Charles Godfray

Hope Professor, Fellow of Jesus College; Director, Oxford Martin Programme on the Future of Food

Member profile picture
Email: charles.godfray@zoo.ox.ac.uk
Address: c/o Oxford Martin School
Old India Institute
34 Broad St
Oxford OX1 3BD
01865 271176

PA: Lynne Bradley (lynne bradley@zoo.ox.ac.uk - +44 (0)7557769449)

Brief biography

I read Zoology at Oxford between 1976 & 1979 and moved to the Imperial College campus at Silwood Park to do a PhD supervised by Val Brown in insect community ecology. After that I remained at Imperial for three years on NERC & AFRC post-doctoral fellowships (taking six months leave to work for the then Commonwealth Institute of Biological Control on a practical pest management problem in the Philippines, Fiji & Malaysia) and then returned to Oxford 1985-7 as Departmental Demonstrator in Ecology. In 1987 I joined the staff at Imperial and remained there until 2006, eventually becoming the head of the Biology Division. From 1999 until 2006 I was also Director of the NERC Centre for Population Biology at Imperial. I was elected to the Royal Society in 2001. In 2006 I joined the Zoology Department at Oxford (for the third time!) as Hope Professor of Zoology (Entomology), a position associated with Jesus College.  I am also Director of the Oxford Martin Programme on the Future of Food at Oxford University.

Research

I am a population biologist whose work involves ecology, evolution and epidemiology.  I am also interested in the interplay of science and policy, especially in the areas of the environment and food security.

Activities in my group are currently in three main areas.

In work co-led by Ailsa McLean we make extensive use of the pea aphid as a model system to explore a variety of different problems in ecology and evolution. We are particularly interested in the role and dynamics of facultative bacterial symbionts and how they affect their host’s interaction with its food plant and its pathogens and parasitoids.  We also use the aphid system to study indirect ecological interactions, ecological speciation and host-natural enemy coevolution (more details).

I am interested in insects that vector human diseases, how they may be controlled using modern genetic interventions, and the population genetics and population dynamics involved. I am part of a large consortium (Target Malaria, led by Austin Burt at Imperial) working on the control of the mosquitoes that transmit malaria in Africa (more details).  As part of this project we have recently been funded to explore the ecological consequences of removing human disease vectors from ecological communities.

With collaborators at Oxford I am interested in food system dynamics and how one can simultaneously explore the health, environmental and economic consequences of different food system policies. With Susan Jebb I lead the LEAP (Livestock, Environment and People) project funded by the Wellcome Trust (as part of their Our Planet Our Health initiative) which will explore the multiple effects of meat, dairy and other “animal-sourced foods” on food system dynamics, human health, and the environment.

More generally on science and policy, Angela McLean & I lead the “Restatements” project which aims to provide succinct summaries of the science evidence base for highly contentious but policy relevant topics.  Projects completed to date involve studies of bovine tuberculosis, neonicotinoid insecticides, ecosystem manipulation to control flooding, and low dose effects of ionising radiation.

And finally I am interested in the taxonomy of a group of tiny and obscure braconid wasps.

I have also worked on

  • Biodiversity informatics & taxonomy (more details)
  • The evolution of host resistance and natural enemy resistance (using Drosophila as an experimental system) (more details)
  • Theoretical evolutionary biology, in particular studies of sex ratio, life history evolution, parent-offspring conflict and biological signalling
  • Parasitoid biology

Publications

  • A full publication list can be found here. (Apologises, needs updating(

Other activities

At Oxford I direct the Oxford Martin Programme on the Future of Food, which seeks to link together all research in the University that is related to food.  I am currently a Visitor at the Oxford Botanic Garden and at the Oxford Natural History Museum.

Outside the University I am Chair of Defra’s (the UK’s environment and agriculture department) Science Advisory Council, and am a Trustee Director of Rothamsted Research and a trustee of the Food Foundation.  I sit on the Balzan (science) and Heineken (environmental science) Prize committees.  Other committees include the Royal Commission for the Exhibition of 1851 (fellowships), Science Advisory Council of the Natural History Museum, Strategic Advisory Board, Scottish Government’s Rural and Environment Science and Analytical Services science programme, and the Strategic Advisory Group of RCUK’s Global Challenges Research Fund.

Previously I have been a Trustee of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, a member of NERC Council, President of the British Ecological Society, and I chaired the Lead Expert Group of the UK Government’s Foresight Project on the Future of Food and Farming.