Category: Research

  • Why phylogenetics is difficult

    Why phylogenetics is difficult

    Here is a short video I made for one of my MSc classes, explaining why building phylogenetic trees is not easy. For examples of this phenomenon in my own research see here and here.

  • A genetic basis for COVID susceptibility

    A genetic basis for COVID susceptibility

    A paper published yesterday supports a hypothesis that Richard Nichols and I made in March 2020. We published an article in The Conversation arguing that we need to know if someone’s chances of severe COVID symptoms are affected by their genes. We suggested: “It may be that just one or two genes are involved. Perhaps […]

  • Could we predict personal coronavirus risk from our DNA?

    Could we predict personal coronavirus risk from our DNA?

    This article, co-authored with my colleague Prof. Richard Nichols, was published at The Conversation on 17th March 2020. Since then, Science has published a news article about efforts to do the type of studies that we advocated. NB. This is not about testing to see if we have coronavirus – this is about testing how […]

  • Lost elms of Kent

    Lost elms of Kent

    Mature elm trees in the English landscape are something I and many other have never seen. Dutch Elm Disease killed them all in the 1960s. Only the older generation can remember what we have lost. Browsing through some local photos from the 1930s this weekend, my eyes were opened to the size and grace of […]

  • How to lead a journal club

    How to lead a journal club

    Getting together to discuss a published paper is a classic way of keeping on top of the literature and training students how to read it. During my postgraduate studies I went to a journal club every week organised by my PhD supervisor. It was here that I learned how to read a scientific paper, and […]

  • “Abundant bioactivity” of random DNA sequences?

    This blog was written for the Nature Ecology and Evolution Community where it is posted here. Probing the claims of a recent study Readers of this blog will be aware of the recent Nature Ecology and Evolution paper entitled “Random sequences are an abundant source of bioactive RNAs or peptides”. Rafik Neme, the first author, […]

  • Darwin’s abominable mystery

    Darwin’s abominable mystery

    One of the hidden gems of Royal Botanic Gardens Kew is its library. I spent several happy hours there researching a recent letter to Nature Ecology and Evolution, published in June under the title “The deepening of Darwin’s abominable mystery“. The brightest moment came when a helpful librarian found me an 1838 reprint of a […]

  • The evolutionary mystery of orphan genes

    Every newly sequenced genome contains genes with no traceable evolutionary descent – the ash genome was no exception This week in Nature I and my co-authors published the ash tree genome. Within it we found 38,852 protein-coding genes. Of these one quarter (9,604) were unique to ash. On the basis of our research so far, […]

  • Phenotypic plasticity drives cichlid radiations?

    At the Royal Society last month, I was listening to proponents of the “extended evolutionary synthesis” (EES). Patrick Goymer has blogged this meeting for Nature Ecology & Evolution, and tweets from it can be found on Storify. The debates have rumbled on in the back of my mind since, especially the contention that phenotypic plasticity […]

  • Telegraph article: British woodlands need diversity from around the world

    This article was written for The Daily Telegraph and is published online here. Foreign tree species are needed to help preserve Britain’s woodlands from disease, argues Dr Richard Buggs. Trees in Britain do not have enough genetic diversity to cope with a global influx of pathogens. As global trade introduces new pests and diseases, we […]