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Ecology and Conservation

Dr Chris Lowe

Dr Chris Lowe

Senior lecturer in marine biology

 01326 259397

 Stella Turk Building F2.08


University of Exeter, Penryn Campus, Penryn, TR10 9FE


I am a senior lecturer in marine biology with a range of interests related to understanding diversity in aquatic eukaryotic microbes. My work focuses on assessing the processes that shape diversity and the ecological implications of variation within microbial species.

Research specialisms:

My research examines the evolution of genetic and functional diversity in aquatic eukaryotic microbes (i.e. protists). I use a range of approaches (including field sampling, ecological genomics, and lab experimentation) to characterise population-level diversity and to understand how diversity shapes species interactions (e.g. predation) and species responses to environmental variation. I study a range of free-living and symbiotic species that are ecologically important in both marine and freshwater systems. These systems also provide experimentally-tractable models to examine broader ecological and evolutionary processes.


BSc, PhD

Research group links

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Journal articles

Yvon-Durocher G, Buckling A, Smirnoff N (In Press). Adaptation of phytoplankton to a decade of experimental warming linked to increased photosynthesis. Nature Ecology and Evolution
Padfield D, Buckling A, Yvon-Durocher G, Lowe C, Warfield R (In Press). Linking phytoplankton community metabolism to the individual size distribution. Ecology Letters
Yvon-Durocher G, Padfield D, Buckling A, Lowe C, Ffrench-Constant R, Schaum E (In Press). Metabolic compensation constrains the temperature dependence of gross primary production. Ecology Letters
Ross Brown A, Lilley MKS, Shutler J, Widdicombe C, Rooks P, McEvoy A, Torres R, Artioli Y, Rawle G, Homyard J, et al (2022). Harmful Algal Blooms and their impacts on shellfish mariculture follow regionally distinct patterns of water circulation in the western English Channel during the 2018 heatwave. Harmful Algae, 111, 102166-102166.
Abbes S, Duy SV, Munoz G, Dinh QT, Simon DF, Husk B, Baulch HM, Vinçon-Leite B, Fortin N, Greer CW, et al (2022). Occurrence of BMAA Isomers in Bloom-Impacted Lakes and Reservoirs of Brazil, Canada, France, Mexico, and the United Kingdom. Toxins, 14(4). Abstract.
Sørensen MES, Wood AJ, Minter EJA, Lowe CD, Cameron DD, Brockhurst MA (2020). Comparison of Independent Evolutionary Origins Reveals Both Convergence and Divergence in the Metabolic Mechanisms of Symbiosis. Current Biology, 30(2), 328-334.e4. Abstract.
Stilwell P, O'Brien S, Hesse E, Lowe C, Gardner A, Buckling A (2020). Resource heterogeneity and the evolution of public goods cooperation. EVOLUTION LETTERS, 4(2), 155-163.  Author URL.
Brown A, Lowe C, Shutler J, Tyler C, Lilley M (2019). Assessing risks and mitigating impacts of Harmful Algal Blooms on mariculture and marine fisheries. Reviews in Aquaculture, 1-77.
Sørensen MES, Lowe CD, Minter EJA, Wood AJ, Cameron DD, Brockhurst MA (2019). The role of exploitation in the establishment of mutualistic microbial symbioses. FEMS Microbiol Lett, 366(12). Abstract.  Author URL.
Schaum CE, Student Research Team, Ffrench-Constant R, Lowe C, Ólafsson JS, Padfield D, Yvon-Durocher G (2018). Temperature-driven selection on metabolic traits increases the strength of an algal-grazer interaction in naturally warmed streams. Glob Chang Biol, 24(4), 1793-1803. Abstract.  Author URL.
Stilwell P, Lowe C, Buckling A (2018). The effect of cheats on siderophore diversity in Pseudomonas aeruginosa. J Evol Biol, 31(9), 1330-1339. Abstract.  Author URL.
Minter EJA, Lowe CD, Sørensen MES, Wood AJ, Cameron DD, Brockhurst MA (2018). Variation and asymmetry in host-symbiont dependence in a microbial symbiosis. BMC Evol Biol, 18(1). Abstract.  Author URL.
Lowe CD, Minter EJ, Cameron DD, Brockhurst MA (2016). Shining a Light on Exploitative Host Control in a Photosynthetic Endosymbiosis. Current Biology, 26(2), 207-211.
Minter EJA, Lowe CD, Brockhurst MA, Watts PC (2015). A rapid and cost-effective quantitative microsatellite genotyping protocol to estimate intraspecific competition in protist microcosm experiments. Methods in Ecology and Evolution, 6(3), 315-323. Abstract.
Dean A, Minter E, Sorenson M, Lowe C, Cameron D, Brockurst M, Wood AJ (2015). Host control and nutrient trading in a photosynthetic symbiosis. Abstract.  Author URL.
Minter EJA, Watts PC, Lowe CD, Brockhurst MA (2015). Negative frequency-dependent selection is intensified at higher population densities in protist populations. Biol Lett, 11(6). Abstract.  Author URL.
Lowe CD, Martin LE, Montagnes DJS, Watts PC (2012). A legacy of contrasting spatial genetic structure on either side of the Atlantic – Mediterranean transition zone in a marine protist. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 1-6.
