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Biological Sciences
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 Gail Taylor BSc, PhD, FRSB

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Since 2017 Gail Taylor has been employed by and based at The University of California, Davis, where she is Professor and Chair of the Department of Plant Sciences.

During her twenty year tenure at Southampton, she held several position in the University including Director of Research for Biological Sciences (2012-2015) .

Career history

2017: Appointed as Professor and Chair (Head) of the Department of Plant Sciences, University of California, routinely voted number 1, globally, for Plant Sciences.
2004-2017: Full Professor of Plant and Environmental Biology. University of Southampton.
1999-2004: Senior Lecturer and Reader. Plant and Environmental Biology, University of Southampton.
1990-1999: Lecturer and Senior Lecturer (1997). Plant Biology, University of Sussex.

Academic qualifications

1983: B.Sc. Lancaster, Biological Sciences with specialism in Environmental Science, Plant Biology and Genetics.
Ph.D. NERC funded on a PhD “Control of leaf growth by light”, supervised by Professor Bill Davies, Distinguished Professor, Lancaster Environment Centre.
2012: FRSB. Fellow of the Royal Society of Biology

Research interests

Gail Taylor has three areas of research interest:

  • Food for Health and Sustainability: leafy crops molecular breeding
  • Sustainable Bioenergy Trees- transition to the low carbon economy
  • Global Climate Change – Adaptation and Mitigation – Molecular Ecology

Research group

Ecology and Evolution

Affiliate research groups

Plants and Food Security , Ecology and Evolution, Institute for Life Sciences (IfLS), Clean Carbon Interdisciplinary Group , Autonomous unmanned Vehicles Research Group

Research project(s)

Development of improved perennial non-food biomass and bioproduct crops for water-stressed environments (WATBIO)

Working on three novel non-food crops for bioenergy applications, we are using the latest RNA-Seq and Genome Wide Association Studies to identify genes linked to traits for improved water use efficiency.

Addressing the Valuation of Energy and Nature Together (ADVENT)

ADVENT seeks to explore future UK low-carbon energy pathways and quantify their differing implications for stocks of natural capital (e.g. groundwater and natural habitats) and for the provision of ecosystem services (e.g. irrigation, visual amenity, recreation).

More crop per drop

Reducing the water footprint and increasing shelf life of potted and cut herb production in the UK.


Measurement and Analysis of bioenergy greenhouse gases: integrating GHGs into LCAs and the UK Biomass Value Chain Modelling Environment

Bioenergy value chains: Whole systems analysis and optimisation

Bioenergy is a complex and sometimes controversial subject. This project integrates models of different aspects of the UK bioenergy supply chains across multiple scales. The resulting tool will provide guidance to decision makers about the complex social and environmental impacts of differing bioenergy strategies to aid policy development.

Mapping the supply and demand of bioenergy in Great Britain to 2050

This project explores the potential use of bioenergy crops across GB, looking at feasibility, sustainability implications, and constraints on production opportunities, in relation to current and future demand for energy.


Understanding processes determining soil carbon balances under perennial bioenergy crops.

Adaptive differences in response to flooding in Populus alba and Populus tremula

Utilising Populus to assess the flood tolerance mechanisms in repeated anoxic flooding events.

Mechanism for delayed senescence in Populus in a high CO2 world

Investigating Novel Genes in Poplar for Improved Cell Wall Disassembly

Improving the properties of Poplar as a raw material for bioethanol production.

Harnessing the Genetic Diversity of Watercress (Rorippa nasturtium-aquaticum) for Improved Morphology and Anti-cancer Benefits: Underpinning Data for Molecular Breeding.

Establish a collection of watercress sourced from around the world and breed watercress that not only has a reduced stem length but is also nutritionally beneficial therefore breed an ‘ideal' watercress cultivar.

Improving the sustainability of water use in baby leaf salad crops

Using quantitative genetics and infra-red imaging to improve the sustainability of water use in baby leaf salad agriculture.

CleanWeb - the Web as an enabler of environmental sustainability

This research is exploring the potential for internet technologies & data to help tackle major environmental challenges such as climate change. 

EuroChar: Development of technologies for long-term carbon sequestration

Investigating Biochar application as a potential solution to climate change - quantifying the carbon sequester capacity  and its effect on plant yield. It has been suggested that biochar could offset up to 12 % of GHG emissions, thus reducing global climate change, but there is limited evidence base on which to make generalisation and EUROCHAR addresses these gaps.

Improving the quality of lettuce (Lactuca sativa) using a molecular breeding approach

Developing nutritionally enhanced lettuce with improved shelf life.

Physiology, genetics and genomics of drought adaptation in Populus

Using physiology and genetics to investigate adaptation to drought in two populations of Populus.

Sustainable urban planning decision support for urban planning BRIDGE

Modelling the green spaces in two European cities to determine how vegetation can be managed for optimum pollution mitigation.


The Evolution of Trees as drivers of terrestrial biodiversity

ENERGYPOPLAR: Understanding traits for bioenergy in poplar

Traits for poplar for bioenergy applications

Popyomics - Dormant

Linking physiology, molecular genetics and genomics to understand and manipulate yield and disease resistance in Populus for biomass and timber across Europe

Using Next Generation Sequencing to understand acclimation and adaption of Plantago lanceolata to a changing environment

Using NGS to investigate novel acclimations and adaptions to elevated atmosphere CO2 in Plantago lanceolata to help explain what the future environment holds for plants.

