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Christmas lectures feature former Biochemistry graduate

A training in Biochemistry opens the doors to many areas, as Professor Sue Hartley demonstrates. The former graduate in Biochemistry but now eminent ecologist is giving the 2009 Royal Institution Christmas Lectures.

Professor Sue Hartley, close to her one of research subjects. By kind permission of the Royal Institution

Professor Sue Hartley, close to her one of research subjects.
By kind permission of the Royal Institution

Her talks will cover the extraordinary lengths that plants have gone to, over their millions of years of co-existence with animals, to defend themselves or attack their enemies.

Professor Hartley is at the University of Sussex and specialises in the interaction between plants and herbivores. Her training, though, began with a degree in Biochemistry at the University of Oxford. She decided to use her knowledge in chemistry to study plant defences against insect herbivores.

After a PhD and fellowship in this area at York, she moved to the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology near Aberdeen where her research focussed on how the foraging behaviour of large herbivores impacts on moorland plant communities.

She has been at the University of Sussex since 2001 where her research has taken her to many different habitats around the world. Her expertise has been sought on the controversial issue of genetically modified organisms and she has advised the European Commission and European Food Safety Authority on the ecological impacts of these organisms.

Professor Hartley's talks entitled 'The 300 million year war' will reveal the astonishingly diverse set of tactics that plants have developed to fend off or attack their enemies, and will highlight how dependent upon plants we really are.

Her talks will be broadcast on More 4 from December 21-25

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