Dr Matthew Davey

        Dr Matthew Davey

Senior Lecturer in Algal Biotechnology

I specialise in algal physiology, innovation and ecology. My research interests are in the diversity and plasticity of metabolic traits, especially in extreme habitats. Using a translational approach, I am applying the unique techniques and expertise I have developed in these ecosystems to produce sustainable and innovative solutions in the bio-economy.

Contact details:

I am an algal physiologist and ecologist. My key interests are in understanding the diversity of metabolism in natural ecosystems and controlled environments and how such knowledge can be translated for innovation purposes by collaborating with industrial partners involved in biotechnology, bioenergy and natural high value products.

I have carried out research and supervision on a wide range of algal topics from the ecology of snow algae in Antarctica, remote sensing polar algae blooms, using algae for bioenergy, bioremediation, pigments and food production on earth across all continents to exploiting algae to help astronauts on long term space missions. I also lead the EU EIT-Food international algae biotechnology training courses across Europe.

My new Algal Metabolic Ecology group will study aspects of functional interactions between microbial biodiversity, biochemistry and environmental change. This will require a mix of traditional and contemporary field-based techniques and experimental systems in the laboratory. The main themes of this group are: Environmental Metabolomics and Physiology – discovering metabolic traits associated with cold tolerance, the role of metabolic plasticity in responding to environmental and climate change, the distribution of metabolic traits across populations, and Algal Biotechnology and Innovation – exploring novel sources of sustainable biomaterials, nutrients, high value products, feedstocks and bioenergy.


Current projects

Sustainable inks – a broad brush approach to screen for vibrant algal pigments:

Funder: BBSRC Algae-UK NIBB Start & End date: 2020-2021


Metabolic mapping to understand and improve the production of omega-3 in algae (led by Prof Alison Smith, Cambridge):

Funder: BBSRC Algae-UK NIBB Start & End date: 2020-2021


Selected past projects I developed, coordinated and/or managed



The Circular Economy of Fruits and Vegetable Supply in Eastern Africa

Funder: The Royal Society International Collaboration Awards, 2019-20.

Capacity building in Ghana for cultivation of high value compound producing microorganisms

Funder: Cambridge-Africa ALBORADA Research Fund, 2020

Novel approaches for valorisation of crop waste to new products and processes in Ghana

Funder: UK Global Challenge Research Fund (GCRF) , 2019-2021

MELiSSA ESA space programme on food sustainability

Funder: European Space Agency - MELiSSA , 2018-2022

Snow algae communities and remote sensing at King George Island, Antarctica research expedition

Funder: Chilean Antarctic Institute (INACH) support, 2018-2019

Snow algae – are they the most abundant photosynthetic organisms in terrestrial Antarctica?

Funder: Leverhulme Research Grant, 2017-2020

Determining the diversity of vitamin-producing bacteria in Antarctic snow algal communities

Funder: BAS Innovation and Impact Collaboration Award, 2017

Undiscovered High Value Products from Polar Algae

Funder: NERC IAA Knowledge Exchange Award – British Antarctic Survey, 2014

Metabolic characteristics of terrestrial algae and plants in Antarctica – research visit to Antarctica

Funder: British Antarctic Survey – Collaborative Gearing Scheme, 2014

British Antarctic Survey. Exploring and exploiting metabolic diversity in polar algae

Funder: NERC IAA Knowledge Exchange Award, 2013


Training, Innovation and Policy

Algal biotechnology – techniques for the sustainable bioeconomy

Funder: EIT-Food, 2018-20


Playground to Polar – Comparing Antarctic and UK Biodiversity

Funder: Primary School Partnership Outreach Grant, 2018

Consortium on Algal Biotechnology for Bioeconomy-Driven Future

Funder: British Council – Turkey, 2018


Implementing Algebra guidelines to risk assessments of scale-up of non-native species


