Steven Le Comber

With the late John Maynard Smith in Switzerland in 1999.

I gained a BSc in Ecology and Genetics from Queen Mary, University of London in 1998, and my PhD in 2003. After a spell working with David Polly, I was appointed to a lectureship in the School of Biological and Chemical Sciences in 2006 and a senior lectureship in 2012.

Research interests:

My research covers a wide range of subjects within evolutionary biology, including mathematical and computer models of molecular evolution and studies of spatial patterns in biology, notably in epidemiology and invasive species biology.

My work on the mathematics of spatial patterns spans two main areas. In the first of these, I have pioneered the introduction of geographic profiling – a statistical technique originally developed in criminology – to biology. Working with the technique’s inventor, Prof Kim Rossmo (Texas State), I showed in a paper in the Journal of Theoretical Biology how it could be adapted to study patterns of animal movement. Work in this area is ongoing; I am currently using geographic profiling to study biological invasions (with PhD student Mark Stevenson) and epidemiological data (with Prof John Beier, University of Miami).
In the second of these areas, working with Dr Chris Faulkes (QMUL) and Prof Nigel Bennett (University of Pretoria), I use fractal dimension to quantify burrow architecture in fossorial mammals.

My research on molecular evolution is principally in the field of genetic code evolution and polyploidy. In a recent paper in BMC Evolutionary biology, I pointed out for the first time an apparently deleterious feature of the universal genetic code: the occurrence of multiple stop codons. The paper proposed and found evidence for a compensatory benefit for this otherwise puzzling feature of the code. In another paper, in New Phytologist, I used computer simulations to study the evolution of newly formed autopolyploids. I showed that the evolution of pairing genes is not essential for the establishment of disomic inheritance, since genetic drift alone is sufficient to explain the transition from polysomic to disomic inheritance.

Previously, I have studied alternative male mating tactics in the three-spined stickleback, patterns of morphological and molecular evolution in European vespertilionid bats (with Dr David Polly of Indiana University) and mate choice in the greater horseshoe bat (with Steve Rossiter and Chris Faulkes (both QMUL)).


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