Research Interests


McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research
My research interests span evolutionary biology, plant molecular systematics, (palaeo)ethnobotany, phylogeography and anthropology.

I am particularly interested in using genetic data to understand the origins, domestication and dispersal of crop plants. This includes an emphasis on how the movement of humans has influenced, and been influenced by, the movement of their commensal plants.

This research requires a variety of genetic approaches, often including the development of molecular markers in non-model plant species. I have worked extensively with the AFLP technique in the past, and am currently using next-generation sequencing methods for the development of molecular markers. I am also using ancient DNA (DNA extracted from archaeological and ethnographic material) to look at changes in genetic diversity through time.

To date, my research has been focussed in Oceania — a region that includes some of the first and last locations to be settled by modern humans, as well as some of the oldest and youngest domesticated plant species. I am especially interested in pre-European contact between Polynesia and South America, and have carried out research on sweet potato and bottle gourd. These species are a proxy for human movement, and were probably introduced from South America into Oceania by Polynesian voyagers.

Most recently, I have been conducting research as part of the Genographic Project. For this, we collected DNA from indigenous Pacific peoples and have sequenced complete mitochondrial genomes using 454 technology. The aim of this work is to investigate some of the less well understood aspects of the human settlement of Oceania.

The research I do is inter-disciplinary, and I enjoy collaborating with researchers in archaeology, linguistics, ethnobotany, phylogenetics and plant molecular biology.

I am currently a Leverhulme Early Career Fellow in the McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research at the University of Cambridge, and a Research Associate at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge. My Cambridge staff page is here.

I am a member of the Editorial Board for Scientific Reports.



Some Places I’ll be in 2015:

Massey University — 5–16 January 2015, Palmerston North, New Zealand

Information About Current Projects Coming Soon

Read about previous research projects here.