on carbohydrate metabolism in grasses. For example, Gallagher has developed methods to monitor sugar metabolism in single cells in the leaves of grasses (barley, Lolium) and Kingston-Smith has addressed resource partitioning by crop plants.
4. The Diet and Health (DH) Group (Beckmann, Draper, Gallagher, Griffith, Kingston-Smith, McEwan, Newbold, Rose, Scollan, Smith, Theodorou) has attracted ca £5.1M external funding to work on various aspects of the dietary health of humans and domesticated livestock. The group aims to: optimise the diet and health of livestock for enhanced agricultural production; improve the nutritional value and health-promoting qualities of foodstuffs; ameliorate quality assurance procedures; minimise environmental risks associated with agricultural practice (with AE).
Research is typically multidisciplinary and addresses several issues. For instance, Newbold and McEwan developed a well-funded research programme to assess the environmental impact of herbivores and the human health consequences of the enteric fermentation. Unique culture collections of rumen ciliate protozoa and fungi have been established in Aberystwyth (EU FPV-funded), and novel dietary approaches are being developed to decrease methane emissions from ruminant livestock (patent being exploited by a major European Agri-Chemical group). Research outputs are also designed to guide policy or, in some cases, to enable its effective implementation. An appropriate example arose in response to recent EU regulations banning growth-promoting antibiotics from animal feeds. Here, Newbold and McEwan are leading Welsh Assembly Government-funded programmes to develop plant-based alternatives to antibiotics to control and manipulate rumen fermentation. Kingston-Smith and Theodorou, who also work on the rumen, have demonstrated the important role of plant-mediated proteolysis in this environment/ecosystem. Anaerobic fungi play a cardinal role in rumen cellulolysis and Griffith and Theodorou have contributed prominently to our emerging understanding of their phylogenetic relationships and the molecular architecture of their genomes. This work underpinned an important re-evaluation of fungal taxonomy (Nature, 2006). In a cognate project, Griffith and Theodorou devised high throughput and metabolomic approaches to characterise silage fermentations, while Rose has investigated the responses of dairy cows to the administration of bovine somatotrophin.
Important advances have also been made in relation to plant-derived food products. Draper coordinates the Aberystwyth axis of the multi-million BBSRC MeTRO consortium, providing a national plant and microbial metabolomics facility to support the UK research community. Several substantial FSA contracts to a multidisciplinary team involving the ABC (Beckmann, Draper, Smith) and AU’s Department of Computer Science have underpinned the development of standards for the analysis of food composition, which will have an important impact on human nutrition in the UK. A related activity of this group is the development of “Data Structures, Databases and Advanced Data Mining for Metabolomics”. The metabolomics database architecture they developed is likely to become the international standard. Moreover, they have pioneered a data-processing strategy to deal with signal annotation as well as validated, supervised data analysis methods suitable for dealing with high dimensional and highly variable metabolomics datasets.
There has also been considerable activity to improve the nutritional value of food products. Scollan has attracted substantial funding (ca. £500k p.a.) from Defra, the EU and Industry to support his research into opportunities for enhancing the nutritional value of animal products for human consumption. His work underpins the ongoing needs of the UK beef supply chain. He co-ordinated an EU FPV project “Healthy Beef” and currently helps to co-ordinate an EU FPVI project “Producing safe beef and beef products with enhanced nutritional and eating quality characteristics”. He also coa SERAD/BBSRC project “Linking fatty acid biohydrogenation in the rumen to meat quality; molecular population profiling and metabolic analysis” with the Rowett and works with Newbold on the role of rumen protozoa in the supply of conjugated linoleic acid to the tissues. The DH group is also characterising genetically the nutritional value of forage grasses to livestock. For example, Gallagher has investigated gene expression profiles associated with carbohydrate metabolism and sucrose signalling responses in Lolium (and barley).
Research Environment and Infrastructure
ABC encourages the scientific independence of staff whilst also seeking to augment the value of outputs by fostering a flexible framework of problem-led collaborations. This is achieved through the actions of the ABC Research Planning Committee. Senior research scientists from all three Institutes, representing the four research groups, meet regularly to develop and implement the ABC research strategy, organise research infrastructure bids, coordinate and facilitate research grant applications and monitor research outputs. The remit of the RPC is to identify and exploit strategic opportunities relevant to ABC, with a heavy emphasis on collaborative, cross-disciplinary and innovative research. A vibrant research culture is fostered by weekly seminars together with informal journal clubs and occasional ‘away day workshops’.
Contributions to co-ordinated and integrated undergraduate and postgraduate teaching programmes also strengthen personal and professional bonds among staff. Teaching commitments mean that most periods of research leave do not exceed 9-months. Their targeted use provides windows of uninterrupted time for staff to develop collaborations, write papers and prepare grant applications.
