Current Research Interests
My main areas of interest lie in marine biodiversity, the evolutionary biology of marine organisms and marine parasitology, especially those infecting commercially important wild and cultured marine fish and shellfish that are considered to be important from a sustainable food security aspect and those with zoonotic /food safety concerns. I work with protozoan (Microsporidia, Apicomplexa, Dinoflagellata), pluricellular (Myxozoa) and multicellular organisms (Copepoda, Nematoda, Monogenea, Digenea, Cestoda). Studies include: molecular techniques such as gene expression profiling, histological and EM techniques, evaluating pathogenicity to the host and potential losses to wild fisheries stocks, pathogen identification, seasonal occurrences, infection mechanisms and development within the host.
A particularly interesting recent research project has been the molecular identification of the intriguing tumour-forming “X-cell” group as basal dinoflagellate that infect marine fish. These recent findings have led to a new study to better understand their exact position in the tree of life and their potential as serious pathogens to wild commercial fish stocks. This has fuelled my developing interest in the phylogenetics and evolutionary relatedness of basal taxa of certain groups, such as the ancestral link between the dinoflagellates and the apicomplexan members of the alveolate superphylum. Correctly placing basal taxa can alter our accepted views of evolutionary significant events, such as secondary endosymbiosis / plastid acquisition, and the subsequent evolution of these two important groups, to develop into either obligate intracellular parasites (apicomplexans) or photosynthetic flagellates that form a high percentage of the primary marine biomass (dinoflagellates).