As Research Officer at Swansea University, I search for plastic-degrading enzymes in Wales, using DNA and RNA sequencing and bioinformatics as part of the European project BMRex. My other activities and interests include agroecology, public engagement, post-growth and responsible research. After work, I am passionate about growing fruit, vegetables, microbes and fungi. I occasionally research Farming with Fungi at the National Botanic Gardens of Wales.
After a degree in Chemistry and work for AstraZeneca, I decided that Biology was the way to go. I did a PhD using nanopore sequencing and data analysis to design genetic parts, now published in Nature Communications. In the Marine Microbial Ecology Research Group, I use these skills to search for plastic-degrading enzymes. Human-made materials, including plastics, now exceed the weight of all animals combined. Plastics disintegrate into small pieces: microplastics, which permeate soils, oceans and even the atmosphere. Enzymes have been identified that degrade plastic, albeit very slowly. These plastic munching enzymes have been found in bacteria and fungi living in environments as far-ranging as arctic soils, industrial sites and oceans. We aim to find yet more in the beautiful and varied environments of Wales.