Expanding the range of algal species suitable for membrane harvesting


Batch scale cultivation of non-UK native tropical marine diatoms  

Funder: BBSRC - PHYCONET NIBB, 2017-2018

Increasing algal growth and harvesting efficiency in glasshouses


Research Grade Algae – a supply bottleneck in algal research

Funder: BBSRC - PHYCONET NIBB, 2015-2016

Agri-Inno: Stimulating Innovation and Entrepreneurship in Egypt’s Agricultural Sector

Funder: BBSRC Impact Acceleration Award Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF), 2017

Scoping a new collaborative and training networks in microbial and invertebrate biotechnology and ‘omics’ in Malaysia

Funder: NERC-GCRF-BAS International Development Innovation and Impact Award, 2017

Importing non-native algae – clarifying UK legal requirements for the biotechnology industry


Environmental Field Techniques for Scaling Molecular Physiology to Leaf and Crop Canopy (Portugal)

Funder: NERC Advanced Training: International Short Courses, 2014-2016

Bio-cosmetics from Lithops

Funder: BBSRC NIBB High Value Chemicals from Plants, 2015

Algal Biorefinery and AD: routes for energy and nutrient recovery

Funder: NERC AB-SIG SPARK PLUS, 2014-2015



Development of the Algal Innovation Centre, University of Cambridge

Funder: EnAlgae and Cambridge University, 2015

This unique facility in the UK allow us to study non-native algal species for ecological and biotechnological purposes at a much larger and controlled scale


Plant and Algal Growth Facility energy saving and LED light conversion projects

Funder: Cambridge University Energy and Carbon Reduction Project, 2014




Peer-reviewed publications

Gray A, Krolikowski M, Fretwell P, Convey P, Peck LS, Mendelova M, Smith AG, Davey MP. 2020. Remote sensing reveals Antarctic green snow algae as important terrestrial carbon sink. Nature Communications. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-020-16018-w

Wangpraseurt D, You S, Azam F, Jacucci G, Gaidarenko O, Hildebrand M, Kühl M, Smith AG, Davey MP, Deheyn DD, Chen S, Vignolini S. 2019. Bionic 3D printed corals. Nature Communications.

Bunbury F, Helliwell KE, Mehrshahi P, Davey MP, Salmon D, Holzer A, Smirnoff N, Smith AG. 2020. Physiological and molecular responses to B12 deprivation of a newly evolved auxotroph of Chlamydomonas. Plant Physiology

Reynolds S, Davey MP, Aldridge D. 2019. Harnessing Synthetic Ecology for high value algae production. Nature Scientific Reports. 9 (1), 9756

Buayam N, Davey MP, Smith AG, Pumas C. 2019. Effects of Copper and pH on the Growth and Physiology of Desmodesmus sp. AARLG074 Metabolites 9 (5), 84

Davey MP, Norman L, Sterk P, Huete‐Ortega M, Bunbury F, Kin Wai Loh B, Stockton S, Peck LS, Convey P, Newsham KK, Smith AG. 2019. Snow algae communities in Antarctica – metabolic and taxonomic composition. New Phytologist. 222 (3), 1242-1255

Ridley CJA, Parker BM, Norman L, Schlarb-Ridley B, Dennis R, Jamieson AE, Clark D, Skill SC, Smith AG, Davey MP. 2018. Growth of microalgae using nitrate-rich brine wash from the water industry. Algal Research 33, 91-98

Davey MP, Armitage E, Palmer B, Quick WP, Woodward FI. 2018. Cold acclimation duration, photosystem II maintenance and survival in Arabidopsis lyrata spp. petraea. BMC Plant Biology 18 (1), 277

Nunes M, Davey MP, Coomes D. 2017. On the challenges of using field spectroscopy to measure the impact of soil type on leaf traits. Biogeosciences. 14: 3371-3385

