skip to primary navigationskip to content

Dr Matthew Davey

Senior Research Associate


Dr Matt Davey is a plant and algal physiologist at the Department of Plant Sciences, University of Cambridge.  His key interests are in understanding the diversity of metabolism in natural ecosystems and controlled environments and how such knowledge can be translated for innovation purposes by collaborating with industrial partners involved in bioenergy and natural high value products.

Dr Davey is currently working on a Leverhulme project to study snow algae, is managing the new Algal Innovation Centre at Cambridge University, manages the Analytical Biochemistry Facility within the Department of Plant Sciences and supervise PhD students in the algal biotechnology and plant 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 and the EU EIT-Food KIC in plant and algal bioenergy, biotechnology and sustainable bioactive production and other international projects in Ghana 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:


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.

The workshop will run for two days at the University of Cambridge Algal Innovation Centre (AIC) (12-13th December 2019), Matis (Iceland) in late summer and Fraunhofer (Germany) on 9th-10th July 2019. Alongside core 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).

Who should apply

The programme will provide an opportunity for postgraduate, postdoctorate and industry R&D managers, researchers and entrepreneurs to be trained in algal biotechnology research and to understand the opportunities available for its incorporation in the sustainable food bioeconomy.

Further information and registration will be available here soon:




Research Interests

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. James Blake (UCam, BAS)

"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

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

  • 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)

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. With Prof. Alison Smith, Dr. Natalie Leys, Belgian Nuclear Research Center, Prof. Ruddy Wattiez, Université de Mons


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

  • Cambridge Earth System Science NERC DTP funded project with Prof. Alison Smith and Prof. Melody Clark  

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

  • Led by Dr. Paul Hill at Edge Hill University.

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

  • Leverhulme funded PhD studentship, led by Prof. Rob Freckleton, Department of Animal and Plant Sciences, University of Sheffield.


2016-2017:   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

2011-2017:   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

2011-present:   University of Cambridge Training Courses:

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

Other Professional Activities

Recent selected awards:

2017:    BBSRC Phyconet. Importing non-native algae – clarifying UK legal requirements for the biotechnology industry.

2017:    KIC-EIT-Food. Algal biotechnology – techniques and opportunities for the sustainable bioeconomy.

2017:     Leverhulme Research Grant. Snow algae – are they the most abundant photosynthetic organisms in terrestrial Antarctica?

2017:     BAS Innovation and Impact Collaboration Award. Determining the diversity of vitamin-producing bacteria in Antarctic snow algal communities.

2017:    BBSRC Phyconet Business Interaction Vouchers. 1, Batch scale cultivation of non-UK native tropical marine diatoms 2, Increasing algal growth and harvesting efficiency in glasshouses using LED lighting and centrifuges 3, Implementing Algebra guidelines to risk assessments of scale-up of non-native species, 4, Expanding the range of algal species suitable for membrane harvesting

2017:     BBSRC Impact Acceleration Award Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF): Agri-Inno: Stimulating Innovation and Entrepreneurship in Egypt’s Agricultural Sector.

2017:     NERC GCRF International Development Innovation and Impact Award - Scoping a new collaborative and training networks in microbial and invertebrate biotechnology and ‘omics’ in Malaysia.

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.


Committees and Memberships

2017 – present: NERC NBAF Biomolecular Analysis Facility (Metabolomics) Reviewer

2016 – 2017: Department of Plant Sciences Teaching Committee

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

2014 - 2017: Local Primary School and Science Link Governor

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

2011 - 2016:  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 the European Journal of Phycology:



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.

2017    The Royal Society Partnership Grant: "Playground to Polar - how do we measure Antarctic and UK biodiversity?"

2017    Cambridge University Botanic Garden – Science on Sundays  - snow algae and biotechnology

2017: Cambridge Independent Newspaper:

2017    BBC Natural History Unit – snow algae and Lithops biology

2017    Sheffield University – Young Plant Physiologists Group – methods panel presentation

2016    BBC News Cambridgeshire – Look East News. Algal Bioenergy report.

2016    Naked Scientists Radio Report – Algal Diversity and Bioenergy.

2015    Young Farmers / Young Innovators Forum – bioremediation and algae outreach event to regional farmers

2015    Rothera Research Station, Antarctica – science outreach night to research base staff

2015    Primary School Science Governing Body eg: secured school to ESERO Space Ambassador status

2015    British Antarctic Survey – school visits - talking about my research trip to Antarctica, plus live school talks whilst working in Antarctica, published in local and national media

2013 - present:  International Fascination of Plants Day – Cambridge University Botanic Garden – “Meet the Algae” – showing public our algal research activities

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.


Research (first or corresponding author)

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.

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.

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

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

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. 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. 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.


Proceedings 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. Available online at

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

Filed under:

The University has moved into its "red" phase in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. All University staff, except those needed for business-critical activity, are now working remotely. Please contact us by email until further notice.