Iain’s fascination and interest in biology stems from his “desire to understand how we as humans and the world we inhabit work”.
After gaining a BSc in Biology from the University of Portsmouth in 1992, Iain worked briefly as an industrial chemist before re-entering academia with Bournemouth University in 1993.
Iain’s interest in pollution ecology, “inspired as an undergraduate by the truly awesome and sadly late Dr. Dafydd Morgan-Huws”, was stoked by the work in the then School of Conservation Sciences. This led to the award of a PhD in 2003 for his “research into the transfer of cadmium and zinc in the soil-plant-arthropod system”.
As Demonstrator in Biosciences at BU, Iain’s research coincides with his interests - “it encompasses so much biology from the molecular level to the community level, from relatively simple microbes to complex plants and invertebrates”. He is especially interested “in how the physiology of organisms influences the transfer of potentially toxic trace metals in soil-plant-arthropod food chains and how toxic effects of trace metals can affect invertebrate communities”.
Iain’s current research follows in this vain, but has also widened over the years to include aspects of heathland restoration, especially soil-plant relationships and the role played by the biology of the soil. The knowledge gained in these areas is used by Iain to inform the forensic perspective “by examining how differences in the nature and function of the soil microbial community affect soft tissue decomposition and through the forensic application of entomology.”
Iain’s research has allowed him to travel the world - conducting investigations in Australia and the Pyrenees, which continues to spark his ever-increasing love for biology.
Fortunately for Iain, he has experienced few problems in his research thus far, apart from his joking admission of “trying to culture enough aphids to feed ravenous ladybirds”.
His greatest achievement, Iain says, is “having my work covered by the New Scientist and global media such as the LA Times and Der Spiegel”.
Iain is a keen cyclist and gets out on his bike as much as possible in his spare time, and is “a leading exponent of cycle botany”. He also enjoys “photography, real ale, military history, and cake!”
He points to “the potential for commonly used agricultural materials to damage soil fertility” as the most pressing issue in his field, “no pun intended”. He suggests that “we must endeavour to preserve and protect the fertility of agricultural soils to avoid poisoning organisms that provide important ecosystem services. This could happen in a small a time scale as decades if we continue as we are”.
In the academic year 2010/11, Iain won the Vice Chancellor's Awards 2011 'Team of the Year' prize along with his colleagues from the Applied Sciences Laboratory and Technical Team.