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Sarah Christofides

Dr Sarah Christofides


School of Biosciences

+44 29208 76201
Sir Martin Evans Building, Room W/1.15, Museum Avenue, Cardiff, CF10 3AX
Available for postgraduate supervision


I am a lecturer in bioinformatics, teaching on the School's undergraduate and postgradute bioinformatics courses. My specialist area is the analysis of microbial communities through metabarcoding, but I have wide interests in bioinformatics and biostatistics.

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).














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.


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 Fellow of the Higher Education Academy.


2023-present: Lecturer in bioinformatics, Cardiff University

2021-2023: 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

  • Fellow of the Higher Education Academy
  • British Ecological Society
  • British Mycological Society
  • Royal Statistical Society
  • Society for Experimental Biology
  • Christians in Science

Speaking engagements

2023 Invited seminar, University of Kent School of Mathematics, Statistics and Actuarial Science

2023 Invited seminar, University of St Andrews School of Mathematics and Statistics

2023 Invited talk, Building Interdisciplinary Solutions to Modern Ecological Challenges conference

2020 Invited seminar, University of Essex School of Life Sciences

2020 Invited seminar, LaTrobe University Department of Physiology, Anatomy and Microbiology

Committees and reviewing

  • Editorial Board, Fungal Ecology
  • Grant reviewer for BBSRC 2023
  • Grant reviewer for the Human Frontiers Science Programme 2021


Current supervision

Ed Woolley

Ed Woolley

Research student

Past projects

Past PhD students:

  • Dr. Aimee Bettridge (Application of bacterial genomics and culture-free microbiota diagnostics to respiratory infections)

Research themes


  • Bioinformatics and computational biology
  • Biostatistics
  • Mycology
  • Plant biology
  • Freshwater ecology