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About me

BSc Marine Biology and Oceanography; UCNW Bangor

PhD Marine Botany, Royal Holloway and Bedford New College, University of London

A lifelong fascination with the sea led to an interdisciplinary marine sciences degree that incorporated an understanding of the physical environment as the context for biological processes taking place within it. My PhD focused my attention on microalgae and particularly harmful algal blooms. My thesis was an investigation of the ecology and taxonomy of marine dinoflagellates in Scottish sea lochs. My ongoing studies of dinoflagellates include a particular focus on the cyst stage of the life cycle, including their role in the ecology of harmful algal blooms and their use in the interpretation of the fossil record. Establishing cyst-theca relationships and working with Alexandrium species have led to the application of molecular techniques in my research and projects to automate the identification of harmful microalgae.

Awards and Grants

CEFAS: The ecological consequences of seabed disturbance; £78,646; 10/01

ABP: P. lima in Dibden area; £3,400; 06/02

WRc: Analysis of Thames estuary samples for Alexandrium cysts; £43,750; 11/02

WRc: Analysis of Poole harbour samples for Alexandrium cysts; £1750; 04/04

EU: ALGADEC; £47,830; 07/04

EU: SEED; £119,738; 03/05;

BPS small grant: How do Dinoflagellates package all that DNA? £800; 07/06

 EU: MIDTAL: Microarrays for the detection of toxic algae;  £239,908; 09/08


Two research strands have dominated my research:

The first is the use of dinoflagellate cysts to interpret the fossil record. Many cysts described from the rocks and sediments have no known living counterparts.  One continuing element of my research has been to link dinoflagellate cysts to their motile stages to improve our understanding of their palaeoecology/ecology.  Our observations have also shown that in many Gonyaulax species spine length can be broadly related to encystment conditions, understanding this environmentally driven morphological variation can add to our interpretation of palaeoenvironments.

The second research interest is in harmful algal blooms and most particularly the role life cycles play in their ecology. Studies of this nature crucially depend on accurate identification of potentially harmful species and so I have a strong interest in microalgal taxonomy and the application of molecular techniques to this subject. Recently we have been studying (with EU funding) the distribution of Alexandrium species around the UK and mating interactions between toxic and non-toxic strains (see We have also been part of a collaborative group from across Europe developing automated microalgal detections (see,

Current Research / Ongoing Projects

Working on Alexandrium cysts from the Gulf of Maine at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute

Research Groups / Key Appointments


For details of all my research outputs, visit my WestminsterResearch profile.