Post-Doctoral Researcher in Archaeogenetics
I am interested in genetic diversity in plants and what this can reveal about their evolution and population history. I am working on several projects using a range of genetic markers, including microsatellites (SSRs), chloroplast and nuclear DNA sequence data and isozymes, to explore phylogeographic patterns in domesticated and wild plant species.
A theme that links several of these projects is the process of plant speciation by polyploidy, and the use of genetic markers to track this process.
I am currently funded by the ERC-funded project Food Globalisation in Prehistory (FOGLIP). In the framework of this project, I am researching the pathways of spread of two of the species of small-grained cereals known as millets: broomcorn millet (Panicum miliaceum) and foxtail millet (Setaria italica).
We are using polymorphic genetic markers to track the spread of these crops across Eurasia.I am also interested in the evolution of these crops from related wild species, and their adaptation to the varied environmental conditions across the Eurasian continent.
There is evidence in several cereals for human selection on genes that control starch quality. Different starch qualities behave differently when cooked, affecting the texture of the resulting food products. I am working on mutations in the GBSSI gene in broomcorn millet, and selection of the resulting waxy-textured grain by societies in East Asia.
Our work on millets has also been supported by the Leverhulme
Trust and the Wellcome Trust.
I have recently been working with research students from the Department of Archaeology on projects investigating genetic diversity in other less-well-studied crop species whose routes of spread among human societies remain to be discovered, including the pseudocereal buckwheat (Fagopyrum esculentum) and the Indo-Pacific tuber crop taro (Colocasia esculenta).
I am also interested in evolution and historical population processes in the rock fern genus Asplenium, continuing a project I worked on in the Botany Department at the Natural History Museum, London.