A culture of communal support for research infrastructure has been developed by RPC, sustained largely by access charges and overheads from research grants. Specialised service units supported by 25 full-time technical staff provide facilities for growth and handling of animals, plants and microbes. This includes 857 m2
of research greenhouse accommodation and 127 m2
of contained plant growth rooms, a large (recently refurbished) research aquarium and small animal houses as well as a state of the art D-Unit for housing surgically modified ruminants. Practical farm resources include 870 ha of farmland, 2,500 ‘commercial’ sheep, 5 pedigree research flocks, conventional and organic dairy herds and extensive equine facilities, elements of which are undergoing a major reinvestment programme.
There has been specific investment in bio-containment laboratories and specialized controlled environment facilities (funded by JREI and SRIF income). These include containment facilities for microbial pathogens of mammals, invertebrate parasites, transgenic plants and plant pathogens. A Trophic Interaction Facility provides infrastructure for the modelling of ‘systems-level’ biological processes, including tri-trophic interactions between insects, plants and microbes, soil-invertebrate microcosms and aquatic mesocosms. The main focus of current research is to explore the impact of environmental stresses and perturbations on the structure and functioning of communities using a combination of traditional and ‘omic’ technologies. A Bioimaging Unit provides facilities for electron and confocal microscopy and a Mass Spectrometry Unit provides centralised instrumentation support for metabolomics and proteomics research. Two Experimental Officers on rolling contracts furnish a core of expertise in analytical chemistry and data analysis for metabolomics. A Microarray Facility has also been established, jointly with the Department of Sports and Exercise Science, for transcriptomic analyses using pre-printed slides. SNP Genotyping Facilities include two PSQ96 pyrosequencers and three rotorgene 6000 high-resolution melt machines for SNP genotyping. Partly in recognition of the increasing need for systems biology approaches to ‘omics’-led strategies for breeding, food safety, drug discovery, ecology and landscape management, the SRIF-funded Computational Biology laboratory was established in 2006, built around the Robot Scientist concept (Nature, 427, 247-52) developed by R. D. King (Computer Science). A custom-built robotic workstation was commissioned and calibrated for pioneering work on computer-driven hypothesis generation and testing via a fully automated advanced robotic workstation, initially using the complete set of Saccharomyces cerevisiae mutants derived from the genome-sequencing project. Substantial additional funding has been secured to add functionality for chemical genetics and drug design projects that will benefit the agri-industry.
Research Fellows and Students
ABC was awarded two RCUK Fellowships (Beckmann, Davey) , two Leverhulme Trust senior fellowships N.Jones, H.Thomas), a Daphne Jackson Fellow and hosted numerous visiting postscientists during the reporting period. The ABC runs a well-established programme for training postgraduate students in research methods, intellectual property issues, scientific ethics and communication skills. All students have an independent assessor, who works in a cognate field, and an experienced colleague always jointly supervises students attached to early career investigators, to whom competitive AU- and ABC-funded studentships are preferentially targeted. In their first year, students produce a literature review and a poster. They give annual presentations on their work to the ABC postgraduate colloquium and progress is assessed formally through a biannual monitoring system that reports via our Postgraduate Executive to the RPC and onwards to the Science Faculty Board and the Research Degrees Board.
Interdisciplinary and Collaborative Research
The multidisciplinary nature of the research focus of the four groups requires both internal and external collaborations with scientists from divergent disciplines, spanning amongst others: most areas of Biology, Environmental Systems (remote sensing), Meteorological science (climate change), Chemistry, Computer Science, and Social Sciences. Thus, the work of all groups is both interdisciplinary and collaborative and the published outputs of ABC demonstrate that we maintain active and effective linkages with both national and international agendas. We actively promote interdisciplinary research and our developing HEFCW-funded research and enterprise collaboration with Bangor University is a significant element in this part of our strategy.
The success of this policy is evidenced by the substantial number of national and international research consortia that we lead or contribute to and collaborative, responsive mode Research Council grants awarded since 2001. Given the breadth of ABC research activity and the strongly applied nature of many projects, we target a range of funding bodies, carefully matching funding source to the question being addressed. In consequence, we have assembled substantial support from diverse additional sources including: Defra, FSA, CCW, DENI, Dutch Ministry of Agriculture, EBLEX, English Nature, HCC/MPW, MLC, NBGW, NHM, Norwegian Research Council, QMS, SNH, Swedish Research Council and the EC, as well as a wide cross-section of Industry including among others: Bayer, BIFFA, BioRad, Cargill Dow Ltd., Cocoa Research UK, Dow Agriculture, DSM, GlaxoSmithKline, Masterfoods UK Ltd., Molecular Nature, Neem Biotechnology, Pfizer, Thermo Life Sciences and Unilever. Further targeted support for links with local industry has been secured via Objective 1 (ESF) funding of 12 PhD students.
