Research Interests

Community genetics

Individual species do not exist in isolation but interact with other species to form complex interconnected communities. Such communities contain not only multiple interacting species, but also multiple interacting genotypes of each species. Recently it has been shown that within-species genetic variation can dramatically alter the outcome of among-species interactions and that these differences can cascade through to affect the wider ecological community. My current research investigates these ‘community genetic’ effects, using the hemi-parasitic plant Rhinanthus minor (Yellow Rattle) and its host plants, plants and their pollinators and a variety of crop plants and their pests and diseases to determine the importance of genetic variation in structuring ecological communities.

Rhizosphere environment

Plant roots are an important component of the soil environment and are a valuable source of food for the microbial community. I have a current research programme looking at the ways in which plant roots and changes to the rhizosphere influence soil microbial diversity and function.

Ex situ conservation

Ex situ conservation occurs away from the natural habitat of a species. For plants this usually involves growing the selected taxa in a secure environment such as in a botanic garden or university. Techniques for the ex situ conservation of plants include horticulture, tissue culture and cryopreservation (the long-term storage of living tissue in liquid nitrogen). Previously, I worked as a conservation officer at The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew where I was in charge of an ex situconservation project for UK threatened bryophytes. I am currently interested in the maintenance of genetic diversity in ex situ collections and the implimentation of successful re-introduction programmes for threatened species.

© JK Rowntree 2014