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Dr Matthew Davey

Senior Research Associate
Dr Matthew Davey

Matthew Davey is available for consultancy.

Department of Plant Sciences
University of Cambridge
Downing Street

Cambridge CB2 3EA
Office Phone: 01223 333943


Dr Matt Davey is a Senior Research Associate specialising in plant and algal physiology. His primary research interests are in how plant and algal metabolic traits respond to environmental change both within controlled environments and in nature. Using a translational approach, he applies his unique techniques and expertise in wild plant and algal ecosystems to develop sustainable solutions in bioenergy and bio-remediation. He works closely with industrial collaborators to translate this fundamental research into usable products and services of potential high value for the bioeconomy. He has also recently set up a new spin off company, Phytofutures Ltd, to expand into these markets.  Dr Davey is currently working on a large EU project (DEMA) and is overseeing the new Algal Innovation Centre at Cambridge University. He has recent success in being awarded a number of business innovation and interaction grants from NERC and BBSRC and plant and algal bioenergy and technology.  He also collaborates with the British Antarctic Survey to study the growth and chemical composition of terrestrial algae and other plants within the Antarctic environment.

Research Career

2013 – present: Senior Research Associate, University of Cambridge, UK

  • Direct Ethanol from Micro Algae - DEMA (EU 7th Framework programme)
  • EnAlgae (EU INTERREG IVB North West Europe programme)
  • Large scale cultivation and metabolic analysis of industrially relevant micro-algae
  • Collaborations with British Antarctic Survey; national and international industries

2009 – 2012:       Post-Doctoral Research Associate, University of Cambridge, UK

  • Major-industry funded research on lipid productivity in algae for biodiesel production
  • Investigated alterations of expression of key genes associated with lipid production in Chlamydomonas reinhardtii grown under varied nutrient availabilities

2008-2009:        Post-Doctoral Research Associate, University of Sheffield, UK

  • Wellcome Trust VIP award to study variants of the pathogenic bacteria Campylobacter
  • Metabolomic phenotyping of bacteria, and correctly identifying genetic mutations based on metabolic mapping techniques

2005-2008:          Post-Doctoral Research Associate, University of Sheffield, UK

  • Identified metabolic phenotypes of individual populations of Arabidopsis lyrata spp. petraea grown in controlled and field environments
  • Revealed population-level variation in the metabolism of cold acclimation processes in this species and linking my data with other proteomic and transcriptomic datasets
  • Advanced the departmental metabolomics group by developing an analytical and bioinformatic pipeline for metabolic identification, mapping and multivariate statistics

2003-2004:          Assistant Scientific Officer, Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, Bangor, UK

  • Elemental and stable isotope analysis of field samples for C and N sequestration studies
  • Investigated metabolic variation in two natural systems; N deposition and uptake in upland grasslands and the elemental controls of leaf decomposition.

1999-2003:          PhD in Plant Physiology and Biochemistry (NERC CASE studentship)

1Durham University, School of Biological and Biomedical Sciences, Durham, UK 2Centre for Ecology and Hydrology (CEH), Bangor, UK Supervisors: Prof. Robert Edwards1,Dr. Robert Baxter1, Prof. Trevor Ashenden2

  • Thesis title: The effect of an elevated atmospheric CO2 concentration on secondary metabolism and resource allocation in Plantago maritima and Armeria maritima

1998 – 1999:     Research assistant. University of Wales, Bangor, UK

  • Herbicide efficacy testing for industrial clients - established field trials; data analysis
  • Crop (eg. rice, sorghum) maintenance in the temperate and tropical glasshouse facility

1995-1998:          II (i) BSc. (Hons) Biology, University of Wales, School of Biological Sciences, Bangor, UK

  • Research Project: Effect of Nitrogen Oxides on Deschampsia flexuosa

University of Umeå, Sweden, Department of Ecology and Environmental Science

  • Distinction. Comparative Zoology and Conservation Biology (ERASMUS studentship)



2016-present:   Teaching Associate (Department of Plant Sciences, University of Cambridge):

  • Co-ordinate supervisions and training for 1B Plant and Microbial Sciences (PMS) students
  • Practical organiser for 1B PMS
  • Organise 1B undergraduate field trip to NIAB research farm and laboratory
  • Exam marking for 1A Physiology of Organisms and 1B PMS

2011-present:   Lecturing (University of Cambridge):

  • Lecture for microbial ecology (2016/17). Exam question setting and marking
  • Practical classes (University of Cambridge): Co-ordinated and lecture 1B PMS - Rubisco phenotyping practicals (2016)

2011-present:   Graduate School of Life Sciences (University of Cambridge):

  • Designed and developed new lecture/training course on “Introduction to metabolomics”

Other Professional Activities

Committees and Memberships

2016 – present: Department of Plant Sciences Teaching Committee

2014 - present: University of Cambridge, Impact and Enterprise Champion

2014 - present: Local Primary School and Science Link Governor

2012 - present: University of Cambridge, Departmental Energy Champion – Carbon Reduction Board

2011 - present:  University of Cambridge, Interviewer for undergraduate admissions, Corpus Christi College

