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Mr Nathanael Walker-Hale

Post Graduate Student
Mr Nathanael Walker-Hale
Department of Plant Sciences
University of Cambridge
Downing Stree

Cambridge CB2 3EA
Office Phone: 01223 330232


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.

Research Interests

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 datasets. Molecular Biology and Evolution.

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

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The Department has carried out a comprehensive COVID-19 risk assessment process and has opened to allow research work to take place. To ensure the safety of our staff, a range of measures to reduce building occupancy and allow strict social distancing have been introduced, including increased cleaning and hygiene regimes. We are currently not accepting visitors so please continue to contact us by email until further notice.