As Director, I have overall responsibility for strategy and leadership in the Garden. This includes developing our relationship with other parts of the University, the wider research community, other educational establishments, and the general public. I am particularly focused on achieving a balance in meeting our main objectives – which are research, teaching, outreach, and the provision of an amenity for the citizens of and visitors to Cambridge.
I have an active research group interested in the evolution and development of floral diversity in the angiosperms. We are particularly focused on understanding how surface features of petals, including colour patterns, textural effects and nanoscale structures that produce colour, combine to influence pollinating animal behaviour and therefore plant reproductive success. We use a combination of molecular genetic, evolutionary and behavioural ecology approaches in our work.I teach on the Garden’s education programme, particularly in the Cambridge Certificate in Practical Horticulture and Plantsmanship. Within the University I also lecture in the first year of the Natural Sciences Tripos (in the course “Evolution and Behaviour”) and in third year Plant Sciences.
I studied Plant and Environmental Biology at the University of St Andrews for my BSc, including a happy summer as a gardener in the St Andrews Botanic Garden. I then trained as a plant molecular geneticist, studying developmental problems during a PhD at the John Innes Centre and then as a junior research fellow in Cambridge. I was appointed to a lectureship in the Department of Plant Sciences in 1999, and established my own research group focussing on the evolution of developmental programmes controlling key floral traits. My book “Understanding flowers and flowering: an integrated approach” won the British Ecological Society’s Marsh Book of the Year Award in 2009. I was awarded the Bicentenary Medal of the Linnean Society in 2010 and the William Bate Hardy Prize of the Cambridge Philosophical Society, also in 2010.
I currently serve on the Council of the European Society for Evolutionary Developmental Biology, and as a member of the NERC Peer Review College and the Royal Society’s Small Grants Panel. I am Associate Editor of Naturwissenschaften, a member of the Editorial Board of Current Opinion in Plant Biology, and a member of the Advisory Board of the New Phytologist. I am also a member of the Botanical Society of America and the British Society for Developmental Biology, as well as a Fellow of the Linnean Society.