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Department of Plant Sciences



Nathanael graduated with a BSc with 1st Class honours in Ecology & Biodiversity and Statistics from Victoria University of Wellington in 2018. He first joined the lab in 2017 during his honours degree, working on the phylogeny and functional evolution on HKT transporters in Caryophyllales. Previously, he worked with Dr. Joe Zuccarello on red algal systematics and Prof. Kevin Gould on the evolution of betalains and salt tolerance in Caryophyllales. He won a Woolf Fisher Scholarship for PhD study and rejoined the lab in 2018, where he is investigating the convergent evolution of betalain pigments in Caryophyllales.


Nathanael is interested in evolutionary novelty, particularly in complex biochemical traits. He investigates the contribution of various sources of variation, especially gene duplication, to evolutionary innovations, using phylogenetics, comparative genomics and gene expression analysis. He is particularly interested in synthesising systems biology and co-expression network techniques to understand how complex traits evolve. He is also interested in core phylogenetic theory, including gene tree conflict, phylogenetic information content, and non-homogeneous evolutionary models. 


Key publications: 

Sheehan, H.*, Feng, T.*, Walker‐Hale, N.*, Lopez‐Nieves, S., Pucker, B., Guo, R., Yim, W. C., Badgami, R., Timoneda, A., Zhao, L., Tiley, H., Copetti, D., Sanderson, M. J., Cushman, J. C., Moore, M. J., Smith, S. A., & Brockington, S. F. (2019). Evolution of l-DOPA 4,5-dioxygenase activity allows for recurrent specialisation to betalain pigmentation in Caryophyllales. New Phytologist.

Timoneda, A., Feng, T., Sheehan, H., Walker‐Hale, N., Pucker, B., Lopez‐Nieves, S., Guo, R., & Brockington, S. (2019). The evolution of betalain biosynthesis in Caryophyllales. New Phytologist, 224(1), 71–85.

Walker, J. F.*, Walker-Hale, N.*, Vargas, O. M., Larson, D. A., & Stull, G. W. (2019). Characterizing gene tree conflict in plastome-inferred phylogenies. PeerJ, 7, e7747.

Smith, S. A., Walker-Hale, N., Walker, J. F., & Brown, J. W. (2020). Phylogenetic Conflicts, Combinability, and Deep Phylogenomics in Plants. Systematic Biology, 69(3), 579–592.

* indicates equal contribution

Other publications: 

Smith, S. A.*, Walker-Hale, N.*, & Walker, J. F.* (2020). Intragenic Conflict in Phylogenomic Data Sets. Molecular Biology and Evolution, 37(11), 3380-3388.

Brian, J. I., & Walker-Hale, N. (2019). Focus on an island rule may hide morphological disparity in insular plants. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 116(50), 24929–24930.

Walker, J. F., Yang, Y., Feng, T., Timoneda, A., Mikenas, J., Hutchison, V., Edwards, C., Wang, N., Ahluwalia, S., Olivieri, J., Walker‐Hale, N., Majure, L. C., Puente, R., Kadereit, G., Lauterbach, M., Eggli, U., Flores‐Olvera, H., Ochoterena, H., Brockington, S. F., … Smith, S. A. (2018). From cacti to carnivores: Improved phylotranscriptomic sampling and hierarchical homology inference provide further insight into the evolution of Caryophyllales. American Journal of Botany, 105(3), 446–462.

* indicates equal contribution

Postgraduate Student
Mr Nathanael  Walker-Hale

Contact Details

Email address: 
Department of Plant Sciences,
University of Cambridge,
Downing Street,
01223 330232