My research combines the study of functional plant morphology with elements of biomechanics, ecology and developmental biology. I use carnivorous plants as a model to investigate mechanical defence strategies of plants, a severely under-researched area with important implications for diverse fields ranging from agriculture to biomimetic engineering. My early work focused on ecological questions, such as the interaction of wetness-activated pitcher plant traps with rain, condensation and nectar secretion, and the implications for prey capture. Later, my focus shifted towards evolutionary questions, using experimental field ecology and comparative analysis of trap morphology to study the evolution of alternative trapping strategies. The recent discovery of two new trapping mechanisms based on anti-adhesive surface structures drew my interest towards the underlying mechanisms that render plant surfaces slippery for insects. Current projects focus on the developmental underpinnings of micro-patterned, anti-adhesive surfaces, the material properties of specialised trapping structures, and the visco-elastic behaviour of trapping fluids.
|2017 - present||Royal Society University Research Fellow, University of Bristol|
|2014 - 2016||Leverhulme Early Career Fellow, University of Bristol|
|2010 - 2013||Henslow Research Fellow of the Cambridge Philosophical Society, University of Cambridge / Robinson College Cambridge|
|2006 - 2010||PhD (Zoology), University of Cambridge / Trinity College Cambridge|
|2002 - 2006||Diploma of Biology, Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg|
|2000 - 2002||Pre-diploma of Biology, Heinrich-Heine-Universität Düsseldorf|
|1996 - 2000||Horticulturist, Solingen Botanical Garden|
My fascination for the biomechanical aspects of plant-insect interactions was sparked off during an undergraduate research project on Asian Nepenthes pitcher plants at the University of Würzburg in 2004. Since then, my research has revolved around the topic of specialised, slippery plant surfaces, gradually broadening in scope and methodology. In 2006, I was awarded an External Research Scholarship at Trinity College, Cambridge, and moved to the Insect Biomechanics Lab of Dr Walter Federle. Many extended field trips to South East Asia followed, during which I supervised project students, gave public lectures, learned to speak Malay, and established a network of lasting scientific and administrative contacts. After graduating with a PhD in Zoology in 2010, I continued my research as an independent Junior Research Fellow, first at the Department of Plant Sciences, Cambridge, and since January 2014, at the School of Biological Sciences in Bristol where I currently hold a Royal Society URF. In my quest to understand the 'mechanical ecology' of plants and insects, I currently collaborate with molecular biologists, chemical and mechanical engineers, ecologists and biomechanics researchers in three continents. In my spare time, I like to explore the natural world with a camera and set of binoculars, and push my personal bounderies as a competitive rower and keen climber.
|Jan-Mar 2016||Hannah Berg (MSci project)|
Sid Dougan (final year undergraduate project)
Emily Wood (final year undergraduate project
|Sep - Dec 2014||Marion Paulin, Ecole National Supérieure d’Agronomie de Toulouse (internship)|
|Jan - Apr 2012||Michaël Sauvagnat, Université Antilles Guyane (masters project)|
|Mar - May 2008||Hannes Seidel, Julius-Maximilians Universität Würzburg (advanced research project)|
|Feb - Apr 2007||
Christoph Willmes, Julius-Maximilians Universität Würzburg (advanced research project)
Ingolf Karl, Julius-Maximilians Universität Würzburg (advanced research project)
Tilo Weber, Julius-Maximilians Universität Würzburg (advanced research project)
View complete publications list in the University of Bristol publications system
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