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School of Biological and Behavioural Sciences

Dr Joanne Littlefair


Lecturer in Biological Sciences

Telephone: +44 (0)20 7882 8775
Room Number: Room 5.02, Fogg Building

Undergraduate Teaching

Module Organiser for Practical Biology (BIO192)

Module Organiser for Infectious Disease Biology (BIO214)

Ecology Field Course (BIO123)

Research Methods and Communication (Tutorials) (BIO209)

Essential Skills for Biologists (Tutorials) (BIO100)

Diversity and Ecology (SEF033)

Research Methods and Communication (BIO209

Postgraduate Teaching

Module Organiser and Lecturer on Statistics and Data Analysis (BIO773P) on the Biodiversity & Conservation MSc.


Research Interests:

Organisational unit: Organismal Biology


My research programme addresses critical questions regarding the patterns and processes of species distributions and trophic interactions, all from traces of DNA. I am a molecular ecologist who combines lab techniques and big data approaches alongside field ecology. I investigate the consequences of human actions on the biodiversity and ecosystem functioning of the planet by focusing on two areas of research: molecular ecological monitoring and trophic interactions on environmental gradients. I study a breadth of taxonomic systems encompassing boreal, tropical and freshwater ecology.

Ecological monitoring of rapid biodiversity change

My research focuses on the ecology of environmental DNA, specifically with the aim of integrating this data into eukaryote biodiversity surveys and biomonitoring campaigns. I am investigating how detection of species with eDNA may be confounded by the transport of eDNA in highly connected aquatic ecosystems, and disentangling these effects (the detection of regional versus local species richness) in natural field conditions. Currently, I am exploring how spatial and temporal variation in eDNA and eRNA contributes to species detection within different lake zones and strata. With students I am developing projects around measuring organism abundance with eDNA and the optimal design of eDNA field surveys. Together we have been refining metabarcoding techniques for use in large-scale field campaigns of freshwater diversity.

Bioinformatics methods development

I am interested in the computational processes that convert DNA sequences into ecological concepts. How can we usefully define Operational Taxonomic Units (OTU) in metabarcoding pipelines and how does this relate to species concepts? How do different bioinformatic and statistical pipelines used in post-sequencing cleaning and analysis affect our estimations of diversity? I am also collaboratively exploring a benchmark assessment of taxonomic assignment tools for amplicon sequencing data.


Link to my google scholar page

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