Dissemination and Outreach
In 2002, Haresign and colleagues ‘spun out’ Cymru Breeding Services from the Welsh Sheep Strategy, an EU 5b-funded programme managed jointly by AU and MLC Wales, to create CBS Technologies, which, after several mergers and acquisitions, now trades as Innovis Ltd. Haresign is technical advisor to the board. The company is the leading provider of artificial breeding services to the UK sheep and pig industries. It has a staff of 50 and a turnover of >£3M p.a. Similarly, Wilkinson recently secured funding from the Royal and Ancient Golf Club and the Sports Turf Grass Research Institute to establish a joint venture leading to a spinout company exploiting molecular approaches to provide quantitative measures of weed infestation of sports turf. Thorogood has been extensively involved in industry-funded turfgrass breeding, producing varieties that have significantly improved the playing surfaces of the Wimbledon Championship tennis courts. Armstead, I. King and Donnison have linked their expertise in genetics to internationally successful forage and bioenergy grass breeding programmes that received a RASE Award in 2007.
We regularly interact with the media to publicise our science. For example, Armstead, Clifton-Brown, Davies-Morel, Griffith, I. King, Newbold, Ougham, Scott, Warren and Wilkinson have featured in newspaper articles as well as radio and television broadcasts (e.g. BBC World Service, ABC US, BBC Radio 4, Radio 5 Live, BBC News, Newsnight, Brazilian Radio, Daily Mail, Telegraph, Guardian, Observer, and various local and international newspaper interviews). ABC is also active in general scientific dissemination through the provision of textbooks, (e.g. Warren’s CUP text on the Agri-Environment) and the training of relevant stakeholders. For instance, Wilkinson is regularly invited by ICGEB, Italy to teach international regulators from around the world about GM crop risk assessment. The New South Wales Parks and Wildlife Service has used Fazey’s work to develop guidelines for conservation policies, and he is working with communities and NGOs in the Solomon Islands to implement policies for developing adaptive capacities in local land use. Garrod’s research on whale watching was tabled at the International Whaling Commission meeting in 2004 as expert evidence in the development of codes of conduct in the industry. The Defra and EU-funded research undertaken by the organic research group has had a major impact on the development of organic farming policy of the UK and EU Governments. Likewise, the Farming Connect activities funded through WAG (Organic Centre Wales, Grassland Development Centre, Red Meat Development Centre) involve development and knowledge transfer direct to the agricultural industry.
Staff retirements (Jones, Kemp, H. Thomas) and departures (Bishop, Goodacre, T. Jenkins, Kell,
D. Kelly, S. Kelly, Lamb) during the reporting period permitted ABC to refocus research priorities and remodel management structures. One plank of this strategy is the Centre for Integrative Research in the Rural Environment (CIRRE). This is one of four research centres that form the AU/BU (Bangor University) Research and Enterprise Partnership, a £10.9 million collaborative research initiative (funded by HEFCW and WAG). The Partnership is a strategic, structural and sustainable initiative that augments the capacity and skills base of ABC allowing us to address the larger-scale research challenges of the 21st
century. It was subject to Research Council peer review before funding approval. CIRRE, co-directed by Newbold and with initial funding of £2.7M, integrates research on sustainability and resilience in the rural environment to improve understanding of rural ecosystems and their future management. New academic appointments in IRS (Dennis, C.Thomas) and in IBS (Meade, Gamarra) are part of this initiative. In addition, there has been considerable strategic investment in new staff within each of the component Institutes of ABC. For example, Wilkinson was appointed as the new HoD in IBS in January 2007 and two new chairs in Parasitology (Hoffmann, Brophy) and a Biochemistry lectureship (Whitworth) were appointed subsequently. These developments continue a carefully phased restructuring to provide greater cohesiveness to ABC. The imminent integration of IGER into AU will provide substantially increased effective mass, enhance our competitive edge and promulgate even closer collaboration.
We adopt a central strategy for promoting and developing early career researchers (Beckmann, Davey, Fazey, Gamarra, Hamilton, Humphries, Ironside, Meade, Whitworth), particularly those new to independent research. All probationers submit a Probationary Agreement, developed in collaboration with their HoD and mentor, which includes a personal research plan, for approval by the AU Probationary Appointments Committee. As well as ensuring an appropriate research agenda has been set, this process also guarantees that new staff are protected from excessive teaching responsibilities. They are given priority when awarding PhD studentships. Centrally provided support for research and conferences is available from the University Research Fund and the Learned Societies Fund (ca. £90,000 p.a. and £50,000 p.a., respectively).
ABC is committed to improving its scientific outputs and seeks to enhance its performance in terms of commercial enterprise and industrial knowledge transfer. The latter is exemplified by recent investment by WEFO to establish the Welsh Institute for Sustainable Environments (WISE) network between AU, BU and Swansea University. The goal of WISE is to create strong bridges between the universities and SMEs, to ensure effective dissemination and commercial exploitation of their research. This has already generated several tangible results, including the establishment of a joint industrial venture between AU and Tepnel to exploit recent advances by Wilkinson’s group in epigenomics.