Yang Z, Lowe CD, Crowther W, Fenton A, Watts PC, Montagnes DJS (2012). Strain-specific functional and numerical responses are required to evaluate impacts on predator–prey dynamics. The ISME Journal, 1-12.
Montagnes D, Roberts E, Lukes J, Lowe CD (2012). The rise of model protozoa. Trends in microbiology, 1-8. Abstract.
Thompson DJ, Hassall C, Lowe CD, Watts PC (2011). Field estimates of reproductive success in a model insect: behavioural surrogates are poor predictors of fitness. Ecology letters, 905-913. Abstract.
Lowe CD, Mello LV, Samatar N, Martin LE, Montagnes DJS, Watts PC (2011). The transcriptome of the novel dinoflagellate Oxyrrhis marina (Alveolata: Dinophyceae): response to salinity examined by 454 sequencing. BMC genomics, 12, 519-519.
Montagnes DJS, Lowe CD, Roberts EC, Breckels MN, Boakes DE, Davidson K, Keeling PJ, Slamovits CH, Steinke M, Yang Z, et al (2010). An introduction to the special issue: Oxyrrhis marina, a model organism?. Journal of Plankton Research, 00, 1-6.
Lowe CD, Martin LE, Roberts EC, Watts PC, Wootton EC, Montagnes DJS (2010). Collection, isolation and culturing strategies for Oxyrrhis marina. Journal of Plankton Research, 00
Sherratt TN, Laird RA, Hassall C, Lowe CD, Harvey IF, Watts PC, Cordero-Rivera A, Thompson DJ (2010). Empirical evidence of senescence in adult damselflies (Odonata: Zygoptera). The Journal of animal ecology, 1034-1044. Abstract.
Roberts EC, Wootton EC, Davidson K, Jeong HJ, Lowe CD, Montagnes DJS (2010). Feeding in the dinoflagellate Oxyrrhis marina: linking behaviour with mechanisms. Journal of Plankton Research, 33, 603-614.
Lowe CD, Montagnes DJS, Martin LE, Watts PC (2010). High Genetic Diversity and Fine-Scale Spatial Structure in the Marine Flagellate Oxyrrhis marina (Dinophyceae) Uncovered by Microsatellite Loci. PLoS ONE, 5, e15557-e15557.
Montagnes DJS, Lowe CD, Martin L, Watts PC, Downes-Tettmar N, Yang Z, Roberts EC, Davidson K (2010). Oxyrrhis marina growth, sex and reproduction. Journal of Plankton Research, 00
Lowe CD, Montagnes DJS, Martin LE, Watts PC (2010). Patterns of genetic diversity in the marine heterotrophic flagellate Oxyrrhis marina (Alveolata: Dinophyceae). Protist, 161, 212-21. Abstract.
Hassall C, Lowe CD, Harvey IF, Watts PC, Thompson DJ (2010). Phenology determines seasonal variation in ectoparasite loads in a natural insect population. Ecological Entomology, no-no.
Hassall C, Lowe CD, Harvey IF, Watts PC, Thompson DJ (2010). Phenology determines seasonal variation in ectoparasite loads in a natural insect population. Ecological Entomology, 35(4), 514-522. Abstract.
Watts PC, Martin LE, Kimmance SA, Montagnes DJS, Lowe CD (2010). The distribution of Oxyrrhis marina: a global disperser or poorly characterized endemic?. Journal of Plankton Research, 0
Lowe CD, Keeling PJ, Martin LE, Slamovits CH, Watts PC, Montagnes DJS (2010). Who is Oxyrrhis marina? Morphological and phylogenetic studies on an unusual dinoflagellate. Journal of Plankton Research, 00
Lowe CD, Harvey IF, Watts PC, Thompson DJ (2009). Reproductive timing and patterns of development for the damselfly Coenagrion puella in the field. Ecology, 90, 2202-12. Abstract.
Fakhar M, Noyes HA, Lowe CD, Motazedian MH, Daly D, Kemp SJ (2008). An integrated pipeline for the development of novel panels of mapped microsatellite markers for Leishmania donovani complex, Leishmania braziliensis and Leishmania major. Parasitology, 135, 567-74. Abstract.
Lowe CD, Harvey IF, Thompson DJ, Watts PC (2008). Strong genetic divergence indicates that congeneric damselflies Coenagrion puella and C. pulchellum (Odonata: Zygoptera: Coenagrionidae) do not hybridise. Hydrobiologia, 605, 55-63.
Watts PC, Lowe CD, Montagnes DJS (2007). An ecological perspective on protistan molecular genetics. JOURNAL OF EUKARYOTIC MICROBIOLOGY, 54(2), 56S-56S.  Author URL.
Lowe CD, Kemp SJ, Harvey IF, Thompson DJ, Watts PC (2007). Variable microsatellite loci isolated from the azure damselfly, Coenagrion puella (L.) (Zygoptera; Coenagrionidae). Molecular Ecology Notes, 7, 880-882.
Lowe CD, Kemp SJ, Díaz-avalos C, Montagnes DJS (2006). How does salinity tolerance influence the distributions of Brachionus plicatilis sibling species?. Marine Biology, 150, 377-386.
Lowe CD, Kemp S, Montagnes D (2005). An interdisciplinary approach to assess the functional diversity of free-living microscopic eukaryotes. Aquatic Microbial Ecology, 41, 67-77.
Lowe CD, Kemp SJ, Bates AD, Montagnes DJS (2005). Evidence that the rotifer Brachionus plicatilis is not an osmoconformer. Marine Biology, 146, 923-929.
Lowe CD, Day A, Kemp SJ, Montagnes DJS (2005). There are high levels of functional and genetic diversity in Oxyrrhis marina. The Journal of eukaryotic microbiology, 52, 250-7. Abstract.
Montagnes D, Wilson D, Brooks S, Lowe CD, Campey M (2002). Cyclical behaviour of the tide-pool ciliate Strombidium oculatum. Aquatic Microbial Ecology, 28, 55-68.
Montagnes DJS, Lowe CD, Poultonb A, Jonsson PR (2002). Redescription of Strombidium oculatum Gruber 1884 (Ciliophora, Oligotrichia). J Eukaryot Microbiol, 49(4), 329-337. Abstract.  Author URL.

