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Animal and microbial sciences

A major aim of this theme is to improve understanding of the interactions between farmed animals, the plants they eat and the microbes living within them. Other key foci are environmental microbiology, particularly with regard to extremophilic organisms and their functions, with applications in biotechnology and bioremediation; and cancer biology and neuroscience. Particular areas of interest are:

  • Enhancing the quality of animal products to meet the rapidly changing requirements of consumers for food, which is safe, healthy, traceable, of consistent eating quality, diverse and convenient
  • Understanding the molecular and environmental processes that shape microbial population structures that drive both co-evolutionary relationships between taxa and govern microbe/fungal/parasite pathogenicity
  • Identifying the environmental and societal impact of animal agriculture on soil, water and air quality and their associated environmental services
  • Zoonotic disease, with a particular focus on E. coli O157
  • Exploration of microbial (meta)genomes for enzymes of industrial relevance
  • Biomining and metal-microbe interactions
  • Crustacean neuroendocrinology and neurogenetics
  • Using the central nervous system of the fruit fly, Drosophila, as a model to analyse the cellular and molecular mechanisms of nervous system development and disease
  • Genome stability mediated by DNA repair mechanisms; DNA damage responses

BEAA research in the field of animal and microbial sciences is funded through BBSRC Institute Strategic Programme grants on the rumen and its microbiome led by Dr Alison Kingston-Smith, as well as individual BBSRC grants which support Professor Nigel Scollan’s co-ordination of the livestock and grasslands component of the FACCE-JPI Knowledge Hub on Modelling European Agriculture with Climate Change for Food Security (MACSUR) and the project Exploitation of genomic selection technologies in the UK sheep population on which he is co-Investigator. BBSRC also funds the work of Professor Simon Webster through a series of projects that have made fundamental advances in knowledge on the neuropeptides and molecular genetics controlling the developmental biology and rhythms of arthropods; the project Biological rhythms in the beach amphipod Talitrus saltator (Dr David Wilcockson); and Unravelling a novel mechanism for cellulose decomposition in the bacterial phylum Fibrobacteres (Dr James McDonald). The latter will provide insights into a 'new' mechanism for the degradation of cellulose, with important implications for the biotechnological application of novel cellulases and our understanding of carbon cycling in the biosphere.

In a series of EU-funded projects, Professor Peter Golyshin is utilising environmental metagenomic research of marine microbial diversity and function to develop new biotechnological approaches both in the discovery of novel enzymes for industrial application and for tackling the global challenge of hydrocarbon pollution. Current and recent projects include: Marine metagenomics for new biotechnological applications (; Marine microorganisms: biodiversity, bioinformatics and biotechnology (; Molecular approaches and metagenomic investigations for optimizing clean-up of PAH-contaminated sites (; Unravelling and exploiting Mediterranean Sea microbial diversity and ecology for xenobiotics’ and pollutants’ clean up (; and Integrated biotechnological solutions for combating marine oil spills ( In parallel, Professor Barrie Johnson leads research into metal-microbe interactions, with a focus on acidophiles and their use in biomining and the recovery of metals from waste streams with funding from the Royal Society, industry and EU.


Notable joint Aberystwyth-Bangor papers in the area of animal and microbial sciences include:

Webster, SG; Wilcockson, DC; Mrinalini; Sharp, JH (2013) Bursicon and neuropeptide cascades during the ecdysis program of the shore crab, Carcinus maenas. General and Comparative Endocrinology 182: 54-64. DOI: 10.1016/j.ygcen.2012.11.018

Zhang, L; Hastings, MH; Green, EW; Tauber, E; Sladek, M; Webster, SG; Kyriacou, CP; Wilcockson, DC (2013) Dissociation of circadian and circatidal timekeeping in the marine crustacean Eurydice pulchra. Current Biology 23: 1863-1873. DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2013.08.038

Del Pozo, MV; Fernandez-Arrojo, L; Gil-Martinez, J; Montesinos, A; Chernikova, TN; Nechitaylo, TY; Waliszek, A; Tortajada, M; Rojas, A; Huws, SA; Golyshina, OV; Newbold, CJ; Polaina, J; Ferrer, M; Golyshin, PN (2012) Microbial beta-glucosidases from cow rumen metagenome enhance the saccharification of lignocellulose in combination with commercial cellulase cocktail. Biotechnology for Biofuels 5: 73. DOI: 10.1186/1754-6834-5-73


Further details about staff working in this area:

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