Implications of drought conditions for microbial soil ecology: a metagenomic approach

Using NGS technology and bioinformatics techniques to better understand the implications of drought for soil microbe communities.  

TSEC-BIOSYS (2006-2009) A whole systems approach to bioenergy demand and supply in the UK - Dormant

UKERC (2004-2009) – The UK Energy Research Centre - Dormant

A global framework for quantifying the ecosystem service impacts of oil and biofuel production

The main objective of this 2 year project is to develop a way of comparing the impact on ecosystem services of two very different sources of transport fuel - biofuels and petroleum.

Parallel domestication as a model to understand the repeatability of phenotypic evolution

Are the same genes involved when evolutionary processes occur more than once?

Developing the genomic resources underpinning molecular breeding in watercress (Nasturtium officinale)

Developing a breeding program for a unique crop.

Population genomics of plant adaptation to elevated CO2

Using plants from a natural CO2 as a model to study the long term responses of plants to atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations predicted for the end of the 21st Century.

Measuring and optimising multiple ecosystem services provided by chalk streams

This project aims to understand the trade-offs and links between the provision of ecosystem services and patterns of biodiversity in the chalk streams of Hampshire.

Understanding the links between lettuce leaf phenotypes and the abundance and diversity of microbes with a view to breeding for improved shelf life and safety

Vitacress Research Unit: Improving the quality and healthy-giving benefits of baby salad leaves

Supporting the sustainable production of high quality baby leaf salad and herb species. We are one of Europe's leading suppliers of fresh produce, specialising in watercress, salads and fresh herbs.

ADVANCES (ADVancing Analysis of Natural Capital in LandscapE DecisionS)

Gail Taylor currently has no responsibilities or roles at The University of Southampton.


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Gail Taylor has no teaching commitments at Southampton at this time.

Research on sustainable bioenergy is being used by policy makers and UK Government. We developed the first process-based model that can predict the yield of willow and poplar for the UK in current and future climates and this has been soft-coupled to a soil model that is able to predict the greenhouse gas emissions from our system. These data have been used in the ETI/DECC Energy System Modelling Environment (ESME) and reported in ETI Highlights, in order to develop the UK Fifth Carbon Budget and other tools for scenarios that move the UK towards a low carbon economy and ensure that we meet our emissions reductions targets as demanded by the Climate Change bill. More recently these data underpin our latest project ADVENT – Addressing the Valuation of Energy and Nature together – where we are developing a spatial model for the UK that places a monetary value ecosystem services of relevance to land-based policy making for farmers and others in a post-brexit UK. This research is now part of UKERC Phase IV activity.

My research on leafy green and herb crops has produced novel germplasm that is now being exploited commercially. Following several years of research we have produced the first transcriptome profiling data of watercress, established the first mapping population to F2 and have registered our first novel watercress accession for commercialisation, called 'Boldrewood'. Much of our research on leafy crops is in collaboration with industry. In a Sainsbury's funded project we have reduced the water use in baby leaf herbs using deficit irrigation and are now helping to implement a remote sensing system using thermal images and the crop water stress index to control irrigation carefully and save water.

Gail is a Principal Investigator of several externally funded projects on bioenergy trees and leafy green herb and salad crops, alongside research on global climate change. Most of this research is now funded at The University of California, Davis, where she is always happy to hear from potential students and collaborators, email:

Some past projects include:

NERC, ADVENT – co-I on a NERC consortium to bring energy researcher and valuing nature approaches – (2015-2020), £2.2 M and two PhD studentships, now working as part of UKERC Phase IV.

EPSRC, MAGLUE – Lead PI on an EPSRC Bioenergy Challenge project – (2015-2018), £1.2M FEC

EPSRC, UKERC Phase III – Core funding to consider future energy scenarios and ecosystem service impacts, £200,000 (2014-2019)

NERC, UKERC Phase III Synthesis Activity, £33,000

Sainsbury’s Agriculture R and D competition, ‘More crop per drop’ – to reduce the water footprint of potted and cut herbs, £155,000 (2013-2017)

EPSRC, Bioenergy Challenge. Systems modelling of the bioenergy system with land-use for the UK

WATBIO, FP7– coordinating a 22 partner consortium on Drought tolerance in bioenergy crops, € 9 million (2012-2017)

EUROCHAR – partner in a new FP7 project to assess the impacts of biochar on soil carbon sequestration and bioenergy tree growth £365,000 (2011-)

EXPEER – European FP7 network on ecosystem manipulation experiments £230,000 (2011-)

BIOENERGY ELUM – Energy Technology Institute funded, UK project on soil processes during land use change to bioenergy £400,000 (2011-2014)

BIOENERGY Value Chain – Energy Technology Institute funded, UK project, £75,000 (2011)

NERC, UKERC, Ecosystems service impacts of international biofuels, £300,000 (2012-2014)

NERC, UKERC, Bioenergy supply, spatial mapping to 2050, £120,000 (2011-2013)

NERC, Carbo-BioCrop, Leader of a £1.12 million consortium, £140,000 to GT (2010-2014)

Vitacress and Sainsbury’s Supermarkets Ltd – fully funded PhD (2009), £60,000

Gail Taylor
Based at The University of California, Davis and contactable by email: or

Room Number : 85/6057

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