2010 - present: Research Associate of Corpus Christi College, University of Cambridge

1999 - 2012: Society for Experimental Biology (SEB)

1999 - present: British Ecological Society (BES)

Peer reviewing

Associate editor of Methods in Ecology and Evolution:

Associate editor of Conservation Physiology:

Associate editor of the International Journal of Life Sciences:


Plant Environmental Physiology Group (British Ecological Society) - secretary/steering committee

or join us on Facebook at:

2010 'Meet the algae' public video, University of Cambridge:


Selected awards:

2016:    NERC Advanced Training: International Short Courses Environmental Field Techniques for Scaling Molecular Physiology to Leaf and Crop Canopy (Portugal)

2015:    Secured funding from the University of Cambridge, Department of Plant Sciences and EnAlgae enabling us to build a dedicated Algal Innovation Centre at the University’s Botanic Garden.  This unique facility in the UK will allow us to study non-native algal species for ecological and biotechnological purposes at a much larger and controlled scale.

2015:     BBSRC NIBB High Value Chemicals from Plants BIV Award - Alkion Biopharma. Bio-cosmetics from Lithops.

2015:    NERC AB-SIG SPARK PLUS - Anaero Technology. Algal Biorefinery: routes for energy and nutrient recovery.

2015:     BBSRC NIBB PHYCONET BIV AWARD - Pursuit Marine Drive Limited (PMD) - a research subsidiary of Cellulac PLC.  Research Grade Algae – a supply bottleneck in algal research and development.

2014:     NERC IAA Knowledge Exchange Award – British Antarctic Survey, Unilever. Undiscovered High Value Products from Polar Algae.

2014:    NERC AB-SIG SPARK - Anaero Technology. Algal Biorefinery: routes for energy and nutrient recovery.

2014:     British Antarctic Survey – Collaborative Gearing Scheme. Metabolic characteristics of terrestrial algae and plants in Antarctica – research visit to Antarctica.

2014:    Cambridge University Energy and Carbon Reduction Project. Plant Growth Facility LED Lighting Conversion Project.

2014:    Cambridge University Energy and Carbon Reduction Project. Provision of Energy Manager in the Department of Plant Sciecnes.

2014:    NERC Advanced Training: International Short Courses Environmental Field Techniques for Scaling Molecular Physiology to Leaf and Crop Canopy (Portugal).

2013:     NERC IAA Knowledge Exchange Award – British Antarctic Survey. Exploring and exploiting metabolic    diversity in polar algae - Innovation Centre for the Environment.

2013:    Cambridge University Energy and Carbon Reduction Project. LED retrofitting of algal growth chambers.

Key Publications

see Google Scholar

To date, I have over 25 peer-reviewed research papers, reviews and book chapters.  My research is highly cited with over 1400 citations and an h-index of 15.



Nunes M, Davey MP, Coomes D. 2016. Leaf trait variation and field spectroscopy of generalist tree species on contrasting soil types. Functional Ecology. Submitted

Lea-Smith DJ, Ortiz-Suarez ML, Lenn T, Nürnberg DJ, Baers LL, Davey MP, et al. 2016. Hydrocarbons are essential for optimal cell size, division and growth of cyanobacteria. Plant Physiology. Submitted – minor corrections

Tanaka K, Edwards JEM, Butlin RK, Burke T, Quick WP, Urwin P, Davey MP. 2016. Tissue culture as a source of replicates in non-model plants: variation in cold tolerance in Arabidopsis lyrata ssp. petraea. G3: Genes, Genomes, Genetics. In press

Abdul-Awal SM, Hotta CT, Davey MP, Smith AM, Webb AAR. 2016. NO-mediated [Ca2+]cyt increases are dependent on ADP-ribosyl activity in Arabidopsis. Plant Physiology. 171: 623-631

Groen SC, Westwood JH, Jiang S, Murphy AM, Davey MP, et al. 2016. Virus infection of plants alters pollinator preference: A payback mechanism for susceptible hosts? PLoS Pathology. 12(8): e1005790

Lea-Smith DJ, Biller SJ, Davey MP, Cotton CAR, Sepulveda BMP, Turchyn AV, Scanlan DJ, Smith AG, Chisholm SW, Howe CJ. 2015. Contribution of cyanobacterial alkane production to the ocean hydrocarbon cycle. PNAS. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1507274112

Davey MP, Duong GH, Tomsett E, Litvinenko ACP, Howe CJ, Horst I, Smith AG. 2014. Triacylglyceride production and autophagous responses in Chlamydomonas reinhardtii depend on resource allocation and carbon source. Eukaryotic Cell. 13: 392-400

Howlett R, Davey MP, Quick WP, Kelly D. 2014. Metabolomic analysis of the food-borne pathogen: application of direct injection mass spectrometry for mutant characterization. Metabolomics 5: 887-896

Adesanya VO, Davey MP, Scott SS, Smith AG. 2014. Kinetic modelling of growth and storage molecule production in microalgae under mixotrophic and autotrophic conditions Bioresource Technology. 157: 293

Field K, George R, Fearn B, Quick WP, Davey MP. 2014. Subterranean photosynthetic activity and functional adaptation in the desert succulent Lithops aucampiae PloS one 8 (10), e75671

Berg B, Liu C, Laskowski R, Davey MP. 2013. Relationships between nitrogen, acid-unhydrolyzable residue, and climate among tree foliar litters. Canadian Journal of Forest Research. 43: 103-107.