Other indicators of esteem
Invited speaker: BBSRC Small Grain Cereals Workshop (2005, 2007).
Invited feature on crop improvement in the Multinational Arabidopsis Steering Committee Annual Report (2007).
Outputs 2 and 3 (stay-green gene) attracted considerable interest from National Press/Radio.
Invited speaker: Molecular Breeding of Forage and Turf, Sapporo (2007).
NERC Research Fellow (2001-2004).
Member, NERC Peer Review Committee (2003-2006), moderating panels B (2003) and F (2004), Fellowships panel (2005).
Invited speaker: SEB (2003), British Society for Parasitology (2005), ICOPA (2006).
Member, FSBI council (since 2005).
Awarded the Bueding von Brand medal of the American Society for Parasitology (2001).
Member, BBSRC Animal Sciences Peer Review Committee.
Member, MRC College of Experts Infection and Immunity Panel.
President, British Society for Parasitology.
Beckmann: (early career)
RCUK Academic Fellowship.
Invited speaker, SEB, Edinburgh (2004).
Invited speaker, 3rd
International Conference for Plant Metabolomics, Iowa (2004).
Invited speaker, Metabomeetings 3, Cambridge (2006)
Invited keynote speaker, NIAS/BRAIN symposium, Tsukuba, Japan (2002).
Prestigious HFSP research grant holder.
Invited speaker: BRC, National Academy Szeged, Hungary; Missouri (USA) Plant Biology Symposium on Protein Phosphorylation.
Co-leader SRC-UK; represented UK at meeting (Washington, DC) to establish tomato genome sequencing consortium.
Contributing author, BBSRC strategy for Proteomics and Cell Function (2002).
Wellcome Trust Showcase award holder (2001).
Session chair, invited talks at several international symposia: e.g., the Janssen Lecture, 21st
Int. Conf. World Association for the Advancement of Veterinary Parasitology, Ghent, (2007).
Consultant, Meat and Livestock Commission (2006).
Executive committee member, Agricultural Economics Society (2000-2005).
Representative, UK Network of Environmental Economists (UKNEE) (2005-2010).
Member, ‘Advisory Panel of Experts’, Wales Audit Office’s ‘Value for money examination of Tir Gofal’.
Scientific Committee member, EnvEcon annual conference (2005-2007) and Leader, Organising Committee, ‘Choice experiments: A new approach to environmental economics’ conference, (2001).
Invited speaker, British Association Festival of Science (2005) - media coverage followed.
Business development consultant on Miscanthus for bioenergy.
Invited to join Editorial Advisory Board for Global Change Biology.
Invited to join review team for the $500M BP investment in USA.
Associate editor, Grass and Forage Science.
Working Group leader and steering committee member, EC COST Action 852.
Conference co-organiser, ‘Adaptation and management of forage legumes’ in Ystad, Sweden (2004).
External reviewer and editor of Proceedings of the European Grassland Federation Meetings (2004, 2006).
Davey: (early career)
RCUK Academic Fellowship.
Invited keynote speaker, Joint meeting of the Belgian Society for Microbiology and the Belgian Society for Analytical Cytology; invited speaker, 3rd
International Conference on the Analysis of Microbial Cells at the Single Cell Level; co-organiser; 4th
Several invited publications including: Nature Reviews Microbiology 3, 557-565 (2005).
Contributing author Nature Genetics (in press).
Author, “Equine Reproductive Physiology, Breeding and Stud Management” 2nd
edn. 384pp, CABI (2003). Best-selling book on equine breeding now entering 3rd
edition; translated into Arabic and Spanish. Author, “Breeding Horses”, 224pp, Blackwell (2005).
Extensive media interest (e.g. BBC TV and radio, multiple articles in both general and specialist media “The Horse” etc.).
Invited talks, Vienna Vet School, University of Guelph, Ontario (2004, 2005).
Scientific Adviser Equine Council for Wales, and helped set up the National Equine Forum (2001-2).
MEB, Landscape Ecology book series, CUP (since2001).
MEB, Journal of Food, Agriculture and Ecosystems (2004-2006), Journal of Insect Conservation (Since 2006), Landscape and Urban Planning Journal (since 2003).
Invited speaker, Special Symposium “Restoration of agricultural landscapes”, Swiss Federal Research Station for Agroecology and Agriculture (2005).
BBC Scotland Landward item on SEERAD “Grazing and Upland Birds” project (Scientific coordinator).
Member, Defra Arable Crop Sciences and Pesticide Safety Peer Review Panel on Energy Crops (since 2003), EPSRC SUPERGEN-bioenergy steering committee (since 2003).
Organiser, International Lolium Genome Workshop, Annual PAG meetings (since 2001).
Invited speaker, PAG meeting (2003, 2007) and many others.
Collaboration, honorarium / consultancy with US-based biotechnology companies on Bioenergy (Genencor and confidential).
