Prof Ben Raymond
Professor of Ecology and Evolution
+44 (0)1326 259085
Science and Engineering Research Support Facility (SERSF):, University of Exeter, Penryn Campus, Penryn, Cornwall, TR10 9FE, UK
Office hours: Tues 4-5pm & Friday 3-4pm
Tues 4-5pm & Friday 3-4pm
Experimental models in the Raymond lab include (from left to right): diamondback moth, our work horse of in vivo microbial experimental evolution; cabbage looper larva – which supply model gut communities for evolution of antibiotic resistance; tomato seedlings - model systems for community ecology of root symbionts, and finally the Titan Arum in whic we are also studying plant-microbe symbioses.
I am an experimental evolutionary ecologist who works with insects, plants, bacterial pathogens and symbionts. Much of my research focuses on virulence and resistance, particularly the evolution of virulence in parasites and symbionts, the evolution of resistance to the biological control agent Bacillus thruringiensis and, increasingly, the evolution of resistance to antibiotics. I have also worked on the basic ecology of biocontrol agents and beneficial bacteria, such as B. thuringiensis, rhizobacteria and insect baculoviruses. As well as testing and advancing fundamental ideas, I am particularly interested in applying theory to real world problems such as improving the efficacy and sustainability of biocontrol tools or managing the evolution of resistance. My work ranges from the laboratory to the field and includes a number of in vivo and in vitro experimental evolution systems that have been developed by my group.
1998 DPhil (University of York)
1994 MSc (University College of North Wales)
1992 BA (St John’s College, Oxford)
2021 Professor of Ecology and Evolution, University of Exeter
2016-2021 Associate Professor of Microbial Ecology and Entomology, University of Exeter
2013-2106 Senior Lecturer in Evolutionary Ecology, Imperial College, Silwood Park.
2009-2013 NERC Research Fellow, Royal Holloway University of London.
2007-2009 NERC Research Fellow, University of Oxford
2005-2007 Insect pathogen evolutionary ecology, University of Oxford
2001-2004 Evolution of resistance to insect pathogens, Imperial College
1998-2001 Insect baculovirus ecology, CEH Oxford
Research group links
Diverse root bacteria extracted from crop plants for use in competition and community structure experiments.
Evolutionary ecology of virulence in Bacillus thruringiensis - including cooperation & conflict in the field (Raymond et al. 2012, Science) as well as explorations of evolutionary genomics in collaboration with the Sheppard lab (Meric et al Mol. Ecology 2018) and Prof Ming Sun at Huazhong Agricultural University (Zheng et al. 2017, mBio)
White antibiotic susceptible ‘satellite’ colonies surrounding blue antibiotic resistant Escherichia coli. The resistant colonies produce beta-lactamase that removes antibiotic (ampicillin) from the growth medium. Susceptible cells that go through a period of dormancy can escape the effects of antibiotic and begin growing after resistant bacteria have produced antibioitic free space (from Medaney et al 2015, ISME).
Cooperation and the evolution of virulence. The idea that kin selection might maintain group beneficial traits in microbes has revolutionized how we see virulence in bacteria, particularly virulence that is dependent on the extracellular export of proteins. My group has been one of the first to explore the implications of this theory in naturalistic host pathogen interactions, rather than in highly controlled artificial media. While social interactions seem to be more important for some virulence factors than others, these ideas have been invaluable for understanding investment in virulence in B. thuringiensis and in other biocontrol agents such as entomopathogenic nematodes. Ongoing research projects are investigating whether how can apply our understanding of social interactions to shape the evolution of biocontrol agents in the laboratory and have resulted in a recent patent application.
Evolution and ecology of symbionts. Many bacteria switch between pathogenic, commensal and mutualistic lifestyles very readily over evolutionary timescales. I am interested in the evolutionary ecology of selection for virulence in symbionts. We are also investigating plant-symbiont ecology and evolutionary ecology in a number of systems, including model crop species as well as the Titan Arum, Amorphophallus titanum, we have been exploring how environmental factors shaping the make-up of symbiont communities and whether this understanding can better shape our use of beneficial bacteria.
Evolution of resistance to biopesticides and GM crops. Applied as organic microbial pesticide, or as Cry toxins in GM crops, B. thuringiensis provides an exceptionally environmentally safe form of pest management, with no harmful effects on non-target organisms. It is therefore a technology worth preserving. This chiefly requires managing the evolution of resistance in target pests. Previously, I have explored how the fitness costs associated with resistance to B. thuringiensis could be manipulated to reduce the rate of evolution of resistance, as well as the value of biopesticide combinations in combating resistance. Current collaborations have investigated the genetic mechanisms of resistance in various Lepidopteran pests, and how insect behavior in the field might explain the very rapid evolution of resistance seen in some species. Recent research (with Oxitec and the University of Oxford) is investigating how the release of self-limiting genetically modified insects might be used as a tool to slow the evolution of resistance in diamondback moth, Plutella xylostella
Evolution of resistance to antibiotics. Resistance management is widely practiced in insect pest control but has had only a few successes in important human pathogens (mostly for the treatment of TB and HIV). Solutions to the current crisis in antibiotic resistance require imaginative solutions and better data. I am interested in applying many of lessons learnt in pesticide resistance management to the context of antibiotic resistance and have been developing a novel model experimental system (using Enterobacter cloacae in Lepidoptera) to test various ideas, including how best to use bacteriophage to combat the evolution of resistance.
