Plant diseases have a substantial economic and environmental impact on both natural and managed ecosystems, within which environmental factors such as mineral nutrition, climate and pollution can all play a key role in determining the outcome of plant-pathogen interactions. However, the impact of environmental factors on the evolution and function of plant immune mechanisms remains poorly understood. We are interested in how plant adaptation to the environment has intersected with the evolution and function of plant disease resistance mechanisms, focusing in particular on plant species that are adapted to metal-rich or saline environments. Our previous work has shown that the metal-hyperaccumulation observed in some plant species that are adapted to metal-rich environments provides an “elemental defence” against plant disease, and has raised intriguing questions about how plant adaptation to the environment can affect plant-pathogen interactions. An example DPhil project would address these questions through a combination of field sampling and laboratory research, and provide training in microbiology, molecular biology, biochemistry and microscopy techniques, along with the potential to use advanced imaging and analytical techniques such as synchrotron X-ray approaches to study the distribution and speciation of metals in plant tissues. There is considerable flexibility within this research topic to adapt the questions, methods and supervisory team to the expertise and interests of individual researchers.
Qualifications & Experience
PhD Plant Pathology, Cornell University, USA
19 years experience as a research fellow and lecturer at the University of Oxford. Director of the Oxford Interdisciplinary Bioscience Doctoral Training Partnership since 2012.