Dr Britt Koskella
NERC Fellow


I am an evolutionary biologist working to figure out why pathogens do what they do. Since every organism on earth (even bacteria) are plagued by disease, it seems surprising that hosts haven‘t been able to evolve complete resistance (i.e., that pathogens exist at all) and, at the same time, why all hosts haven‘t been driven extinct by disease.

One explanation is that hosts are engaged in a continual arms race with pathogens, with hosts constantly evolving new ways of resisting pathogens and pathogens counter-adapting to overcome this resistance. This antagonistic coevolution is thought to be one driver of all the great diversity we see on earth.

As a NERC independent research fellow, I am studying the coevolutionary interactions among bacteriophage viruses that infect and kill a bacterial host which is itself a pathogen that infects and kills plant hosts, including horse chestnut trees. I am both using this as a model system to test evolutionary theory and as an applied system to test whether phages are naturally acting as a sort of biological control of the plant disease, decreasing disease symptoms and helping the tree ward off infection. Just like the old expression: the enemy of my enemy is my friend.


2008 PhD, EEB, Indiana University, USA

2001 BA, Biology, University of Virginia, USA


2008-2009: NSF International research fellow, Oxford University, UK
2009-2010: NSF International research fellow, University of California, Santa Cruz, USA
2010-2011: NERC junior research fellow, Oxford University, UK
2011-2013: NERC junior research fellow, University of Exeter, Cornwall, UK

2013-2018: NERC independent research fellow, University of Exeter, Cornwall, UK



Contact details

Tel+44 (0) 1326 371878
BuildingDaphne du Maurier
AddressDaphne du Maurier
Centre for Ecology and Conservation
College of Life and Environmental Sciences
University of Exeter, Penryn Campus
TR10 9FE

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