Colin is Professor of Plant Biology, and Associate Director at the Grantham Centre for Sustainable Futures at the University of Sheffield, a new initiative which aims to build a global community of sustainability leaders through its PhD programme, and to help connect sustainability research at the university with ongoing policy debates.
Colin has been in Sheffield for twenty years, as postdoc, Royal Society University Research Fellow, and latterly an academic. Before that, he obtained a PhD in plant environmental physiology from the University of Essex, and a BSc in Plant Sciences from the University of Manchester. His research investigates how physiological diversity in wild plants arises from evolutionary and ecological processes, and how physiological mechanisms underpin these species differences. Photosynthesis and growth are of particular interest, since the productivity of photosynthetic organisms is the energetic basis for almost all life on Earth. How did evolutionary innovations increase the productivity of wild species? And how did domestication by humans boost the productivity of our crop plants? Work in this area is multi-disciplinary, spanning global ecological analyses, phylogenetic investigations across evolutionary timescales, experimental physiological work comparing multiple species, and genomic investigations of plant evolution. Recent research has investigated the evolution of C4 photosynthesis in tropical environments and the domestication of wheat in the Fertile Crescent. This work reveals that allocation and size play critical roles in addition to the expected effects of photosynthesis on growth, and shows the importance of taking a whole organism perspective on physiological processes.
Enhanced silicate weathering is driven by the energy from photosynthetic productivity, and Colin brings expertise in this area to the centre, working on aspects of atmosphere-plant-soil interactions.