Commissioned to co-ordinate and write 6 articles for Nature Protocols.
Several invited papers, 2nd
International Congress for Plant Metabolomics, Berlin (2003) and Ames, Iowa (2004).
Invited Speaker, two sessions, PAG IV, San Diego (2006).
Member, International Advisory Board, 2nd
International Congresses, Plant Metabolomics (since 2003).
Fazey: (early career)
Member and consultant, UK Sustainable Development Commission Panel.
Invited speaker, Symposium on evidence-based conservation, European Society for Conservation Biology Hungary (2006).
Invited speaker, Research Institute for Enhancing Learning, Ysgol Addysg, Bangor (2006).
Invited speaker, International Association for Landscape Ecologists World Congress (2003).
Invited speaker, International Fructan Conference, Cuba (2004).
Invited speaker and contributor, PAG XIV and XV, San Diego (2006, 2007).
Invited book chapter, ‘Recent advances in fructo-oligosaccharide research’ (2007).
Reviewer of papers submitted to Plant Physiology; New Phytologist, Journal of Experimental Botany, Plant Molecular Biology.
Gamarra: (early career)
Expert Referee: Cordis-FP6 European Commission NEST-Path Projects.
Invited presentations, Cornell University (2003, 2004).
Invited presentation, University of Alberta (2005).
Spatial Ecology Visitor Scholarship, Dept Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Helsinki (2002).
MEB: Tourism in Marine Environments; International Journal of Sustainable Development.
International Steering Committee, 5th International Coastal and Marine Tourism Congress, Aukland, NZ, (2007).
Member, SAC, 7th Biennial Conference, International Society for Ecological Economics (ISEE), Sousse, Tunisia
Book Reviews Editor, Journal of Heritage Tourism; Associate Editor Journal of Ecotourism. (2002).
MEB, Freshwater Biology.
NERC Freshwater Sciences Peer Review Committee (2002-2003) and Fellowship Interview Panel (2003).
NERC Peer Review College (2003-2005).
Member IUCN Commission for Environmental Management.
MEB, Journal of Analytical and Applied Pyrolysis.
Founding Director, Metabolomics Society.
Extensive media interest in use of analytical spectroscopy for detection of food spoilage.
AFTOL participant; led to co-authorship of several papers including Nature, 443, 818-822.
Elected Council Member, British Mycological Society (2001-2004); MEB for Plant Pathology (since 2001), Mycological Research (since 2004) and The Mycologist (2004-2006), Fungal Ecology (2007).
Symposium organizer, chair: Mycological Society of America meeting, Asilomar (2003) and 8th International Mycological Congress, Cairns (2006), BMS Manchester (2007).
Provided evidence about macrofungal diversity, instrumental in winning a judicial review (SSSI notification; mentioned 4X in High Court judgement, Jan, 2007; CO/10183/2005).
Reviewer, UNEP panel report on Environmental Effects of Ozone Depletion and Interactions with Climate Change, Ontario (2006).
Council member, British Ecological Society (2002-2003).
Invited speaker, International Conference on Arctic-Alpine Ecosystems and People in a Changing Environment, Tromso (2003), and 4th
International Congress on Allelopathy, Wagga Wagga (2005).
Invited review, Trends in Ecology and Evolution, 18, 48-55 (2003).
Hamilton: (early career)
Commendation Award, House of Commons SET for Britain (March 2004) for research into proteomics of tsetse-trypanosome interactions.
Invited participant, Gordon Conference on Antimicrobial peptides, (2003).
Invited review, Trends in Parasitology 20, 35-39 (2004).
Invited Keynote speaker, ICOPA XI (2006).
Elected Associate, Royal Agricultural Societies (2006).
Invited Member: Spongiform Encephalopathy Advisory Committee (SEAC) Sheep Sub-Group.
Member: Defra LINK Sustainable Livestock Production Research Committee; Hybu Cig Cymru/Meat Promotion Wales Research Committee;
Chairman, Assured British Pigs/Genesis Technical Advisory Committee.
Wellcome Trust Career Development Award Fellowship (2002).
European and African Regional Editor, Parasitology International, (2006-present); Guest Editor Experimental Parasitology Special Issue (2007).
Keynote talks: 8th
International Symposium on Schistosomiasis, Recife, Brazil (2001); 51st
Meetings, American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, (Denver,2001;Washington, 2005).
Chaired session, keynote speaker, Keystone Symposium on Molecular Helminthology (Copper Mountain, USA, 2005); organizer, session chair and keynote speaker, ICOPA XI (2006).
Humphries: (early career)
Recipient, Royal Society equipment grant.
Visiting Professor, Lawrence University, Wisconsin (2007-2008).
Ironside: (early career)
Invited speaker, British Society for Parasitology (April 2005)
“Multiple losses of sex within a single genus of Microsporidia” (BMC Evol Biol 2007 7:48) received a F-1000 rating of 3.0.
