• West Mains Road, Kings Buildings, Peter Wilson Building

    EH9 3JG Edinburgh

    United Kingdom

Accepting PhD Students

1993 …2023

Research activity per year

Personal profile

Research interests

My research interests within SRUC centre on the processes involved in crop domestication, covering a broad spectrum of crops from major staples to orphan crops, and entirely new crops undergoing domestication for the first time. I am interested in applying lessons from one category of crops to another, along this domestication continuum.

Although my interests in crop domestication are mostly to do with genetic (production) aspects, over time I've become increasingly involved in work that puts domestication in a broader context. This work involves understanding how to 'mainstream' crops in different food system contexts, where both supply-side and demand-side interventions are taken into account.

In my work with CIFOR-ICRAF, I research crop domestication, as above (for nutritious orphan tree crops), and work on wider tree genetic issues. A focus of this last work currently is in developing guidelines, decision-support tools and 'seed systems' to support massive global forest landscape restoration targets that are held back by the lack of tree planting material (and knowing how and where to use it). Increasingly, work at CIFOR-ICRAF has also embraced broader biodiversity management issues.

I am also interested in informing research strategy and policy development for agriculture.


I have been engaged in projects in over 20 tropical or sub-tropical countries and maintain a strong global peer network for research and results application. Part of my work at SRUC is to contribute to its globally-facing agenda through promoting international collaborations. Before working for SRUC, I was based with work in Kenya for 6 years.


I currently contribute a session on “Integrating new and orphan crops in agricultural systems” to the Sustainability of food production MSc module at SRUC.

At CIFOR-ICRAF, I have coordinated, facilitated and taught on a range of week-long training events for groups of scientists and other stakeholders, covering tree domestication, genetic characterisation methods and tree 'seed systems'.

I have been involved in the development and writing of a large number of technical guidelines, training materials and decision-support tools (>40).

Previous employer

During my PhD, I worked at the James Hutton Institute (JHI, then SCRI), with support from the Oxford Forestry Institute, to develop molecular tools to assess genetic variation within the leguminous tree gliricida, which is used in tropical agroforestry systems to improve soil fertility. Our work focused on understanding the biology and distribution of the tree, and considered practical use implications.

Later, I worked with Robbie Waugh and Joanne Russell at JHI on the domestication and climate adaptation of barley, considering the crop as a wider model for cereals. Under the EU WHEALBI project “Wheat and barley Legacy for Breeding Improvement”, we explored exome-captured, phenotypic and environmental data sets to understand barley adaptation, with implications for future cereal breeding. In other work on barley we considered the implications of its multiple domestication origins for the current management and development of the crop. We also explored how wild barley is affected by climate change, with implications for its use as a gene source for crop improvement.


In 2016, I was asked to coordinate colleagues’ contributions for the development of a new Flagship Program for the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agriculture (FTA, 2016-2021). The flagship, titled “Tree genetic resources to bridge production gaps and promote resilience”, was approved and successfully implemented based on our proposal (under the leadership of Ramni Jamnadass and Lars Graudal, ICRAF and University of Copenhagen).

My role in seeking funds for research projects has often been to coordinate position pieces or reviews that help justify particular areas of work. This is reflected in the number of reviews (>25) and position papers/policy guidelines (>25) that I have led, coordinated and/or otherwise contributed to.


Our recently-completed PhD student, Jon Bančič, jointly supervised between SRUC and the Roslin Institute, has been applying mathematical simulations, grounded with field work, to explore appropriate breeding approaches for orphan crops. This was a collaboration with ICRISAT in East Africa.

Previous PhD and MSc students in Nairobi have included Ard Lengkeek (working on on-farm tree diversity), Alice Muchugi (characterising the medicinal tree Prunus africana) and Caroline Kadu (characterising the fruit trees Sclerocarya birrea and Uapaca kirkiana). 

Education/Academic qualification

PhD, Molecular Ecology and Population Genetics of the Tropical Tree Legume Gliricidia, University of Dundee

31 Mar 199231 Aug 1995

Award Date: 31 Aug 1995

Master, Conservation and Utilisation of Plant Genetic Resources, University of Birmingham

30 Sept 199031 Aug 1991

Award Date: 31 Aug 1991

Bachelor, Biochemistry, University of Oxford

30 Sept 198531 Jul 1989

Award Date: 31 Jul 1989

External positions


1 Sept 1995 → …


  • SD Forestry
  • QK Botany
  • S Agriculture (General)


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