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Dr Matt Castle

Postdoctoral Research Associate
Dr Matt Castle
Department of Plant Sciences
University of Cambridge
Downing Street

Cambridge CB2 3EA
Office Phone: 01223 330229



  • Ecosystem Modeller, Centre for the Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science, Lowestoft (2006 - 2007)


  • PhD, Plant Sciences, Cambridge (2007 - 2011)
  • MRes (Distinction), Mathematics in the Living Environment, University of York (2005 - 2006)
  • P.G.C.E., Mathematics, University of Nottingham (2002 - 2003)
  • MA Hons (Cantab.), Mathematics, Pembroke College, Cambridge (1999-2002)

Research Interests

I am interested in the use of mathematical models to inform the control and management of plant disease epidemics. For me there are two main motivators for this interest: global food security and protecting the natural environment. An increasing global population dependant on limited natural resources means that food security is an important issue for the 21st century. Approximately 14% of global crops are lost to disease each year and better control strategies can make a significant impact in combating this. Plant diseases are also of concern in the wider natural environment, particularly woodlands. Recent years have witnessed an increasing number of invasive tree pests and diseases being recorded in the in the UK, from Ramorum disease (Phytophthora ramorum) on larch trees, through acute oak decline, sweet chestnut blight and others, to ash dieback (Chalara fraxinea) in 2012. Effective surveillance and management strategies are essential for the protection and preservation of the natural environment. Mathematical models play a crucial role in the planning and design of control strategies in both of these situations.

My current focus is on modelling the spread of ash dieback and ramorum disease within the UK. This involves the use of large-scale, stochastic, spatially-explicit meta-population models, and close interaction with plant pathologists and policy-makers. The resulting predictive models are currently being used directly to aid national and governmental agencies in their assessment of high risk areas, and also to inform the design of proposed surveillance and management strategies.

Previously, I have worked on models of chemical control for plant pathogens, with specific work investigating the effects of partial effectiveness, incomplete coverage and decay of fungicides on the capacity of a pathogen to invade and persist.


I am involved in teaching and/or supervising various mathematics and mathematical modelling courses at Cambridge with particualr emphasis on mathematical biology. I supervise the following courses most years:

  • Elementary Mathematics for Biologists (Natural Sciences IA)
  • Mathematical Biology (Natural Sciences IA)
  • Maths A/B (Natural Sciences IA)
  • Mathematical Biology (Mathematics II)

I have also been involved in the Wellcome Trust Advanced Course Mathemetical Models for Infectious Disease Dynamics for several years focusing on teaching programming and modelling skills, and in 2011-12 I delivered similar lectures and practical sessions for the Part III course in Systems Biology at Cambridge. I also supervise Part II students for various epidemiological modelling projects.

Key Publications

Castle MD, Blanchard JL, Jennings S (2011) "Predicted effects of behavioural movement and passive transport on individual growth and community size structure in marine ecosystems." Adv. Ecol. Res. 45:41-66 Read online

Blanchard JL, Law R, Castle, MD, Jennings S (2011) "Coupled energy pathways and the resilience of size-structured food webs." Theo. Ecol. 4:289-300 Read online

Blanchard JL, Jennings S, Law R, Castle MD, McCloghrie P, Rochet MJ, Benoit E (2009) "How does abundance scale with body size in coupled size-structured food webs?" J. Anim. Ecol. 78:270-280 Read online

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