skip to content

Department of Plant Sciences


Research group


Research overview

Ben’s research is focused on understanding the evolution and development of nectar spurs. Spurs are tubular floral outgrowths that (typically) contain nectar. By storing the floral reward (nectar) at the end of such a tube, spurred plants force pollinators to make close contact with the flower's reproductive organs as they feed. Because spur length influences which pollinators can feed from a flower, spurs are a focal point on the evolution of plant-pollinator dynamics. A small change in spur characteristics can cause a pollinator shift, ultimately evoking reproductive isolation: a key precursor for speciation.
Ben is working with an Iberian clade of Linaria (toadflax) to determine which genes play a role in building a nectar spur. He is taking various genetic approaches to identify candidate genes of interest, and is conducting BSA, transformation, VIGS, and transcriptome experiments to determine the necessity and sufficiency of identified genes in building a spur.


Ben joined the lab in October 2019, and is currently studying for a PhD, funded by a Sainsbury PhD Studentship. Before moving to Cambridge, Ben studied Biological Sciences at Oxford. During his undergraduate degree, he qualified as an IUCN Red List assessor and spent a month working at the Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew, where he assessed the extinction risk Cola trees. He spent a further month assisting researchers in Madagascar, funded by a Development Award from Somerville College. Ben has been passionate about the natural world for as long as he can remember and is excited to be able to spend the course of his PhD studying one area of it in detail.
Postgraduate Student
Postgraduate Student Representative

Contact Details

Email address: 
Department of Plant Sciences,
Downing Street,
01223 333934; 330212