Lea-Smith DJ, Ortiz-Suarez ML, Lenn T, Nürnberg DJ, Baers LL, Davey MP, et al. 2016. Hydrocarbons are essential for optimal cell size, division and growth of cyanobacteria. Plant Physiology. 172: 1928-1940

Abdul-Awal SM, Hotta CT, Davey MP, Smith AM, Webb AAR. 2016. NO-mediated [Ca2+]cyt increases are dependent on ADP-ribosyl activity in Arabidopsis. Plant Physiology. 171: 623-631

Tanaka K, Edwards JEM, Butlin RK, Burke T, Quick WP, Urwin P, Davey MP. 2016. Tissue culture as a source of replicates in non-model plants: variation in cold tolerance in Arabidopsis lyrata ssp. petraea. G3: Genes, Genomes, Genetics. 6: 3817-3823

Groen SC, Westwood JH, Jiang S, Murphy AM, Davey MP, et al. 2016. Virus infection of plants alters pollinator preference: A payback mechanism for susceptible hosts? PLoS Pathology. 12(8): e1005790

Lea-Smith DJ, Biller SJ, Davey MP, Cotton CAR, Sepulveda BMP, Turchyn AV, Scanlan DJ, Smith AG, Chisholm SW, Howe CJ. 2015. Contribution of cyanobacterial alkane production to the ocean hydrocarbon cycle. PNAS. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1507274112

Davey MP, Duong GH, Tomsett E, Litvinenko ACP, Howe CJ, Horst I, Smith AG. 2014. Triacylglyceride production and autophagous responses in Chlamydomonas reinhardtii depend on resource allocation and carbon source. Eukaryotic Cell. 13: 392-400

Field K, George R, Fearn B, Quick WP, Davey MP. 2014. Subterranean photosynthetic activity and functional adaptation in the desert succulent Lithops aucampiae PloS one 8 (10), e75671

Howlett R, Davey MP, Quick WP, Kelly D. 2014. Metabolomic analysis of the food-borne pathogen: application of direct injection mass spectrometry for mutant characterization. Metabolomics 5: 887-896

Adesanya VO, Davey MP, Scott SS, Smith AG. 2014. Kinetic modelling of growth and storage molecule production in microalgae under mixotrophic and autotrophic conditions Bioresource Technology. 157: 293

Berg B, Liu C, Laskowski R, Davey MP. 2013. Relationships between nitrogen, acid-unhydrolyzable residue, and climate among tree foliar litters. Canadian Journal of Forest Research. 43: 103-107.

Vignolini S, Davey MP, Bateman RM, Rudall PJ, Moyroud E, Tratt J, Malmgren S, Steiner U, Glover BJ. 2012. The mirror crack’d: both pigment and structure contribute to the metallic blue appearance of the Mirror Orchid, Ophrys speculum. New Phytologist. 196: 1038-1047.

Davey MP, Susanti N, Wargent J, Findlay J, Quick WP, Paul N, Jenkins G. 2012. The UV-B photoreceptor UVR8 promotes photosynthetic efficiency in Arabidopsis exposed to high levels of UV-B. Photosynthesis Research. 114: 121-131.

Bokhorst S, Bjerke JW, Davey MP, Taulavuori K, Taulavuori E, Laine K, Callaghan TV, Phoenix GK. 2010. Impacts of extreme winter warming events on plant physiology in a sub-Arctic heath community. Physiologia Plantarum. 140(2): 128-140.

Berg B, Davey MP, Emmett B, Faituri M, Hobbie S, Johansson MB, Liu C, De Marco A, McClaugherty C, Norell L, Rutigliano F, De Santo AV. 2010. Factors influencing limit values for pine needle litter decomposition - a synthesis for boreal and temperate pine forest systems. Biogeochemistry. 100: 57-73.

Lake JA, Field KJ, Davey MP, Beerling DJ, Lomax BH. 2009. Metabolomic and physiological responses reveal multi-phasic acclimation of Arabidopsis thaliana to chronic UV radiation. Plant Cell and Environment. 32: 1377.

