Ailsa McLean

Research Interests

Multicellular organisms interact constantly with microbes: some as pathogens, some as passengers, and some as important and integrated partners. We study symbiotic microbes in insects, with a focus on symbionts that are recruited to form part of an insect’s resistance against attack by natural enemies such as predators and parasitoids. We’re particularly interested in asking how the evolution of protective microbial symbiosis is impacted by the wider ecological community outside the host insect, and how ecosystems are shaped by the microbes hidden inside animals. We also study how these interactions are impacted by environmental change. Possible DPhil topics include the impact of changing temperature and rainfall on microbial symbiosis, and the evolution of symbiotic microbial communities in different ecological contexts. The specific direction of the DPhil would be shaped by the interests of the student, but our current research involves both laboratory and field experiments with live insects, mostly using aphids and their parasitic wasps as a model.


Qualifications and Experience

BA (Hons) Natural Sciences (Zoology) (Cambridge); MSci Biology (Integrative Bioscience) (Oxford); DPhil Zoology (Oxford). I currently supervise one DPhil student as primary supervisor and one PhD student as a co-supervisor; I have supervised nine undergraduate projects and three visiting graduate student projects.

Personal Research Keywords

ecology, evolution, insects, symbiosis