Personal profile

Personal profile

The Devlin lab focuses on the interaction between plants and their environment. The work falls into three areas:

  1. Plant Photoperception
  2. Using light to improve crop quality in controlled environments
  3. The interaction between plants and their microbiome



1. Plant photoperception

We are interested in better comprehending the interaction between plants and their light environment toward more sustainable agriculture. We focus on two key light responses:

Light input to the circadian clock

Time lapse images of plants in constant light, expressing a clock regulated luciferase reporter gene

The circadian clock synchronises physiology and metabolism with the daily light / dark cycle. The clock will continue to run in the absence of any environmental cues but daily entrainment by light is essential for the clock to keep the correct time.

 The shade avoidance response


(L) A plants-eye view darker colours show low red:far red ratio light specifically reflected from plants. (R) The effect of shade avoidance at high density. Photographs by James Gillies (L) and Sandra Smith (R).

Many plants show a dramatic increase in elongation growth in response to competition for light from neighbouring plants. The phytochrome photoreceptors detect red-depleted light (low red:far red ratio light) reflected from neighbouring vegetation which induces this “shade avoidance response”. The shade avoidance syndrome can have a tremendous negative impact upon agricultural yield if resources are reallocated to elongation rather than biomass growth.


2. Using light to improve crop quality in controlled environments

  • Promotion of chilling tolerance in basil
  • Preventing leaf breakdown in basil
  • Regulation of basil volatiles
  • Regulation of lily flower opening (with Hilary Rogers, Cardiff)
  • Improvement of rose vase life
  • Control of lettuce heading
  • Automated imaging
  • Hyperspectral imaging


3. Plant microbiome dynamics

Healthy plants, like all higher organisms, host an extensive microbiome which contains beneficial, commensal and pathogenic species alike. These microbes play important roles in plant health including disease protection, plant growth, and overall plant functioning through factors such as improving nutrient availability and resilience to abiotic stress.

Our work focuses on characterising the relationship between the plant and the phyllosphere microbiome, as well as the relationship between the various microbial species that make up this complex environment and we use a metabarcoding approach to understand these dynamic interactions.

The knowledge will be important for the development of new integrated pest management strategies in support of sustainable agriculture as well as understanding and monitoring of ecosystem health in the context of climate change and the effects of pollution or in the oversight of ecosystem recovery following anthropogenic disruption.

  • Effect of plant stress on the phyllosphere microbiome
  • Impact of pesticides on the phyllosphere microbiome
  • Antibiotic resistance genes in the plant phyllosphere
  • PGPR supplements and insect herbivory
  • Interaction of plant environmental responses with the phyllosphere microbiome
  • Regulation of rosemary volatiles by AMF
  • Foliar feeding and the phyllosphere microbiome




I teach on the following courses


BS1072 Genetics (Course coordinator)

BS2150 Applications of Molecular Genetics in Biology (Course coordinator)

BS3230 Circadian Biology (Course coordinator)

BS3010 Individual Research Project

BS3020 Special Study Dissertation



Programme Director: MSc in Biological Sciences Research 


Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 13 - Climate Action


  • Plants
  • Light
  • Circadian clock
  • Photobiology
  • Phyllosphere
  • Microbiome

Collaborations and top research areas from the last five years

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