Kunin WE, Vergeer P, Kenta T, Davey MP, Burke T, Woodward FI, Quick WP, Manerelli ME, Watson-Haigh NS, Butlin R. 2009. Variation at range margins across multiple spatial scales: environmental temperature, population genetics and metabolomic phenotype. Proceedings of the Royal Society B 276: 1495-1506.

Davey MP, Woodward FI, Quick WP. 2009. Intraspecific variation in cold-temperature metabolic phenotypes of Arabidopsis lyrata ssp. petraeaMetabolomics 5: 138-149.

Davey MP, Burrell MM, Woodward FI, Quick WP. 2008. Population specific metabolic phenotypes of Arabidopsis lyrata ssp. petraea. New Phytologist 177(2). 380-388.

Davey MP, B Berg, P Rowland, BA Emmett. 2007. Decomposition of oak leaf litter is related to initial litter Mn concentrations. Canadian Journal of Botany. 85(1). 16-24.

Davey MP, H Harmens, TW Ashenden, R Edwards, R Baxter. 2007. Species-specific effects of elevated CO2 on resource allocation in Plantago and Armeria maritima. Biochemical Systematics and Ecology. 35(3): 121-129.

Davey MP, DN Bryant, I Cummins, P Gates, TW Ashenden, R Baxter, R Edwards. 2004. Effects of elevated CO2 on the vasculature and phenolic secondary metabolism of Plantago maritima. Phytochemistry. 65. 2197-2204.


Reviews and Book Chapters

Howlett R, Davey MP, Kelly D. 2017. Campylobacter jejuni:  Methods and Protocols. Book Chapter published in "Methods in Molecular Biology". Ed: A. Stintzi and J. Butcher.  Springer.

Brunetti C, George RM, Tattini M, Field K, Davey MP. 2013. Metabolomics in plant environmental physiology. Journal of Experimental Botany. 64: 4011–4020

Davey MP and Smith AG. 2013. Book review: Lipids in photosynthesis. Essential and regulatory functions. Annals of Botany. 111(2): viii-ix.

Davey MP. Metabolite identification, pathways and omic integration using online databases and tools. 2011. In: Handbook of Molecular Microbial Ecology:  Metagenomics and Complementary Approaches Ed. F de Bruijn. Wiley-Blackwell. ISBN: 9780470644799

Davey MP. Plant environmental metabolomics. 2010. In: Metabolomics: Metabolites, Metabonomics and Analytical Technologies. Ed. Knapp JS and Cabrera WL. Nova Science Publishers. NY.

Scott SA, Davey MP, Dennis JS, Horst I, Howe CJ, Lea-Smith DJ, Smith AG. 2010. Biodiesel from algae: challenges and prospects. Current Opinion in Biotechnology. 21(3):277-86.

Bundy JG, Davey MP, Viant, MR. 2009. Environmental Metabolomics: A Critical Review and Future Perspectives. Metabolomics 5: 3-21.

Morrison N, Bearden D, Bundy JG, Collette T, Currie F, Davey MP, et. al. 2007. Standard Reporting Requirements for Samples in Metabolomics Experiments: Environmental Context. Metabolomics 3: 203-210.



White D, Silkina A, Skill S, Oatley-Radcliffe D, Van Den Hende S, Ernst A, De Viser C, Van Dijk W, Davey MP, Day J. 2015. Best Practices for the Pilot-Scale Cultivation of Microalgae, Public Output report of the

EnAlgae project, Swansea, UK. Available online at www.enalgae.eu.

Silkina A, Flynn K, Llewellyn C, Bayliss C. [eds] 2015. Standard Operating Procedures for Analytical Methods and Data Collection in Support of Pilot-Scale Cultivation of Microalgae. Public Output report WP1A3.01 of the EnAlgae project, Swansea, UK. (contributing author).



