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Department of Plant Sciences


Research group 



Dr Matt Davey specialises in algal physiology, innovation and ecology. His research interests are in the diversity and plasticity of metabolic traits, especially in extreme habitats. Using a translational approach, he is applying the unique techniques and expertise he has developed in these ecosystems to produce sustainable and innovative solutions in the bio-economy.

He has carried out research and supervision on a wide range of algal topics from the ecology of snow algae in Antarctica, remote sensing polar algae blooms, using algae for bioenergy, bioremediation, pigments and food production on earth across all continents to exploiting algae to help astronauts on long term space missions. He also leads the EU EIT-Food international algae biotechnology training courses across Europe.

From May 2020, Dr Davey will be joining the Scottish Association for Marine Science (SAMS), as a Senior Lecturer in algal biotechnology and metabolic ecology (

He will remain part-time at the University of Cambridge as a Senior Research Associate working with Prof. Alison Smith

Dr Davey is currently working on a Leverhulme Resaerch project to study snow algae in Antarctica awarded to Prof. Alison Smith. Until 2020 he managed the University of Cambridge Algal Innovation Centre and the Department of Plant Sciences Analytical Biochemistry Facility. He supervises PhD students in the algal biotechnology and ecology arena. He has also recently completed working on two large EU projects to study algal growth (EnAlgae and DEMA). He has recent success in being awarded a number of business innovation and interaction grants from NERC, BBSRC, PHYCONET, Algae-UK and the EU EIT-Food KIC in plant and algal bioenergy, biotechnology and sustainable bioactive production. He works with a large number of international collaborators in Ghana, Uganda and India within the Global Challenge Research Fund.  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.

Further information about the Algal Innovation Centre can be found here:

Follow him on Twitter: @scienceisnotfun

This video shows Matt Davey on location, most of the other shots are when the FT were out with Matt, you can also see snow algae.

This link mentions Matt Davey, and the difficulties researchers face in such an environment.

This is a general piece form the FT, again it highlights the difficulties and dangers of such research.

EIT Food Information:

Algae are microscopic plants that can be used for a huge range of food products and sustainable food production pipelines. They are one of the most promising and emerging trends for the food industry, join one of our short professional development courses to find out more about how these amazing and versatile organisms can help your research and business. The aim of this professional development course is to provide introductory hands-on training and theory in algal biology, culturing, growth and subsequent molecular and metabolite analysis under laboratory and small to large scale growth facilities. Alongside content on algal physiology, taxonomy, products and regulation, each location will specialise in one core theme (Cambridge - Algal Physiology and Omics; Matís - Algal Biotechnology and Investment Opportunities; Fraunhofer - Algal Production, Harvesting, Processing and Nutraceuticals and Regulation). The 2020 course will now be online with our partners in Iceland (Matis) and Germany (Fraunhofer), details will follow later in the year. Further information and registration will be available here soon:



Current main project:

2017 - present: Leverhulme Trust Snow algae – are they the most abundant photosynthetic organisms in terrestrial Antarctica?

Collabortion with Prof. Alison Smith (UCam), Prof Peter Convey (BAS), Prof. Lloyd Peck (BAS), Dr. Peter Fretwell (BAS), Dr. Andrew Gray (UCam, BAS), Monika Krolikowski (UCam)

"Snow algae are terrestrial photosynthetic microorganisms that live on snow fields in Antarctica. Considering that a single snow algal ‘bloom’ can cover hundreds of square metres, they are potentially the dominant photosynthetic primary producers in Antarctica. Despite their ecological importance however, our knowledge of their distribution and growth habits is limited to a few locations. This project will estabilsh the methodology to quantify the area, biomass, biochemical and genomic composition of snow algae communities in Antarctic locations using a mix of satellite imagery and field-based ground truthing, thus enabling a better understanding of their contribution to the ecosystems."


Research Career

May 2020 – present: Senior Lecturer, Scottish Association for Marine Science, Oban, Scotland, UK

  • My Algal Metabolic Ecology group will study aspects of functional interactions between microbial biodiversity, biochemistry and environmental change. This will require a mix of traditional and contemporary field-based techniques and experimental systems in the laboratory. The main themes of this group are: Environmental Metabolomics and Physiology – discovering metabolic traits associated with cold tolerance, the role of metabolic plasticity in responding to environmental and climate change, the distribution of metabolic traits across populations, and Algal Biotechnology and Innovation – exploring novel sources of sustainable biomaterials, nutrients, high value products, feedstocks and bioenergy.

