Prof Barbara Mable

Prof Barbara Mable

Professor of Evolutionary Genetics

Institute of Biodiversity, Animal Health & Comparative Medicine
College of Medicine, Veterinary & Life Sciences
Graham Kerr Building
University of Glasgow
Glasgow, G12 8QQ

Tel.: +44 (0)141 330 3532

Academic History

Academic History

  • 2014-present Professor of Evolutionary Genetics, Institute of Biodiversity, Animal Health and Comparative Medicine, University of Glasgow
  • 2011-2014 Reader, Institute of Biodiversity, Animal Health and Comparative Medicine, University of Glasgow
  • 2007-2011 Senior Research Fellow, Division of Environmental and Evolutionary Biology, University of Glasgow
  • 2005-2006 NERC Advanced Research Fellow, Division of Environmental and Evolutionary Biology, University of Glasgow
  • 2004-2005 Lecturer, Division of Environmental and Evolutionary Biology, University of Glasgow
  • 2000-2005 Assistant Professor, Department of Botany, University of Guelph
  • 1998-2000 Postdoctoral Fellow, ICAPB, University of Edinburgh (BBSRC grant to Deborah Charlesworth)
  • 1996-1998 Postdoctoral Fellow, Dept. of Zoology, University of British Columbia (Killam Memorial Fellowship to BKM and NSERC award to Sarah P. Otto)
  • 1992-1996 Ph.D. (Zoology) University of Texas at Austin
  • 1989-1991 Research Associate, Agriculture Canada Research Station Project: Genetics of resistance to acaricides in European Red Mites on apples.
  • 1987-1989 M.Sc. (Zoology) University of Guelph



  • Marie Curie Incoming International Fellowship, 2004-2006 (Declined)
  • NERC Advanced Research Fellowship, University of Glasgow, 2004-2009
  • NSERC University Faculty Award, University of Guelph, 2000-2005
  • Izaak Walton Killam Memorial Fellowship, University of British Columbia, 1996-1998

Current Teaching Responsibilities

  • Cluster Co-ordinator, Animal and Plant Sciences Postgraduate Taught Master’s (PGT) Programmes (since 2014)
  • PGT Co-ordinator for programmes offered through the Institute of Biodiversity, Animal Health and Comparative Medicine (since 2016)
  • Course Co-ordinator, Master’s Level: Key Research Skills; Conservation Genetics (since 2011)
  • Course Co-ordinator, Undergraduate: L3 Applied Evolution (since 2018)
  • Other undergraduate teaching: L2 Animal Biology, Evolution and Ecology (since 2018); L3 Tutorials (since 2004); L4 Evolution (since 2004)

Research Interests

Research in my laboratory is directed towards understanding how changes at the molecular level affect cellular and whole organism processes in a wide range of organisms (Figure 1). Most of my early work focused on the genetic and ecological consequences of a particularly extreme form of genetic change- whole genome duplication or polyploidy- but I have also been interested in the consequences of gene duplication at the level of gene families that control recognition processes involved in adaptation, such as plant self-incompatibility systems (SI), plant resistance genes, and the vertebrate immune genes (e.g. the Major Histocompatibilty Complex, MHC). I am particularly interested in how such genomic changes affect interactions between organisms, such as mate choice and pathogen responses. Some of my primary areas of interest have been: 1) the evolutionary dynamics of gene families involved in recognition systems; 2) the causes and consequences of changes in mating systems for genetic diversity and adaptation; and 3) the consequences of mating system variation and polyploidy for mate recognition and pathogen response.

However, research within the group has also focused on a wider range of other topics, focused on conservation genetics, adaptation to changing environments, and understanding drivers of biotic interactions (including host-vector-pathogen systems, microbiome diversity, and evolution of resistance). I have also supervised master's and undergraduate projects on a wide range of subjects, mostly related to systematics and molecular ecology. There has thus been a shift in my focus recently more towards thinking about the relative importance of genetic variation in general: how critical is it for adaptation and can genetics be used effectively to inform management interventions for conservation and disease mitigation?

Ongoing projects led by current or former PhD students include: 1) assessing diversity of the rhizosphere of plants in the genus Brassica in relation to cultivar and population genetic structure (Elizabeth Mittell, PhD awarded in 2019); 2) developing molecular markers to inform translocation strategies for fenced populations of Southern White Rhinoceros in Botswana (Tarid Purisotayo, PhD awarded in 2020); 3) assessing levels of genetic variation in protected populations of Northern Black Rhinoceros across Tanzania (Ronald Mellya, PhD candidate); 4) investigating the genetic and ecological drivers of resistance in parasitic nematodes of sheep (Sam Brown, PhD candidate); 5) conservation genetics and rewilding of Exmoor ponies (Debbie Davy, PhD candidate; 6) genomic selection for immune function in cattle (Chooyoung Kamonchanok, PhD candidate) and 7) genomic diversity of Begonia in New Guinea (Hannah Wilson, PhD candidate).

Figure 1.  Some of the research questions and study organisms that I have focused on: a) evolution of mating systems and polyploidy in grey treefrogs (Hyla versicolor); b) evolution of mating systems and polyploidy in rock cress (Arabidopsis lyrata); c) conservation genetics of African wild dogs; d) evolution of resistance to acaricides in European red mites (Panonychus ulmi); e) evolution of resistance to anthelmintics in nematodes infecting livestock; f) host-pathogen-vector dynamics (e.g. multiple species of tsetse flies feed on a wide range of wild and domestic hosts and can transmit multiple species of trypanosomes).

Current Research

Most of the research in my laboratory is currently focused on understanding the adaptive dynamics of plants in variable environments.  In particular, I am interested in the effects of mating systems (i.e. inbreeding vs outcrossing) and ploidy level (i.e. diploid vs tetraploid) on the ability of plants to tolerate or adapt to changes in the abiotic and the biotic (e.g. changes in pathogen pressures or proximity to competitors) environments.  

We have been using A. lyrata as a model to investigate how mating system and polyploidy affect pathogen response systems.  We have been focusing on particular oomycete pathogens (causing white blister rust and downy mildew) that are known to be problematic for cultivated species of Brassicaceae and for which candidate genes for resistance have been previously characterised in Arabidopsis thaliana.   We have been investigating variation in resistance to pathogens in plants sampled from across their European range (where the plants are known to vary in ploidy level) and in the Great Lakes region of Eastern North America (where the plants are known to vary in mating system) and investigating the prevalence of the pathogens in native environments and variation in candidate resistance genes.  We have also been using RAD sequencing to enable comparison of genome-wide patterns of variation in neutral genes with those that might be involved in adaptation.  This research is currently funded by a grant from NERC, in collaboration with Eric Holub, from the University of Warwick.  The project has involved three postdoctoral researchers (Volkan Cevik and Joana Vicente, Warwick; James Buckley, Glasgow), and three research technicians (Aileen Adam, Elizabeth Kilbride, Ryan Carter).

We are also using the University field station on Loch Lomond (SCENE) to pilot use of outdoor experimental nurseries to use a common garden garden approach to investigate the ability of plants with different ploidy and mating systems to adapt to novel and variable environmental conditions (Figure 2).

Figure 2. Experimental nursery at SCENE showing natural variation in climatic conditions.