2018–present:  European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT) - Food.

Activity leader for professional development training courses in UK, Germany and Iceland on “Algal Biotechnology Techniques and opportunities for the sustainable bio economy”. Over 100 delegates trained to date.

2012–2018:  British Ecological Society

Plant Environmental Physiology Special Interest Group. Key organiser (chair of group) for international and national field training courses (academic and industrial trainers, NERC approved) in Portugal and UK. Trained over 300 delegates.

2011-2020:  Graduate School of Life Sciences (GSLS) (University of Cambridge)

Designed and developed new lecture/training course on “Introduction to metabolomics”


Previous undergraduate teaching

2016-2017: Teaching Associate (Department of Plant Sciences, University of Cambridge):

Co-ordinated supervisions for Plant and Microbial Sciences (PMS) students Practical organiser for 1B PMS RuBisCO phenotyping course and NIAB field trips

2011-present: Lecturing and practical classes (University of Cambridge):

Designed and delivered lectures, exam questions and workshop material for the ‘Frontiers in Plant Metabolism’ module for part II (year 3) undergraduates; lecturer for microbial ecology. Co-ordinated, co-designed and lectured for a practical on organelle inheritance patterns in unicellular algae for the Part IB (year 2) Cell and Developmental Biology course and the RuBisCO phenotyping practical

2009-present:  Undergraduate supervisor (University of Cambridge)

Supervised 60 (to date) undergraduate Natural Science Tripos students from various Cambridge colleges for the part IA (year 1) Physiology of Organisms course and the part IB (year 2) Plant and Microbial Sciences course. Responsible for choosing discussion topics, setting and marking essays and engaging the students in free thinking about the scientific content and relevance of the course. Provided feedback of each student’s progress to their Director of Studies


Current research students 

Ellen Harrison: Sustainable natural production of vitamins for human consumption in long space missions using synthetic ecology approaches. PhD 2018, University of Cambridge – SCK - ESA MELiSSA space project (led by Prof Alison Smith and Dr Natalie Leys)

Sam Coffin: Polar algae – exploiting cold tolerant phenotypes in polar diatoms for increased growth and metabolite production. PhD 2017, University of Cambridge and BAS - Cambridge Earth System Science NERC DTP (led by Prof Alison Smith and Prof Melody Clarke)


Alumni research students 

Carl Barker: Native Lime Tree Comparative Metabolomics. PhD 2017, Edge Hill University (led by Dr Paul Hill)

Rachel George: Metabolomics of coastal plant communities. PhD 2014, Sheffield University (led by Prof. Rob Freckleton)

Expert advice to regulators / government

European Algal Biomass Association and EU Commission Position Paper “What are Algae?”


EU standards organisation (CEN), in collaboration with BIS, EABA, industry and academia wanted to “provide clear and standardised terms and definitions for algae and algae products, thus removing any ambiguity or misunderstanding in the sector. The standard not only contributes to improving communication within the sector, but also reach further, as standardized terms and definitions can also form the basis for legislation.” The release is here: https://www.cencenelec.eu/News/Brief_News/Pages/TN-2020-023.aspx


Importing algae from outside the EU – clarifying UK legal requirements for the algal biotechnology industry (2018): UK BBSRC PHYCONET funded project led by Dr Matthew Davey, Dr María Huete-Ortega and Prof Alison Smith at the University of Cambridge, in collaboration with Dr Katie Lacey from the UK Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) and Susan Lacey from the UK Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA).


Media Coverage/public engagement


This video shows Matt Davey on location, most of the other shots are when the FT were out with Matt, you can also see snow algae.


This link mentions Matt Davey, and the difficulties researchers face in such an environment.


This is a general piece form the FT, again it highlights the difficulties and dangers of such research.


