My main research interests are based around general animal epidemiology with specific expertise in marine diseases. I'm currently a NERC funded post doctorate researcher working on the re-evaluation of the emergence of reef coral diseases based on the importance of ciliate infections, a result which stemmed from my PhD studies on factors controlling the microbial community associated with corals.
I also work on diseases in other host animals, such as fish, urchins, seal and amphibians. I am the lead researcher in the molecular health and disease laboratory, which is based in the Devonshire building at Newcastle University. Here I regularly describe microbial communities associated with healthy and diseased animals and find ways to manage or mitigate these diseases.
I am also currently interested in the roles these microbes play in disease causation and pathology and also general microbial interactions in ecosystems such as the reef environmental and terrestrial systems such as microbial effects on plant growth and soils.
In addition to my research I am a consultant for a newly developed marine laboratory, the Korallion Laboratory which is in the Maldives - www.korallionlab.com. This allows us free use of facilities to continue coral disease research in a new purpose built marine laboratory and field station.
I work in close collaboration with Zoos and Aquariums in the UK and throughout Europe addressing issues on coral and fish diseases along with amphibian disease such as the Chytrid fungus and Ranavirus. I’m currently running a project assessing variation in microbial communities in relation to these two devastating amphibian diseases with the aim of findings ways to manage and mitigate the spread of the diseases.
I designed and currently run a website aimed at disseminating knowledge from coral disease researchers around the world to hobbyist, zoos and aquariums helping advise those interested in any problems they face with coral disease. My goal is to expand this to encompass all elements of diseases affecting aquarium animals in the near future. http://aquariumcoraldiseases.weebly.com
My current research addresses the overall aim to fundamentally re-evaluate the emergence of reef coral diseases in the light of our recent findings that implicate ciliates rather than bacteria as primary causal agents of the most common ‘white disease’ of reef corals.
See; http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1462-2920.2012.02746.x/abstract for the paper on this topic and the below link takes you to an independent review of the study with interesting comments about our work.
In addition to coral research which is my main area of expertise I also work on numerous other diseases in different hosts. Recently we described the first case of skin cancer in wild fish. This paper was published in PLOS One http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0041989 and received considerable press interest from magazine such as New Scientist, LA Time, Science Now, Scientific America, Nature Reviews Cancer to name just a few. See this link for an example planetearth.nerc.ac.uk/news/story.aspx?id=1264
2012 Teaching qualification; descriptor 1 of the UK Professional Standards Framework (UK PSF) and Associate Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (AFHEA)
2008-present Module Lecturer: Animal Kingdom; Residential field course - Millport Marine Station
2007-2011 Graduate Teaching Assistant at Newcastle University: Modules include, Tropical Marine Environment and Ecology; Marine Primary Productivity; Biodiversity of Marine Mammals; Ecological Survey Techniques; Cell Biology; Vertebrate Dissection; Animal Physiology; Animal Behaviour; Animal Development; Animal Eco-physiology; Animal Form and Function; Bird Identification field trip; Insect Identification field trip
2007-2008 Personal tutor in Animal Development