Invited speaker ICOPA XI (2006).
MEB, Journal of Aquatic Invasions.
Invited speaker, PAGXIV, San Diego (2006).
Invited speaker, 3rd
European Meiosis Meeting, Canterbury (2001).
Invited plenary speaker, PAGEN workshop, Poznan (2005) and Plant Genome Horizons, Kew (2007).
Associate Editor, Genome.
Committee Member, International Society for the Study of Marginal Regions.
Member, Agricultural Economics Commissioned Work Management Committee.
OCM, International Association ‘Cosmos and Philosophy’
Chairman, 17th International Seminar on Marginal Regions (2003)
Leverhulme Trust Senior Research Fellow.
Co-author: B Chromosome database (http://www.bchromosomes.org/bdb/); Tansley Review -Genome conflict in the Gramineae, New Phytologist 165: 391-410; B chromosomes in plants: escapees from the A chromosome genome? Trends in Plant Science 8, 417-423.
Associate editor, Chromosome Research (1997-present); Cytogenetics and Genome Research (2002-present).
Plenary speaker, Baltic III Genetics Congress (2002); Spanish Genetical Society SEG III, Granada (2004); IPK Gatersleben postgraduate conference (2006).
Editorial adviser, Biochemical Journal (until 2005).
Consultant, National Biochemical Corporation, Twinsburg, Ohio (since 2000).
Plenary lecture, International Symposium on Nanochemistry: Chemistry, Biochemistry, Molecular Biology and Bioinformatics of Enzymes, University Punjab, India (2006); Invited speaker, 8th
International Symposium on Cytochrome P450 Biodiversity and Biotechnology (2006).
Visiting Professor, University of the Punjab, Lahore, Pakistan.
Member of BBSRC Council (2001-2005) and Strategy Board, NERC Environmental Genomics Panel, EPSRC Peer Review College, and RCUK Basic Technologies Strategic Advisory Panel.
Fellow of the Institute of Biology.
FEBS/IUBMB Theodor Bucher medal and lecture, (2005).
Director Aber Instruments (1988-present) and Aber Genomic Computing (now Predictive Solutions Ltd) (2001-present).
Biochemical Society, Treasurer, Industrial Biochemistry and Biotechnology Group.
Biochemical Society, member, Professional and Educational Committee; representative on AWiSE.
Member, Organising Committee, 8th
International Symposium on P450 Biodiversity and Biotechnology.
Member, Organising Committee, 7th
International Yeast Lipid Conference.
Member, International Advisory Board for Symposium on P450 Biodiversity and Biotechnology; Chair, International Yeast Lipid Conference (2005), International Symposium on P450 Biodiversity (2006).
Numerous invited presentations: e.g. ASM Candida meeting, Tampa, Florida (2001); FEBS P450 Summer School, Slovenia (two presentations, 2001); International Symposium on P450 Biodiversity, UCLA (2001).
Advisory role for the NERC Microbial Marine and Freshwater Biodiversity on behalf of BBSRC, UK.
MEB, Drug Resistance Updates.
INTAS Conference Chairman: Tbilisi (2002), Kiev (2002), Sevastopol (2004).
Invited speakers: e.g. 56th
Annual Calorimetry Conference, Colorado Springs, USA (2001); 13th
Conference, International Society for Biological Calorimetry, Frankonia, Germany (2003)
Plenary Lecture, Thermal Analysis Group, Royal Society for Chemistry Meeting, Liverpool, (2001).
MEB, Thermochimica Acta.
Formed UK Crop Genetics group.
Founding member and formerly co-ordinator of MONOGRAM (BBSRC-recognised UK cereals and grasses research group).
Numerous invited lectures, e.g. PAG XIV, San Diego (2006); Eucarpia, Denmark (2007).
Stapledon Memorial Trust travelling Fellowship (2003).
Co-organiser and chair, “Plant Cell Architecture” session, SEB, Heriot-Watt (2004).
MEB, Annals of Applied Biology.
Member, SEB Education and Public Affairs, and Cell Biology Committees.
Plenary speaker, BCPC Crop Science and Technology meeting, Glasgow (2004).
Invited lectures: 12th
International conference on cytochromes P450, Montpellier, France (2001); 6th
International conferences on P450 Biodiversity, Los Angeles, (2002) and Prague (2003)
Wellcome Trust visiting professor of Biochemistry, Vanderbilt University (2002).
Member, organising committees of the International Yeast Lipid Conference (2005) and International Symposium on P450 Biodiversity (2006).
Invited lecture, 13th
International Symposium on Biology of Actinomycetes, Melbourne (2001).
Keynote speaker and session chair, ISAM, Warsaw (2005).
Session Chair, ISAM, Kosice (2003).
Session Chair, RRI-INRA meeting, Clermont-Ferrand (2004).
Invited speaker, Anaerobic Protist Meeting, Sardinia (2005).
