Professor Colin Osborne

Dr Colin Osborne

Tel: +44 (0)114 222 0146


Room C214, Alfred Denny Building

Lab webpage:



BSc (1992) University of Manchester;
PhD (1996) University of Essex.
Postdoc (1996 - 2002), University of Sheffield.
Royal Society University Research Fellow (2002 - 2010) University of Sheffield.
The Founder's Prize (2008) British Ecological Society.
Senior Lecturer (2008 - 2011) University of Sheffield.
Reader in Plant Biology (2012 - 2014) University of Sheffield.
Associate Director, Grantham Centre for Sustainable Futures, University of Sheffield (2014-present)
Professor of Plant Biology (2015 - present) University of Sheffield

Research and Teaching

Grass Leaf Cross Section

The photosynthetic conversion of solar energy into sugars, and the use of this stored energy in plant growth, is the fundamental basis of life on Earth. My research group addresses three questions about these physiological processes:

1. Evolutionary Physiology: how have photosynthesis and growth evolved on geological and archaeological timescales?

2. Environmental Physiology: how are photosynthesis and growth influenced by environmental factors, and what roles do they play in the ecology of species and the structuring of ecosystems?

3. Ecosystem Physiology: how can plant growth be exploited sustainably for food and fuel in the changing 21st century environment?

Following a long tradition in plant environmental physiology, our work spans scales ranging from genes to the globe, and utilizes a broad spectrum of approaches. We have a particular emphasis on comparative experiments right now. You'll find more information on this work at:

These research interests are reflected in my teaching. I coordinate two undergraduate modules. At level two, World Ecosystems (APS223) explores the functioning and diversity of the world's ecosystems, and considers the historical and future impacts of climate change and land use. At level three, Global Change (APS313) examines interactions between life and the Earth system through geological history, looking at human impacts on the climate system and their implications for our lives. Level three and four undergraduate research projects in my lab look at functional aspects of plant biology, and typically take a comparative approach to investigate the mechanisms underpinning diversity in plant form and function.

Professional Activities

External Examiner, BSc Ecological Sciences, University of Edinburgh (2012-2016)
Convenor of the Plant Environmental Physiology group of the SEB and BES (2012-2016)
Editorial Board, Proceedings of The Royal Society, Series B (2012-present)
Origins of Grasslands Working Group Coordinator, National Evolutionary Synthesis Center (NESCent), USA (2011-2012)
Advisory Group Member, Royal Society Global Science Report (2010-2011)
Grass Phylogeny Working Group Member, NESCent, USA (2010-2011)
Plants Committee Member, Society for Experimental Biology, UK (2010-2013)
Director, GrassPortal: ecological and evolutionary informatics system (2009-present)
Catalysis Meeting Coordinator, NESCent, USA (2009)
Co-Chair, British-German Frontiers of Science Symposium, Potsdam (2008)
Selection Panel Member, Royal Society Summer Studentships (2005)
Co-organizer, Departmental Seminar Programme (2004-2014)

Research Group

Ruth Wade (postdoc, 2016-present) 'Does physiological innovation change the fundamental relationships between growth and survival?' NERC.

Ellie McLaren (technician, 2016-present) 'Does physiological innovation change the fundamental relationships between growth and survival?', NERC.

PhD Students

Emma Jardine (2013-present) 'Evolutionary history as a key to understanding future ecosystems', Shine CDT.

Vian Mohammad (2013-present) 'Evolution of herbicide resistance in weeds'.

Teera Watcharamongkol (2014-present) 'Evolution of ecological adaptations in grasses'

Beth Holland (2015-present) 'Intermediate complexity models of plant metabolism and growth', Leverhulme.

Matheus Bianconi (with Dr PA Christin)

Lamiaa Munshi (with Dr PA Christin)

Lab Alumni

Angela White (PhD 2012-2016) Researcher, UN Food and Agriculture Organisation, Rome

Marjorie Lundgren (PhD, 2011-2015) Postdoc, University of Sheffield

Catherine Preece (Postdoc, 2011-2014) Marie Curie Research Fellow, CREAF, Barcelona, Spain.

Rebecca Atkinson (Postdoc, 2011-2014) Teaching Fellow, University of Sheffield.

Georg Frenk (Postdoc, 2011-2014) Postdoc, University of Innsbruck, Austria.

Elizabeth Carabine (PhD, 2010-2014) Research Officer, Overseas Development Institute.

Millie Mockford (Technician, 2011-2013) Teaching Fellow, University of Sheffield.

Thomas Kluyver (PhD, 2009-2013) Postdoc, University of Southampton, UK

Hui Liu (PhD 2008-2011) South China Botanical Garden, Chinese Academy of Sciences

Vernon Visser (Postdoc 2009-2011, PhD 2005-2009) Research Fellow, University of Stellenbosch

Liaquat Ali Bhutto (PhD 2007-2010) Assistant Botanist, Agriculture Department, State of Sindh, Pakistan

Sam Taylor (Postdoc 2006-2010) Postdoc, University of Lancaster, UK

Steve Hulme (Technician 2006-2009) Radiographer

Russell Hall (2010-) 'Evolution of ecological diversity in grasses'

Kim Simpson (2013-) 'Plant evolution and the assembly of flammable biomes', NERC.

Jennifer Cunniff (PhD 2005-2009) Editor, CABI

Meizhen Liu (Research Fellow 2006-2007) Associate Professor, Institute of Botany, Chinese Academy of Sciences

Doug Ibrahim (PhD 2003-2007) Management Consultant, Credo Business Consulting

Emily Wythe (Technician 2004-2005) Secondary School Teacher