School of Natural and Environmental Sciences

Staff Profile

Dr Kirsten Wolff

Reader in Evolutionary Genetics


Job title: Reader in Evolutionary Genetics

Department: School of Natural and Environmental Science

Area of expertise: Evolutionary and Population Genetics


University of Groningen, the Netherlands:
1974 Bachelors degree pharmaceutics
1977 Bachelors degree biology
1982 MSc biology: Population genetics and plant physiology
1988 PhD: Faculty of Natural Sciences, title: “Natural selection in Plantago species: a genetical analysis of ecologically relevant morphological variability”

Previous Positions

2002 – now Reader in Evolutionary Genetics at University of Newcastle
1999 – 2002 Lecturer at the University of Newcastle
1998 - now Honorary Lecturer at the University of St Andrews
1998 - 1999 Associate Professor at the Dept. of Botany, Univ. Neuchâtel, Switzerland
1995 - 1998 Teaching and Research Fellow at the Univ. of St Andrews, Scotland
1991 - 1995 Research Associate University of Leiden, the Netherlands


Genetics Society
British Ecological Society
Botanical Society of the British Isles
Botanical Society of America
European Society of Evolutionary Biology
Soc Molecular Biology and Evolution 


Dutch is my mother tongue
Fluent in English, fair in German and French

Informal Interests

Choir singing

link to my Google Scholar page


ResearcherID: E-7961-2012

ORCID nr: 0000-0002-6050-8493


Research Interests

I have a broad research interest in molecular evolution and molecular ecology.
- What is the origin of genetic variation in populations and how is genetic variation in populations maintained?
- How do different genomes and parts of the DNA evolve in plants?
- What influences population structure in general?
- Plant mating systems and their effects.
- What are the influence of natural selection and gene flow on populations and species relationships in the genera Plantago and Tilia?

link to my Google Scholar page


ResearcherID: E-7961-2012

ORCID nr: 0000-0002-6050-8493

Other Expertise

The use of molecular tools for individuals identification in wild species as well as in cultivated species.

Current Work

The lab concentrates on two projects at the moment.

Inter-genomic conflict in gynodioecy and its effects on molecular evolution of mitochondrial genomes

The project is a collaboration with Prof Charlesworth, Edinburgh University

Evolution and Population Genetics in the Genus Tilia

This project investigates genetic variation in lime trees, Tilia cordata and T. platyphyllos and their hybrid. Two PhD students are working on this project.

Link to my Google Scholar page

Research Roles

I am responsible for supervising and training PhD students in population genetics and molecular ecology.

Esteem Indicators

Peer Review College NERC (2008 - 2011 and from 2014 till now)
NERC standard grant panel (2008 - 2011, 2014, 2018)


Funding has been received through the NERC and EU

NERC project : "Inter-genomic conflict in gynodioecy and its effects on molecular evolution of mitochondrial genomes""

with Prof Deborah Charlesworth, FRS, Edinburgh University


Various engagement activities have taken place over the last few years.

• Horticulture and agriculture.

• I was one of four authors of the plant DNA fingerprinting specialist book. This was written with a broad audience in mind and has become a golden standard for many horticultural and agricultural institutes all over the world

. various outreach activities such as a public lecture 'Tilia and it s evolution', Northumberland Natural History Soc Oct 2014 and a public lecture for 'Plant Heritage' on Hesperantha and Tilia cultivars.

Industrial Relevance

Director and co-founder of Bioprofiles Ltd., a biotech company that delivers a service of DNA fingerprinting of plants for a variety of purposes, such as tree root identification and cultivar identification. mainly deals with DNA fingerprinting of tree roots implicated in building subsidence or drain damage.

For further information: click on Bioprofiles


Undergraduate Teaching

BIO2008 Evolutionary and Population Genetics (Module Leader)
BIO3041 Molecular Evolution and Systematics

Postgraduate Teaching

BIO8052 Genetically Modified Organisms

Administrative duties

ERASMUS and Science without Borders coordinator