2013 – present: Senior Research Associate, University of Cambridge, UK (selected projects below)

  • Leverhulme Trust  - Snow algae – are they the most abundant photosynthetic organisms in terrestrial Antarctica?
  • 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)



Key publications: 

see Google Scholar


Gray A, Krolikowski M, Fretwell P, Convey P, Peck LS, Mendelova M, Smith AG, Davey MP. 2020. Remote sensing reveals Antarctic green snow algae as important terrestrial carbon sink. Nature Communications.

Wangpraseurt D, You S, Azam F, Jacucci G, Gaidarenko O, Hildebrand M, Kühl M, Smith AG, Davey MP, Deheyn DD, Chen S, Vignolini S. 2019. Bionic 3D printed corals. Nature Communications.

Bunbury F, Helliwell KE, Mehrshahi P, Davey MP, Salmon D, Holzer A, Smirnoff N, Smith AG. 2020. Physiological and molecular responses to B12 deprivation of a newly evolved auxotroph of Chlamydomonas. Plant Physiology

Reynolds S, Davey MP, Aldridge D. 2019. Harnessing Synthetic Ecology for high value algae production. Nature Scientific Reports. 9 (1), 9756

Buayam N, Davey MP, Smith AG, Pumas C. 2019. Effects of Copper and pH on the Growth and Physiology of Desmodesmus sp. AARLG074 Metabolites 9 (5), 84

Davey MP, Norman L, Sterk P, Huete‐Ortega M, Bunbury F, Kin Wai Loh B, Stockton S, Peck LS, Convey P, Newsham KK, Smith AG. 2019. Snow algae communities in Antarctica – metabolic and taxonomic composition. New Phytologist. 222 (3), 1242-1255

Ridley CJA, Parker BM, Norman L, Schlarb-Ridley B, Dennis R, Jamieson AE, Clark D, Skill SC, Smith AG, Davey MP. 2018. Growth of microalgae using nitrate-rich brine wash from the water industry. Algal Research 33, 91-98

Davey MP, Armitage E, Palmer B, Quick WP, Woodward FI. 2018. Cold acclimation duration, photosystem II maintenance and survival in Arabidopsis lyrata spp. petraea. BMC Plant Biology 18 (1), 277

Nunes M, Davey MP, Coomes D. 2017. On the challenges of using field spectroscopy to measure the impact of soil type on leaf traits. Biogeosciences. 14: 3371-3385

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. 172: 1928-1940

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

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. 6: 3817-3823

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

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

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

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.

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.

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.

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. 2017. Campylobacter jejuni:  Methods and Protocols. Book Chapter published in "Methods in Molecular Biology". Ed: A. Stintzi and J. Butcher.  Springer.

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.

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 Samples in Metabolomics Experiments: Environmental Context. Metabolomics 3: 203-210.


Reports and other publications:

White D, Silkina A, Skill S, Oatley-Radcliffe D, Van Den Hende S, Ernst A, De Viser C, Van Dijk W, Davey MP, Day J. 2015. Best Practices for the Pilot-Scale Cultivation of Microalgae, Public Output report of the EnAlgae project, Swansea, UK. Available online at

Silkina A, Flynn K, Llewellyn C, Bayliss C. [eds] 2015. Standard Operating Procedures for Analytical Methods and Data Collection in Support of Pilot-Scale Cultivation of Microalgae. Public Output report WP1A3.01 of the EnAlgae project, Swansea, UK. (contributing author).

Parker BM, Davey MP, Norman L, Schlarb-Ridley BG, Smith AG. 2015. Biomass from brine: Scale up of nitrate bioremediation experiments. European Journal of Phycology. 50: 142-143

Haigh NS, Davey MP, Quick WP, Westhead D. 2008. BigRedBin: A Web-Based Tool for Metabolomics Data Reduction Through Peak Identification and Binning

Davey MP. An introduction to environmental metabolomics. BES Bulletin. June 2008. ISSN: 0306 8307.

