Skip to main content
Dr Sarah Christofides

Dr Sarah Christofides

Bioinformatics Support Tutor

School of Biosciences

Email
christofidess@cardiff.ac.uk
Telephone
+44 (0)29 2087 6201
Campuses
W/1.15, Sir Martin Evans Building, Museum Avenue, Cardiff, CF10 3AX

Overview

I am a bioinformatician and biostatistician associated with the Genome Research Hub. I provide tutoring on the School's undergraduate and postgradute bioinformatics courses, and offer data analysis support to researchers. My specialist area is the analysis of microbial communities through metabarcoding.

My research interests focus on (microbial) community ecology, and particularly the application of multivariate statistics to large datasets. I have a diverse research background, spanning fungal interactions, plant stress responses and freshwater ecology. I want to improve dialogue and knowledge-sharing between classical ecological statistics and microbial ecology bioinformatics, combining and extending the approaches to handle the ever-larger datasets available for analysis. Many statisticians work on ecological problems, and many ecologists rely heavily on statistics, but often in isolation from each other. I aim to bridge the gap between these disciplines.

I also have a keen interest in science communication and outreach, and have been involved in delivering diverse scientific engagement events. These include Microbiology for Arboriculture days (professional training events, 2015-2018); UK Fungus Day events (national events, 2014-2018), BBC Summer of Wildlife (national event 2013); Cardiff University European Heritage Open Doors event (2011); and Offwell Woodland and Wildlife Trust Biodiversity Day (2010). I was a regional finalist in the Famelab science communication competition (2012).

Biography

2021-present: Bioinformatics tutor at the Genome Research Hub, Cardiff University

2019-2021: Research associate, Cardiff University. BBSRC Future Forages project led by Prof. Hilary Rogers and Dr. Carsten Muller

2018: Part-time lecturer in statistics, Swansea University

2013-2017: NERC PhD, Cardiff University. Fungus-bacteria interactions in decomposing wood: unravelling community effects. Supervised by Prof. Andy Weightman and Prof. Lynne Boddy

2009-2012: BSc(Hons) Ecology, 1st class. Cardiff University

Honours and awards

  • Best Article Award 2019 from FEMS Microbiology Ecology: ‘Highly competitive fungi manipulate bacterial communities in decomposing beech wood (Fagus sylvativa)’
  • New Phytologist Trust grant to attend ‘People, Plants and Planet Symposium’ at Kew (2019)
  • FEMS travel grant to attend ESM conference in Prague (2015)
  • NERC PhD studentship (2013)
  • Undergraduate Fellowship with the British Ecological Society (2012-2013)

Professional memberships

  • British Ecological Society
  • British Mycological Society
  • Society for Experimental Biology
  • Christians in Science

Speaking engagements

  • Invited departmental research seminar, LaTrobe University (2020)
  • Invited departmental research seminar, University of Essex (2020)

Publications

2021

2020

2019

2017

2016

2015

Teaching

My current teaching centres around delivering bioinformatics workshops to students on the MRes and integrated masters programmes. Previous teaching experience includes: lecturing on first and second year statistics and plant ecology, leading a journal-club style discussion group for masters students, running data analysis workshops for second year undergraduates, and demonstrating on a wide range of laboratory practicals/field trips.

I am a microbial community ecologist with research interests in mycology, freshwater microbiology, and quantitative ecology. My overarching research aim is to tackle one of the great problems in ecology: how to link (community) structure to (ecosystem) function. I am convinced that this will not be solved by a magic bullet, but by a judicious combination of hypothesis development, experimental design, statistical tools and experimental methods linking multiple scales.

Fungal-Bacterial Interactions

Microbial communities drive many of the processes in the natural world, but their interactions are often poorly understood - particularly across kingdoms. My PhD research investigated the interactions between fungi and bacteria during wood decomposition, and this remains a particular area of interest to me. My PhD work was the first to show a causal link in the field between the identity of the dominant fungus in a resource and the composition of the bacterial community. It also revealed for the first time that fungi can significantly delay bacterial colonisation of a woody resource. I am also interested in bacterial effects on fungi, particularly the Paraburkholderia which migrate along fungal hyphae.

Microbiology of Headwater Streams

Upland freshwaters provide a host of ecosystem services and act as sensitive indicators of ecosystem health. My research career started in freshwater ecology, researching the effects of acidification on habitat choice by macroinvertebrates. Since then I have been involved with Prof. Isabelle Durance's NERC DURESS project, looking at the links between microbial communities and dissolved organic carbon. I have an active interest in freshwater mycology and soil-water linkages, which I hope to pursue further in future.

Post-Harvest Stress

Plants' responses to the stresses associated with harvest have major implications for food security, waste reduction and agricultural efficiency. I have worked with Prof. Hilary Rogers and Dr. Carsten Müller on post-harvest stress reponses in various plant systems. During the BBSRC Future Forages project we collaborated with Prof. Alison Kingston-Smith and Dr. Elizabeth Hart at Aberystwyth University to investigate how climate stress imposed when grass is growing affects its subsequent autolysis within the rumen. In the Fondazione con il Sud's FRUITY project, we combined biochemical analysis with consumer panel data to assess markers of peach quality and how they are affected by storage, in collaboration with Dr. Natasha Spadafora at the University of Calabria and Dr. Ruth Fairchild and Dr. Anita Setarehnejad at Cardiff Metropolitan University.