Dr James Buckley

Dr James Buckley

Lecturer in Ecology

School of Biological and Marine Sciences (Faculty of Science and Engineering)

Dr James Buckley can be contacted through arrangement with our Press Office, to speak to the media on these areas of expertise.
  • Climate change
  • Conservation
  • Plant ecology
  • Plant-insect interactions
  • Population genetics
  • Evolution and adaptation


Lecturer in Ecology


2018 –2020: Postdoctoral researcher in Biocommunciation & Ecology group, ETH Zürich, Switzerland.
2015 – 2018: Adaptation to a Changing Environment postdoctoral fellowship, ETH Zürich, Switzerland.
2011 - 2015:Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) funded postdoc, University of Glasgow, UK.
2007 - 2011:NERC funded PhD in Biological Sciences, University of Bristol, UK.
2004- 2007:BSc Hons Biology, University of Nottingham, UK.

Professional membership

Member of Royal Society of Biology, Member of British Ecological Society, European Society for Evolutionary Biology and Genetics Society


Teaching interests

I am currently programme lead for the BSc Conservation Biology degree.
I am currently teaching on BIOL132 (Ecology and Diversity of Life) and BIOL214 (Ecology), as well as leading introductory statistics modules in the 1st (BIOL119) and 2nd years (BIOL234). I am involved in at least one longer residential field course each year. I also teach ecology-related topics in the Foundation year for several programmes and schools (FYM002 and FYM003).


Research interests

Climate change is driving shifts in species distributions and reshuffling local communities, yet our understanding of species' responses to such changes is limited. My research focuses on ecological and evolutionary responses to ongoing climate change, and in particular how species might adapt to the predicted shifts in community composition and altered interactions with other organisms. I have worked mostly with plants and invertebrates (and their interactions), and used a range of techniques, including metabolomics, genomics, greenhouse and field experiments, to assess variation in putatively adaptive traits. Through these research efforts, I aim to provide insight into those species most vulnerable to future environmental change.
Relevant projects include:
(1) The rapid evolution of butterfly preferences for different host plants associated with climate-driven range expansions and the potential impacts of this on future adaptive potential (PhD with Prof. Jon Bridle, UCL, UK)
(2) Assessing the potential for alpine plants to adapt to future climate change and particularly the increases in herbivore pressure predicted at higher elevations under warmer temperatures (Postdoctoral fellowship with Prof. Consuelo De Moraes, Prof. Mark Mescher, Prof Alex Widmer; ETH Zürich, Switzerland).

Other research

In addition to the above research, I also have interests in the role of population structure and mating system variation (variation in levels of inbreeding) on plant interactions with other organisms and their resilience to future environmental change. 
Relevant projects include: 
(1) Population genomics of disease resistance in a wild Brassicaceae plant and the impacts of mating system variation (outcrossing vs inbreeding) on plant-disease interactions (Postdoctoral position with Prof. Barbara Mable, University of Glasgow, UK).
(2) Understanding the resilience of fragmented and isolated oak-dominated temperate rainforest habitats to climate change and associated biotic stressors (e.g. herbivores and pathogens) in collaboration with colleagues and postgraduates across the University of Plymouth


Key publications

Key publications are highlighted

Buckley J, Widmer A, Mescher MC & De Moraes CM (2023) 'Experimental warming increases the vulnerability of high‐elevation plant populations to a specialist herbivore' Functional Ecology , DOI Open access
De Kort H, Legrand S, Honnay O & Buckley J (2022) 'Transposable elements maintain genome-wide heterozygosity in inbred populations' Nature Communications 13, (1) , DOI Open access
Pashalidou FG, Eyman L, Sims J, Buckley J, Fatouros NE, De Moraes CM & Mescher MC (2020) 'Plant volatiles induced by herbivore eggs prime defences and mediate shifts in the reproductive strategy of receiving plants' Ecology Letters 23, (7) 1097-1106 , DOI Open access
Buckley J, Daly R, Cobbold CA, Burgess K & Mable BK (2019) 'Changing environments and genetic variation: natural variation in inbreeding does not compromise short-term physiological responses' Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 286, (1915) 20192109-20192109 Publisher Site , DOI Open access
Buckley J, Widmer A, Mescher MC & De Moraes CM (2019) 'Variation in growth and defence traits among plant populations at different elevations: Implications for adaptation to climate change' Journal of Ecology 107, (5) 2478-2492 , DOI Open access
Buckley J, Pashalidou FG, Fischer MC, Widmer A, Mescher MC & De Moraes CM (2019) 'Divergence in Glucosinolate Profiles between High- and Low-Elevation Populations of Arabidopsis halleri Correspond to Variation in Field Herbivory and Herbivore Behavioral Preferences' International Journal of Molecular Sciences 20, (1) , DOI Open access
Buckley J, Holub EB, Koch MA, Vergeer P & Mable BK (2018) 'Restriction associated DNA-genotyping at multiple spatial scales in Arabidopsis lyrata reveals signatures of pathogen-mediated selection' BMC Genomics 19, (1) , DOI Open access
Rodríguez-Verdugo A, Buckley J & Stapley J (2017) 'The genomic basis of eco-evolutionary dynamics' Molecular Ecology 26, (6) 1456-1464 , DOI Open access
Buckley J, Kilbride E, Cevik V, Vicente JG, Holub EB & Mable BK (2016) 'R-gene variation across Arabidopsis lyrata subspecies: effects of population structure, selection and mating system' BMC Evolutionary Biology 16, (1) Publisher Site , DOI Open access
Buckley J & Bridle JR (2014) 'Loss of adaptive variation during evolutionary responses to climate change' Ecology Letters 17, (10) 1316-1325 Publisher Site , DOI
Bridle JR, Buckley J, Bodsworth EJ & Thomas CD (2013) 'Evolution on the move: specialization on widespread resources associated with rapid range expansion in response to climate change' Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 281, (1776) 20131800-20131800 Publisher Site , DOI
BUCKLEY J, BUTLIN RK & BRIDLE JR (2011) 'Evidence for evolutionary change associated with the recent range expansion of the British butterfly, <i>Aricia agestis</i>, in response to climate change' Molecular Ecology 21, (2) 267-280 Publisher Site , DOI
Buckley J, Bridle JR & Pomiankowski A (2010) 'Novel variation associated with species range expansion' BMC Evolutionary Biology 10, (1) Publisher Site , DOI Open access