2018:    Royal Society - Primary School Partnership Outreach Grant – Antarctic and UK Biodiversity “Playground to Polar” project

2017:   Cambridge Independent: http://www.cambridgeindependent.co.uk/business/science/cambridge-researcher-dr-matt-davey-on-how-algae-could-be-used-for-energy-healthcare-and-monitoring-penguins-from-space-1-5092478


Professional memberships

2017 – present: NERC NBAF Biomolecular Analysis Facility (Metabolomics, Genomics) Steering Committee

2016 – 2017: Department of Plant Sciences Teaching Committee

2014 - 2020: University of Cambridge, Impact and Enterprise Champion and Outreach Champion

2014 – 2017: Local Authority Primary School Governor / Chair of Grants Committee

2012 - 2016: University of Cambridge, Departmental Energy Champion – Carbon Reduction Board

2011 - 2020: University of Cambridge, Interviewer for undergraduate admissions, Corpus Christi College

2010 - 2018: Research Associate of Corpus Christi College, University of Cambridge

2010 - 2012: University of Cambridge, Department of Plant Sciences Research Associate Staff Representative

2007 - 2016: Plant Environmental Physiology Group (British Ecological Society) - Chair

2004 - 2009: British Ecological Society (BES) – Meetings Committee officer and Overseas Grants Panel



Other professional responsibilities 

2015 - 2019:      Associate editor of European Journal of Phycology

2012 - 2018:      Associate editor of Methods in Ecology and Evolution

2011 - 2016:      Associate editor of Conservation Physiology

2010 - 2018:      Research Associate of Corpus Christi College, University of Cambridge

1999 - present: British Ecological Society (BES)


Selected invited talks:

2019:   Departmental seminar series: University of East Anglia, University of Aberdeen

2018:   2nd International Snow Algae Meeting – Fraunhofer, Germany

2018:   Scientific Committee of Antarctic Research (SCAR) Polar2018 congress – Davos, Switzerland

2017:   SCAR Biology meeting, Polar Biology, Ghent, Belgium

2017:   Leeds University (Departmental Seminar Series)

2016:   Environmental Genomics and Metabolomics (NERC training), Birmingham (keynote speaker)

2016:   NERC Renewable Energy Conference, QEII Conference Centre, Westminster

2015:   Bio-cosmetics from Desert Plants. Kew Gardens, UK.

2015:   Royal Society – Understanding Plasticity in Marine Microbial Ecosystems. UK.

2015:   International Environmental ‘Omics Synthesis Conference. St Andrews. UK.


Employment history

May 2020–present: Senior Lecturer. SAMS, UK

2013-present: Senior Research Associate. University of Cambridge, UK

2016-2017: Teaching Associate. Department of Plant Sciences, University of Cambridge, UK

2009-2012: Post-Doctoral Research Associate. University of Cambridge, UK

2005-2009: Post-Doctoral Research Associate. University of Sheffield, UK

2003-2004: Assistant Scientific Officer. Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, Bangor, UK

1998 – 1999: Research assistant. University of Wales, Bangor, UK


Education qualifications

2004 PhD in Plant Ecophysiology and Biochemistry (NERC-CEH CASE studentship) - Durham University

1997 Distinction - Comparative Zoology and Conservation Biology (ERASMUS studentship) - University of Umeå, Sweden, Department of Ecology and Environmental Science

1995-1998 BSc. (Hons) Biology -  University of Wales, School of Biological Sciences, Bangor, UK

I have over 20 years’ experience working on algal and plant physiology research and education projects and have extensive knowledge of the international algal biotechnology sector. I work closely with industry, from micro-SMEs to multinational companies, and government in the algal biotechnology, bioenergy, bioremediation, nutraceutical, metabolomics, education and ecology sector. I have worked on numerous consultancy projects and contributed to expert advice in this sector.

I have extensive experience in project management and polar science expedition planning. I also lead the EU EIT-Food international algae biotechnology training courses across Europe. I was an Enterprise and Impact Champion at the University of Cambridge for 6 years before joining SAMS.