Biology and ecology of Bacillus thuringiensis. This bacterium is the world’s biggest selling microbial pesticide and supplies the key active proteins (Cry toxins) that are expressed in genetically modified insect resistant crops. Despite its applied importance, the fundamental biology and ecology of this bacterium has been largely neglected, although this has broad implications for the biosafety of this organism and understanding how it kills its hosts. I am interested in how selection has led to the specialized production of large quantities of virulence factors and how this pathogen reproduces in the field in the absence of substantial epidemics. Ongoing interests include exploring the evolutionary relationship between B. thuringiensis and its complement of plasmids as well as evolutionary genomics and the importance of good science for understanding the biological safety of microbes in plant husbandry.
- NERC Standard grant (2022-). Managing the competition: how do burying beetles and microbes sustainably coexist in competition over shared resources? NE/V012053/1 (coI with Nick Royle)
- British Academy (2020-2022) Inclusive and international risk assessment: Building a framework for gene drive organisms through collaboration, £200,000. (co-I with Sarah Hartley)
- Bayer CropScience LP. Artificial selection for improvement of spore-forming entomopathogens. £159,150. PI Dec 2019.
- Andermatt UK. Field and laboratory testing of biopesticides based on Bacillus thuringiensis kurstaki. £7,000 June 2019.
- Horizon 2020 International Training Award “INSECT DOCTORS” proposal 859850, call H2020-MSCA-ITN-2019, co-investigator, €4.2 million €606,345 for Exeter
- British Academy Knowledge Frontiers 2018, Co-developing risk assessment across disciplines and borders: gene drive mosquito field trials in Uganda. coI with Sarah Hartley, £49,585. KF2/100179.
- BB/S002928/1 BBSRC industrial partnership award– ‘Group selection as a novel tool to screen and improve biological pesticides’ £942,085 (PI, with Neil Crickmore, Alistair Darby and DowDuPont) (2019-2021).
- AHDB Studentship award “Selection and improvement of insect pathogenic fungi for the control of multi-resistant aphids” £71,400, (Oct 2018-June 2022)
- EU RDF collaborative research award “Microclimate and biocontrol interventions for Botrytis cinerea and fruit set problems in Cornish viticulture” £127,170 (March 2018).
- BBSRC Agrifood Catalyst £20,326 “Prototype development of novel bio-pesticide clones derived by experimental evolution” (Nov 2017)
- Eden Collaboration Fund “Exploring plant microbial mutualisms in the pollination ecology of the Titan Arum, Amorphophallus titanum” £5,093 (March 2017)
- MRC Innovation award. (PI) “Rapid assessment of phage for combating antimicrobial resistance in Enterobacter cloacae using a novel insect model.” £177,000 (May 2016).
- Leverhulme Trust. (PI) “Directing the evolution of bacterial virulence to overcome resistance to biological pesticides”. £233,233. RPG-2014-252 (Jan 2015).
- BBSRC LINK grant Co-I .BB/L00819X/1 “Agricultural pest insect control: combining genetics, resistance management and dynamics”. £340,000 (March 2014)
- Charles Sykes Trust £90720, co-I. “Antibiotic resistance in biofilms”(Sept 2011)
- BBSRC Genome Analysis Centre, Capacity, Capability and Challenge Award, (PI) “ Identification of social and individually beneficial virulence genes in Bacillus thuringiensis via insertion site sequencing” £9996 (July 2011)
- NERC Advanced Fellowship (NE/E012671/1) “Intra- and inter-specific competition and the evolution of cooperation in Bacillus thuringiensis”. £465,915 (Oct 2007)
- BBSRC “Field and laboratory studies of Bacillus thuringiensis populations: the dynamics of diversity and its consequences for the evolution of resistance.” £303,269 (2005)
- BBSRC “The evolution of resistance to Bt toxins: testing ecological and evolutionary hypotheses in experimental microcosms.” £246,336 (2001)
INSECT DOCTORS European Joint Doctoral Programme (EJD) https://www.insectdoctors.eu/en/insectdoctors.htm
Publications by category
Publications by year
External Engagement and Impact
Member of DEFRA’s Advisory Committee on Releases to the Environment (ACRE) which advises ministers on risks to the environments from releases of genetically modified organisms and biocontrol agents.
Member of editorial board of the journal Insects
Member of Cornwall Antibioitic Resistance Group (CARG) https://www.sps.nhs.uk/networks/ccg-amr-network-nhs-kernow-ccg/
Plenary speaker at: Siconbiol, Brazil 2015, SIP Vancouver 2015, International Organization for Biological Control, Innsbruck, 2011.
Invited speaker: INTECOL symposium, London 2013; Bt evolution workshop Vienna 2012; European Spores meeting 2012; Biotechnology Congress, Cuba, 2011 & 2014.
Invited talks: Liverpool, Edinburgh, Zurich, Jena, Roskilde, UNESP (Brazil), and Institutes of Plant Protection, Beijing & Wuhan.
Graphical model of competition and host invasion by quorum sensing WT and null mutant strains in live hosts, based on Zhou et al 2014, Curr Biol
Module co-convenor for Zoology; co-convenor of Molecular Ecology module; co-ordinator of the MSci program.
Office hours: Tues 4-5pm & Friday 4-5pm
Supervision / Group
- Peter Morwool
- ZoltÃ¡n Erdos
- Jessica Forsyth
- Hannah-Isadora Huditz
- Loretta Mugo
- Elitsa Georgieva Penkova
- Brogan Pett
- Alessandro Roman
- Hongbo Sun
- Hugh White
- Elli Amanatidou ; current employment Food Safety Authority
- James Manktelow ; Exeter graduate 2019
- Andrew Matthews ; currently employed ESI University of Exeter
- Frances Medaney ; currently employed by BBSRC
- Liqin Zhou PI, R&D Department, Xiamen Oamic Biotech Co.