Consultant, Multiplex Constructions (UK) Ltd., new Wembley Stadium pitch (2004).
Consultant, analysis of stadium environments, e.g. Manchester Utd FC (2001), Hull FC (2001), Bolton FC (2002), Benfica FC (2002).
MEAB, Journal of Experimental Botany (1998 - present).
EU Expert Evaluator: NEST Programme (2004-2005); ERC Starting Grants (2007).
Meade: (early career)
Nature special edition paper (October 2007) publicity - pod-cast, cover, News and Views.
Science paper featured in The Scientist (6/10/06), Economist (5/10/06), National Geographic News (5/10/06), Nature Reviews Genetics (1/11/06) and Science editorial (5/10/06).
Invited speaker, University of Illinois (2007).
Presented at Mathematical and Statistical Aspects of Molecular Biology (MSAMB), Dublin, 2006.
Invited speaker, PAG XIV, San Diego (2006); Plant Oxygen Group, Ghent (2007)
Invited speaker, Genomes to Systems, Manchester (2007).
Invited keynote speaker, 2nd Asian Congress of Mycology and Plant Pathology, Hyderbad (2007).
MEB, Molecular Plant Pathology (2000-2006).
Chief Editor, Proceedings of the Nutrition Society; MEB, Asian-Australasian Journal of Animal Sciences.
Senior Vice President and Council Member, British Society of Animal Science.
Member: SAB for Tetrahymena genome sequencing project; Nutrition Society programmes committee; British Society Animal Science publications committee; SAC of Saf Agri; IOC, 3rd
Greenhouse Gas in Animal Agriculture conference, Christchurch, NZ (2007).
Invited expert Joint Australian/New Zealand working group on Research Priorities for Abatement of Non-CO2 greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture (2004).
Member, BBSRC GDB Peer Review Committee (2006–), Crop Science studentship panel (2006), Bioinformatics and Biological Resources fund panel (2007), Research Equipment Initiative panel (2007).
Invited speaker, Gordon Research Conference on Plant Senescence and Cell Death, Mt Holyoke College, MA, USA, (2004); elected as co-Chair of 2008 GRC on same topic.
Invited lecturer in bioinformatics, International Centre for Advanced Mediterranean Agronomic Studies, Zaragoza; advanced course in "Genomic Tools for the Analysis and Breeding of Complex Traits in Crop Plants", Zaragoza, (2004).
MAB, New Phytologist (since 2004), SEERAD panel reviewing provision of advice, support and training in bioinformatics, biostatistics and mathematical modelling (2004).
Keynote speaker, International Symposium on Recent Advances in Animal Science, Sendai, Japan, (2005).
MEB, Animal Science Journal.
MEB, Domestic Animal Endocrinology.
Invited speaker, National Institute Grassland and Livestock Science, Japan (2006).
Received British Society of Animal Science Sir John Hammond Memorial Award 2007 in recognition of his contribution to animal science.
Council member and Chair of Publications Committee, British Society of Animal Science.
Invited speaker: 7th Int. Symp. Nutrition of Herbivores, Beijing (2007) and Int. Congr. Meat Science and Technology, Dublin, (2006)
Invited speaker: Recent Advances in Nutrition, Australia, (2005); Int. Grassland Conference, Dublin, (2005).
Coordinating PI, BBSRC Hierarchical Plant Metabolomics Consortium Exploiting Genomics Initiative.
Invited review adviser (2006), Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics
Media enquiries re. outputs 2 and 3 from CAB International, Wallingford, Oxon and SeedQuest, Oakland, CA USA.
Invited participant, BBSRC Exploiting Genomics Programme (2004).
Council member (2nd
term), British Society of Soil Science (2007-2009).
Member, Defra Working Group on TSE’s in the Environment (2002).
Session Convenor, Soil Remediation Theme, Eurosoil 2004, Freibourg, Germany.
Co-ordinating Editor, Restoration Ecology (2005-); Associate Editor, European Journal of Soil Science (2006-present).
Chair, organising committee, International AAB conference, Manchester (2003).
Invited expert, DNA Markers Training Course, Hyderabad, (2004).
Invited talk, ICRISAT, Patancheru, India, (2004).
Member, reviewing panel, CGIAR Generation Challenge Programme (2006).
Project Evaluator, EC FPVI and INTAS Programmes.
Invited speaker, NATO Advanced Workshop, Murcia, Spain (2002).
Invited speaker, European Workshop on Environmental Stress and Sustainable Agriculture, Varna, Bulgaria (2002).
Contributing author: Nature Biotechnology, 22, 1601-1606 (2004); Biological Reviews, 76, 103-128 (2001).
Plenary speaker, XXII International Conference on Polyphenols, Helsinki, Finland (2004).
Plenary speaker, VII International Symposium on the Nutrition of Herbivores, Beijing, China (2007).