Davey MP, Susanti N, Wargent J, Findlay J, Quick WP, Paul N, Jenkins G. 2012. The UV-B photoreceptor UVR8 promotes photosynthetic efficiency in Arabidopsis exposed to high levels of UV-B. Photosynthesis Research. 114: 121-131.

Vignolini S, Davey MP, Bateman RM, Rudall PJ, Moyroud E, Tratt J, Malmgren S, Steiner U, Glover BJ. 2012. The mirror crack’d: both pigment and structure contribute to the metallic blue appearance of the Mirror Orchid, Ophrys speculum. New Phytologist. 196: 1038-1047.

Bokhorst S, Bjerke JW, Davey MP, Taulavuori K, Taulavuori E, Laine K, Callaghan TV, Phoenix GK. 2010. Impacts of extreme winter warming events on plant physiology in a sub-Arctic heath community. Physiologia Plantarum. 140(2): 128-140.

Berg B, Davey MP, Emmett B, Faituri M, Hobbie S, Johansson MB, Liu C, De Marco A, McClaugherty C, Norell                  L, Rutigliano F, De Santo AV. 2010. Factors influencing limit values for pine needle litter                  decomposition - a synthesis for boreal and temperate pine forest systems. Biogeochemistry.                  100: 57-73.

Lake JA, Field KJ, Davey MP, Beerling DJ, Lomax BH. 2009. Metabolomic and physiological responses reveal multi-phasic acclimation of Arabidopsis thaliana to chronic UV radiation. Plant Cell and Environment. 32: 1377.

Kunin WE, Vergeer P, Kenta T, Davey MP, Burke T, Woodward FI, Quick WP, Manerelli ME, Watson-Haigh NS, Butlin R. 2009. Variation at range margins across multiple spatial scales: environmental temperature, population genetics and metabolomic phenotype. Proceedings of the Royal Society B 276: 1495-1506.

Davey MP, Woodward FI, Quick WP. 2009. Intraspecific variation in cold-temperature metabolic phenotypes of Arabidopsis lyrata ssp. petraeaMetabolomics 5: 138-149.

Davey MP, Burrell MM, Woodward FI, Quick WP. 2008. Population specific metabolic phenotypes of Arabidopsis lyrata ssp. petraea. New Phytologist 177(2). 380-388.

Davey MP, B Berg, P Rowland, BA Emmett. 2007. Decomposition of oak leaf litter is related to initial litter Mn concentrations. Canadian Journal of Botany. 85(1). 16-24.

Davey MP, H Harmens, TW Ashenden, R Edwards, R Baxter. 2007. Species-specific effects of elevated CO2 on resource allocation in Plantago and Armeria maritima. Biochemical Systematics and Ecology. 35(3): 121-129.

Davey MP, DN Bryant, I Cummins, P Gates, TW Ashenden, R Baxter, R Edwards. 2004. Effects of elevated CO2 on the vasculature and phenolic secondary metabolism of Plantago maritima. Phytochemistry. 65. 2197-2204.


Reviews and Book Chapters

Howlett R, Davey MP, Kelly D. 2016. Campylobacter jejuni:  Methods and Protocols. Book Chapter published in "Methods in Molecular Biology". Ed: A. Stintzi and J. Butcher.  Springer. In press.

Brunetti C, George RM, Tattini M, Field K, Davey MP. 2013. Metabolomics in plant environmental physiology. Journal of Experimental Botany. 64: 4011–4020

Davey MP and Smith AG. 2013. Book review: Lipids in photosynthesis. Essential and regulatory functions. Annals of Botany. 111(2): viii-ix.

Davey MP. Metabolite identification, pathways and omic integration using online databases and tools. 2011. In:                 Handbook of Molecular Microbial Ecology:  Metagenomics and Complementary Approaches Ed.                          F de Bruijn. Wiley-Blackwell. ISBN: 9780470644799

Davey MP. Plant environmental metabolomics. 2010. In: Metabolomics: Metabolites, Metabonomics and Analytical Technologies. Ed. Knapp JS and Cabrera WL. Nova Science Publishers. NY. ISBN-10: 1616680067

Scott SA, Davey MP, Dennis JS, Horst I, Howe CJ, Lea-Smith DJ, Smith AG. 2010. Biodiesel from algae: challenges and prospects. Current Opinion in Biotechnology. 21(3):277-86.

Bundy JG, Davey MP, Viant, MR. 2009. Environmental Metabolomics: A Critical Review and Future Perspectives. Metabolomics 5: 3-21.

Morrison N, Bearden D, Bundy JG, Collette T, Currie F,  Davey MP,  et. al. 2007. Standard Reporting Requirements for Biological Samples in Metabolomics Experiments: Environmental Context. Metabolomics 3: 203-210.

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