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External Engagement and Impact

Awards/Honorary fellowships

(2013) International society for protistology William Trager award

(2010-12) International society for protistology travel award

(2010) CGEB, Dalhousie University/ Tula foundation visiting speaker honorarium

Committee/panel activities

2005-present Academic Journal Reviewer

Biodiversity and Conservation, Environmental Microbiology, Evolution, Hydrobiologia, Journal of Eukaryotic Microbiology, Microorganisms, Molecular Ecology, PLoS one.

Invited lectures

(2013) University of Aberdeen – Institute of biological and environmental sciences (invited seminar)

(2012) Cardiff University – Organisms and environment research division (invited seminar)

(2012)   University of British Columbia – Dept Zoology (invited seminar)

(2011)   ISOP/PSA joint-meeting, Seattle, WA, USA (chair and speaker)

(2010)   European meeting of the International Society of Protistologists, Canterbury, UK

(2010)   CGEB, Dalhousie University (invited seminar)

Research funding

(2013)   NERC standard grant (NE/K011774/1), awarded to Brockhurst M (PI), Law, Wood A (Univ York), Cameron D (Univ Sheffield), Lowe (Univ Exeter)   “Ecological drivers of evolutionary transitions in mutualistic symbioses”.

(2012)   NERC small-project grant, awarded to Watts PC (PI) and Lowe CD “Crossing the divide: population genomics of adaptation to salinity in a model protist”.

(2011)   Royal Society educational partnership award, awarded to Moran J (St. Mary’s prep. School), Lowe CD, Plaistow S, Watts PC (Univ. Liverpool).

(2008)   NERC standard grant (NE/F005237/1), awarded to Watts PC (PI), Montagnes DJS, Lowe CD:  “Breaking boundaries: quantifying the influence of demography and seascape in driving adaptive variation in the ubiquitous protist Oxyrrhis marina”.

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Supervision / Group

Research Fellows

  • Valentina Balzarini

Postgraduate researchers

  • Matthew Kyle-Henney
  • Benjamin Makin
  • Christophe Patterson

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Office Hours:

Office hours are currently 10am on Tuesday and Thursday. I will be available on Teams (click HERE to join the meeting) - feel free to drop by!

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