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School of Biological and Behavioural Sciences

Professor Richard Buggs


Professor of Evolutionary Genomics

Telephone: +44 (0)20 7882 8441
Room Number: Room 5.24, Fogg Building

Postgraduate Teaching

Teaching on our Ecology and Evolutionary Biology MSc and Ecological and Evolutionary Genomics MSc:

  • Research Frontiers in Evolutionary Biology (BIO731P)


Research Interests:

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


Browse a list of publications by Richard Buggs

Public Engagement


12/9/18 BBC World TV News Talking business with Aaron Heslehurst
3/1/18 The Economist Babbage podcast interview on tree health
18/5/17 BBC World TV News News today interview with Philippa Thomas on state of the world's plants
18/5/17 BBC Radio Africa Studio interview on state of the world's plants
18/5/17 BBC Radio London Live studio interview with presenter Vanessa Feltz on state of the world's plants
12/4/17 The Economist Babbage podcast interview on ash tree health
13/3/17 BBC Radio 4 Farming today recorded interview
26/12/16 BBC Ash tree genome sequenced for the first time
26/12/16 BBC Radio 4 Six o'clock news recorded interview
26/12/16 Financial Times Genes may save British ash tress from destruction
26/12/16 The Guardian British ash trees may resist dieback disease, research reveals
26/12/16 Daily Mail Trees resistant to killer fungus could be grown in Britain
26/12/16 Daily Express Ash trees could be saved by killer disease after UK study cracks genetic code
03/11/15 The Guardian Ash trees under threat if harmful borer beetle finds way to Britain
02/11/15  The Times GM tress to combat ash dieback
01/11/15  The Daily Telegraph Ash trees could be genetically modified to resist dieback disease
01/11/15 The Guardian With 90% of the Uk's ash trees about to be wiped out, could GM be the answer? 
31/01/15 The Telegraph British woods in crisis as ash disease triples
07/10/14 BBC News Ash dieback
22/06/14 The Conversation Despite the lush summer leaves, our trees are under attack
07/06/14 Sunday Telegraph Ash dieback is now 'unstoppable', ecologists warn 
15/05/14 France 24 Talking Europe (from 9:50)
01/12/13 Sunday Times GM trees may save our woods
01/10/13 Planet Earth Podcast Using genetics to fight ash dieback
27/09/13 BBC Radio 4 Ashes to Ashes
26/09/13 BBC News Ash trees also face insect threat
23/09/13 BBC News Scientists map UK ash tree genome
12/6/13 BBC1 News at One, BBC1 News at Six Interview on ash dieback
Summer 2013 Planet Earth The last stand?
5/2/13 Planet Earth Podcast Using genetics to save the ash tree
21/12/12 Today programme, BBC Radio 4 Interview on ash dieback
21/12/12 Good Morning Scotland, BBC Scotland Interview on ash dieback
21/12/12 Laurence Reed Show, BBC Cornwall Interview on ash dieback
21/12/12 Planet Earth Online New genetics project could help save the ash tree
9/12/12 Sunday Telegraph British woodlands need diversity from around the world
24/11/12 Sunday Times Scientists step in to save birch
20/11/12 BBC News Forres-based charity's effort to protect 'wee trees'
11/11/12 BBC News DNA 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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