Member, IAC, International Symposia on the Nutrition of Herbivores.
Alternate Member, WAG Rural Development Plan Programme Monitoring Committee (2007– 2013).
Member, NERC Peer Review College (2007).
Review: Malaria: a changed climate in Africa? Nature, 427, 690-691 (2004); invited commentaries, The Lancet Infectious Diseases, 4, 323-324 (2004), ibid 5, 259-260 (2005).
Invited speaker: Int. workshop on climate change and malaria, Wageningen, Netherlands (2003); Royal Statistical Society, Impact of climate change on vector borne disease, London, (2005).
Invited Expert Reviewer for IPCC Working Group II Fourth Assessment (Human Health), (2005).
Member, Board Directors; International Turfgrass Society (2001-present) and member of the Working Group founding the European Turfgrass Society http://www.turfgrasssociety.eu/.
Editor in Chief, International Turfgrass Society Research Journal (2001-2005).
Invited speaker: all recent Eucarpia Fodder Crops Section Meetings.
Perennial ryegrass AberElf (7/108), AberImp (2/108) and AberSprite (1/108) ranked at the top of the independent UK performance lists compiled by the Sports Turf Research Institute.
Secretary, Ecological Genetics Group (2003)
CUP textbook “Agri-Enviroment” (2007).
Invited presentation, NERC, Polaris House
Invited presentation, National Museum Wales, Cardiff.
Whitworth (early career):
Invited talk, Max-Planck Institute for Terrestrial Microbiology, Marburg (2005
Contributing author, Nature Biotechnology, (in press, 2007).
Invited to join a European SysMO consortium.
Book Editor, Myxobacteria: multicellularity and differentiation (2007). ASM Press, Washington DC. (In Press)
Invited Expert on GMO working group, European Food Safety Administration (2005 -2006).
Two paid industrial consultancies (one international) and industry-sponsored seminar tour of Australia (4 cities).
BBSRC panel member ‘Bioinformatics and Biological Resources’
Invited speaker at many international conferences (e.g. PAG XIV, San Diego, 2006; Int. GMO conference, Jeju, Korea, 2007; Int. barcoding workshop, New York, 2007). Co-organiser (with Mark Tepfer, ICGEB, Italy) of Int. workshop “predicting the ecological impact of enhanced fitness following gene flow from GM crops”.
Panel Member, BBSRC PMS Prokaryotic Responses to Environmental Stress Initiative.
Evaluation Panel Member, UPR 9036, Bioénérgetique et Ingénierie des Proteins, CNRS, Marseille (2003).
Invited speaker, ASM Annual General Meetings in Salt Lake City, Utah, (2002) and Atlanta, Georgia, (2005).
Session Chair and Speaker, 3rd
Conference on Functional Genomics of Gram-positive Microorganisms, San Diego, (2005).
The range and depth of scientific expertise in the Agricultural Sciences, spanning both the agricultural and ecological/evolutionary fields, makes AU uniquely placed amongst UK HEIs to establish a world lead in understanding the drivers of rapid environmental change in biological and agricultural systems, and in developing predictive models and mitigating strategies. This position will be further strengthened by the more targeted exploitation of combined and enhanced infrastructural and staff resources that will result from the imminent integration of IGER into AU. Indeed, the new Institute produced by the scheduled merger in 2008 will constitute the UK’s largest assemblage of HEI academics focused on agricultural management for the benefit of the broader environment. The continuing convergence of research activity with scientists from BU, through the activities of CIRRE and the broader strategic research alliance in the environmental and life sciences between AU and BU, provides even greater scope to take a world lead in this field. The new Institute will have previously untapped capacity to span biological scales from genetic and cellular levels though organism and population processes to ecosystem and global patterns. Its investigations will include adaptation and mitigation in agronomic systems, societal needs and trends (including tourism and recreation), management and policy. Future emphasis will be on the development of new disciplines such as epigenetics, genetic barcoding and systems biology, on fostering cross-disciplinary communication between researchers and on developing further the bioinformatics and modelling skills necessary to paramaterise predictive models. Equally, we will continue to develop new generic strategies to facilitate large-scale, predictive, spatial and temporal modelling. This key challenge facing the emergent discipline of systems biology represents a central goal of any attempt to understand the principal processes and traits governing change in biological systems. To achieve this understanding, we aim to exploit our technology platform and skills portfolio to improve coherence between breeding and agronomy to allow sustainable improvements in multifunctional land-use that also reduce environmental footprints. This enormous undertaking is only feasible if we can also develop means to rationalise from huge datasets those variables most pertinent in mediating change. One example is our ongoing work using a combination of association genetics, allelic screens and reciprocal transplant-life history-QTL approaches to identify genes, traits and genomic regions that are under natural selection or selection by man (e.g. by breeders). Collectively we aim to combine all of these approaches to create a paradigm shift in the way in which conservation biology is viewed on a landscape scale in relation to multifunctional land-use.