We're one of the world's leading departments for whole-organism biology, with the UK's highest concentration of animal and plant science researchers. In the Research Excellence Framework 2014, we came in the top five for research excellence.

Our research projects are being carried out in locations from the polar regions to the tropics, at scales from within cells up to entire ecosystems. Through our research we aim both to understand the fundamental processes that drive biological systems and to solve pressing environmental problems. This range of activities and the many interactions between the researchers in these areas, generates a dynamic and innovative research environment.

Research groupings

The research activities in Animal and Plant Sciences fall into the three broad groupings shown below.

Ecology and environment


We're working to address some of the key environmental challenges facing humankind at the present time. These include ensuring provision of the ecosystem goods and services that the growing human population requires; maintaining biodiversity in the face of global environmental change; and controlling the spread both of established and emerging diseases.

Evolution and behaviour


We're focusing on the evolutionary, genetic and functional bases of behaviour, adaptation and speciation. Research topics include sexual selection and sexual conflict, ecological immunity, cooperative behaviour, evolutionary genomics of adaptation and evolutionary developmental biology. Study systems range from humans, birds and fish to insects and snails.

Plant and microbial biology


Our research on plant and microbial biology covers levels of organisation from the molecule, through the whole organism and ecosystems to global-scale events. We have particular strengths in the areas of photosynthesis, plant-mycorrhiza and plant parasite interactions, the effects of climate and atmospheric change on plants and how plants influence global change.

Our impact

Our research impacts span five themes. On these pages you can read case studies about the difference our research makes.

Achieving food security


We're working to increase our understanding of fundamental processes, utilising advanced molecular techniques including molecular genetics, metabolomics, fluorescent imaging and gas exchange analysis.

Conservation of biodiversity and ecosystem services


Our research is generating understanding of how ecosystems can be managed for the provision of beneficial ecosystem services, and how environmental change may affect the biodiversity on which they depend.

Managing pests and disease


Fundamental research into the physiology, behaviour and evolution of pests and diseases is increasing our understanding of their emergence and persistence, with important applications in agriculture and conservation.

Reducing the impact of resource extraction

Natural resources

We're generating knowledge about how to manage natural resources responsibly and sustainably. Research includes sustainable logging in the tropics, biomass substitutes for fossil fuels, pollution in freshwater ecosystems and microfossil analysis.

Understanding environmental change


Understanding environmental change is a key aim for a number of staff across our research groups. Activities cover terrestrial, freshwater and marine ecosystems, using a wide range of scientific approaches.

Collaborate with us

We share knowledge across sectors (private, public, NGOs), with other Universities and across our own departments, to achieve research that has real-world impact.

Find out more