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Dr Richard Buggs
Reader in Evolutionary Genomics

Location: Room 5.24, Fogg Building
Phone: +44 (0)20 7882 8441

I am interested in the mechanisms of evolution. 

  • How do new species originate? 
  • How are they maintained? 
  • What causes them to go extinct?

My lab works on genomic aspects of the evolution and conservation of plants, especially trees. 

We have active research programmes in three areas:

(1) Phylogenomics of the ash tree genus Fraxinus

Ash trees in Britain, Europe and North America are threatened by ash dieback and the emerald ash borer. We are using phylogenomic approaches to find genetic variants in ash species that reduce their susceptibility to these two health problems. We have sequenced the genome of a British ash tree (Fraxinus excelsior) with funding from NERC (see 

Postdoc Laura Kelly is now sequencing the genomes of 35 other ash species from around the world, funded by the BBSRC, Defra, NERC, ESRC, Scottish Government and Forestry Commission. We are screening different ash species for susceptibility to ash dieback and the emerald ash borer, in collaboration with Forest Research (Roslin) and the United States Forest Service (Ohio). We will seek gene trees that have a topology matching the pattern of susceptibility of the species to each health problem. 

Media interviews on this research can be found below.

(2) Birch trees on Scottish mountains.

Dwarf Birch is rare and found mainly above the tree line, whereas Downy Birch is widespread below the tree line. The two species hybridise a great deal. We are using new DNA sequencing methods to work out how the two species maintain their identity in the face of hybridization, and the extent to which hybridization impedes the conservation of dwarf birch. We are especially interested in how global warming affects the dynamics of this system. This work is funded by a Fellowship from the Natural Environment Research Council. We have recently sequenced the whole genome of Betula nana.

(3) Hybridisation of Tragopogon species (Daisy family) in south-east England.

We are studying diploid hybridisation between Tragopogon pratensis and T. porrifolius, which results in T. x mirabilis. We have found abundant hybrids in natural mixed populations in London and have preliminary evidence that they are reproducing. This work is funded by a pump-priming SYNTAX grant in collaboration with Andrew and Ilia Leitch.

Research department

Postgraduate supervision

Postdoctoral supervision

31/01/15The TelegraphBritish woods in crisis as ash disease triples
07/10/14BBC NewsAsh dieback
22/06/14The ConversationDespite the lush summer leaves, our trees are under attack
07/06/14Sunday TelegraphAsh dieback is now 'unstoppable', ecologists warn 
15/05/14France 24Talking Europe (from 9:50)
01/12/13Sunday TimesGM trees may save our woods
01/10/13Planet Earth PodcastUsing genetics to fight ash dieback
27/09/13BBC Radio 4Ashes to Ashes
26/09/13BBC NewsAsh trees also face insect threat
23/09/13BBC NewsScientists map UK ash tree genome
12/6/13BBC1 News at One, BBC1 News at SixInterview on ash dieback
Summer 2013Planet EarthThe last stand?
5/2/13Planet Earth PodcastUsing genetics to save the ash tree
21/12/12Today programme, BBC Radio 4Interview on ash dieback
21/12/12Good Morning Scotland, BBC ScotlandInterview on ash dieback
21/12/12Laurence Reed Show, BBC CornwallInterview on ash dieback
21/12/12Planet Earth OnlineNew genetics project could help save the ash tree
9/12/12Sunday TelegraphBritish woodlands need diversity from around the world
24/11/12Sunday TimesScientists step in to save birch
20/11/12BBC NewsForres-based charity's effort to protect 'wee trees'
11/11/12BBC NewsDNA tests for rare birch trees from Caucasus Mountains 

Masters students

Students on our MSc Ecological and Evolutionary Genomics or MSc Ecology and Evolutionary Biology programme can apply to do their research project in this lab. 

PhD students

Prospective PhD students are encouraged to apply to next year’s intake of the London NERC DTP

Students from outside Europe should explore our studentships list


Prospective postdoctoral research associates from outside the UK are encouraged to consider applying to the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Fellowship Programme

If you are interested in any of these opportunities, please contact Richard Buggs directly.

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