Davey MP. 2004. PhD thesis. The effect of an elevated atmospheric CO2 concentration on secondary metabolism and resource allocation in Plantago maritima and Armeria maritima. ISBN/EAN: 9783639230604

Emmett BA., Jones MLM, Jones H, Wildig J, Williams B, Davey M, Carroll Z, Healey M. 2004. Grazing/nitrogen deposition interactions in upland acid moorland. Report. Welsh Office Contract No. 182-2002.

Davey MP. 2005. Metabolite fingerprinting of plants at range margins. Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology Part A Supplement. 141(3): S288. P7.83

Davey MP. 2002. Carbon and nitrogen partitioning in the coastal plants Plantago maritima and Armeria maritima: substrate availability, secondary metabolism and plant survival in a changing environment. Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology Part A 132 S173-S180.

Doggart N, Joseph L, Bayliss J, Fanning E. 1999 Manga Forest Reserve: A biodiversity survey. East Usambara  Conservation Area Management Programme, Tanzania. ISBN: 9987-646-04-2

Teaching and Supervisions


2016-2017: Teaching Associate (Department of Plant Sciences, University of Cambridge):

  • Co-ordinated supervisions for 1B Plant and Microbial Sciences (PMS) students
  • Practical organiser for 1B PMS (RuBisCO phenotyping)
  • Organised 1B undergraduate field trip to NIAB research farm
  • Exam marking for 1A Physiology of Organisms and 1B PMS

2011-2020: Lecturing and practical classes (University of Cambridge):

  • Designed and delivered lectures, exam questions and workshop material for the ‘Frontiers in Plant Metabolism’ module for part II (year 3) undergraduates (2011/12); lecturer for microbial ecology (2016/17). Designed and evaluated exam questions for these courses.
  • Co-ordinated, co-designed and lectured for a practical on organelle inheritance patterns in unicellular algae for the Part IB (year 2) Cell and Developmental Biology course (2010-2016, 2019-2020) and 1B PMS for the RuBisCO phenotyping practical (2016)

2009-2020: Undergraduate supervisor (University of Cambridge)

  • Supervised 60 (to date) undergraduate Natural Science Tripos students from various Cambridge colleges for the part IA (year 1) Physiology of Organisms course and the part IB (year 2) Plant and Microbial Sciences course. Responsible for choosing discussion topics, setting and marking essays and engaging the students in free thinking about the scientific content and relevance of the course. Provided feedback of each student’s progress to their Director of Studies
  • 1999-present:   Supervision and training of research technicians, interns, students and postdoctoral researchers (2-3 per year, national and international)

2018–present: European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT) - Food.

2012–2018:  British Ecological Society – Plant Environmental Physiology Special Interest Group.

  • Key organiser (chair of group) for international and national field training courses (academic and industrial trainers, NERC approved) in Portugal and UK. Trained over 300 delegates.

2011-2020:   Graduate School of Life Sciences (GSLS) (University of Cambridge)


Selected invited talks:

2019:   Departmental seminar series: University of East Anglia, University of Aberdeen

2018:   2nd International Snow Algae Meeting – Fraunhofer, Germany

2018:   Scientific Committee of Antarctic Research (SCAR) Polar2018 congress – Davos, Switzerland

2017:   SCAR Biology meeting, Polar Biology, Ghent, Belgium

2017:   Leeds University (Departmental Seminar Series)

2016:   Environmental Genomics and Metabolomics (NERC training), Birmingham (keynote speaker)

2016:   NERC Renewable Energy Conference, QEII Conference Centre, Westminster

2015:   Bio-cosmetics from Desert Plants. Kew Gardens, UK.

2015:   Royal Society – Understanding Plasticity in Marine Microbial Ecosystems. UK.

2015:   International Environmental ‘Omics Synthesis Conference. St Andrews. UK.


Research supervision: 

2017-present:   PhD student Co-supervisor – Ellen Harrison: Sustainable natural production of vitamins for human consumption in long space missions using synthetic ecology approaches.

2017-present:    PhD student Co-supervisor - Sam Coffin: Polar algae – exploiting cold tolerant phenotypes in polar diatoms for increased growth and metabolite production. 

2013-present:    PhD student Co-supervisor – Carl Baker: Native Lime Tree Comparative Metabolomics

2008-2014:         PhD student Co-supervisor - Rachel George: Metabolomics of coastal plant communities.