Integrative Animal and Plant Biology

To understand and exploit animal and plant biology requires knowledge of how biological processes function in an integrated and dynamic way within tissues and organisms. This enables us to address questions such as how growth and development is regulated; how animals and plants behave and adapt in response to a changing environment; and how such processes are affected by and impact on interactions between organisms. Transcending scales and methodologies from molecules to organisms, the ultimate aim of research in this theme is to integrate these layers into a unified picture of organismal, population and evolutionary biology.

Research Topics

  • Developmental biology. Developmental patterning in plants and animals is central to their adaptation to and exploitation of environments. Research in this area aims to understand how genotype and environment influence cell fate, function and patterning to lead to the development of specific organs and tissues, and has applications in field such as crop improvement, stem cell biology and regenerative biology. Specific areas of interest include invertebrate evolution and development and the interaction of cellular processes with plant development. Researchers within the partnership are also applying innovative approaches to study and model neurogenesis and the fundamental processes underpinning cell migration and differentiation.
  • Physiology. Physiological processes such as cellular and molecular signalling, transport and metabolism are vital for the normal function of plants and animals. The interaction of these processes with factors such as nutrition, temperature and disease has a major impact on animal and plant health. Specific areas of interest include the role of ion channels and transporters in physiological processes and the development and application of biochemical, imaging and modelling approaches to investigate the interaction of cellular and metabolic processes with plant and animal health.
  • Animal behaviour. Research into animal behaviour examines mechanisms, evolution and environmental impact, and ranges from cognition to sensory perception and social decision making, underpinned by research into the neurophysiology and anatomy of cells and circuits across a wide range of organisms, from flies to humans. Research in this area has recently benefited from the establishment of the Centre for Neural Circuits and Behaviour (CNCB) at the University of Oxford, which will provide students working in this area with access to state-of-the-art training in and facilities for sensing and stimulating neuronal activity. The aim of the CNCB is to understand, through causal intervention how intelligence emerges from the physical interaction of nerve cells.
  • Biomechanics. Research in the field of biomechanics aims to understand animal movement and flight, integrating fields such as flow dynamics, neurophysiology, mechanotransduction and engineering. Unique facilities available within the DTP include a virtual reality flight simulator for insects used to measure vision-based control responses, and a low-speed, low-turbulence wind tunnel used to measure control responses and insect aerodynamics.