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School of the Biological Sciences

How do new species arise? What makes living organisms so diverse? How do plants and animals function in different environments? What drives some species to extinction whilst others thrive?  These are just some of the questions at the heart of the Organisms, Evolution and Ecology Research Theme which brings together over 70 leading researchers from across 10 different Departments and Institutes around Cambridge. Integrating theory, mathematical principles and engineering with biological research to address these questions will allow us to understand the mechanisms that underpin how organisms interact with the world around them and how the environment can influence the development of organisms through time. Working together, our researchers are making ground-breaking impacts on sustainability, biodiversity, ecosystem engineering, global change, biological engineering and food security.

Grand Challenge Topics

Life at the Extremes

'Life at the Extremes' encompasses the exploration of organisms, environments, people and societies that exist in environments that are considered exceptionally challenging or harsh, such as extreme temperatures, high altitudes, areas of low nutrient availability and societies recovering from natural disasters. Working together across disciplinary boundaries, Cambridge researchers are delivering new knowledge on the rules of life in extreme environments. Growing our understanding of the biology or resilience in these extreme environments offers important new opportunities to shape the future of resilient life, climate responses and global health.



Molecular Biology for Climate Solutions

Molecular biology allows scientists to study biological phenomenon at the level of atoms, molecules and cells. Commonly used in health and disease research, scientists in Cambridge are harnessing modern biological techniques to transform our understanding of climate change and accelerate much needed solutions in this area. Read more

Recent Discoveries

Natural clean-up: bacteria can remove plastic pollution from lakes

A study of 29 European lakes has found that some naturally-occurring lake bacteria grow faster and more efficiently on the remains of plastic bags than on natural matter like leaves and twigs.

The bacteria break down the carbon compounds in plastic to use as food for their growth. The scientists, from the Departments of Plant Sciences and Zoology, say that enriching waters with particular species of bacteria could be a natural way to remove plastic pollution from the environment. The effect varied depending on the diversity of bacterial species present in the lake water – lakes with more different species were better at breaking down plastic pollution. Read

Wider Impact

BioBullets against pests in water supplies

Invasive non-native mussels and clams are some of the world’s most economically and ecologically important pests, costing the UK water supply industry £8 million each year and driving dramatic ecosystem shifts and declines in native biodiversity.

David Aldridge and Geoff Moggridge have developed a ‘BioBullet’ against invasive non-native mussels and clams. BioBullets encapsulate toxins in a harmless edible coat, enabling efficient, targeted product delivery and dramatically reducing environmental pollution. The BioBullet has been successfully tested by seven water companies in England, Northern Ireland and Wales which collectively supply 52% of the UK population (34.7 million people) with drinking water, and at one waterworks, and has been identified as 69% cheaper (saving £188,000 per year) than the alternative, more hazardous control methods. Read

Theme Leads

Learn More

Members of the School can find out more about the Research Themes on the School Information Hub.

What impact will your next connection have?

Cambridge Global Impact

From the Arctic to Zambia, explore the new interactive global map to learn how Cambridge and its partners make a positive impact around the world.