I am a NERC funded PhD student working with Dr. Richard Buggs and Professor Richard Nichols in the School of Biological and Chemical Sciences, Queen Mary University of London.

My research involves the use of evolutionary and ecological genetics (and increasingly genomics) to understand patterns of species distribution. I also utilise niche modelling to help understand how these distributions might have looked in the past, and what they might look like under various climate change scenarios.

I am currently studying the rare Scottish montane species, Dwarf birch (Betula nana), which has a severely restricted and declining distribution in the Scottish Highlands. Among threats from changing land management, climate change and overgrazing, it is also undergoing severe introgression from increasingly abundant related species. I am exploring the possible consequences of this, and how this might be identified in other species around the world.

Research Interests:

Mapping genetic diversity, ecological niche modelling, habitat fragmentation, population genetics, parentage analysis, gene flow, introgression and hybridisation.

Connect on Research Gate or LinkedIn or download a copy of my CV. Publications are listed below, scroll down for details of my academic history and field experience.


Ball L.D. & Borrell J.S. (2015) An Inventory of Herpetofauna in Wadi Sayq. Checklist (in prep).

Ball L.D., Alfazari W. & Borrell J.S. (2015) Birds of Wadi Sayq, Dhofar, Oman. Sandgrouse (link).

Borrell, J.S. (2014) Lessons from a year of citizen science. Human Computation,1:2:111-118 (link).

Wang N., Borrell J.S. and Richard J. A. Buggs. (2014) Is the Atkinson discriminant function a reliable method for distinguishing between Betula pendula and B. pubescens? New Journal of Botany. (link)

Wang, N., Borrell, J. S., Bodles, W. J., Kuttapitiya, A., Nichols, R. A., & Buggs, R. J. (2014). Molecular footprints of the Holocene retreat of dwarf birch in Britain. Molecular ecology. (link)

Borrell, J. S. (2012). Rapid assessment protocol for pollen settling velocity: implications for habitat fragmentation. Bioscience Horizons: The National Undergraduate Research Journal, 5. (link)

Prizes and Awards:

Ecological Genetics Oral Presentation Prize 2015: For the best oral presentation by a student at the 59th ecological genetics special interest group conference, help in Liverpool.

Anne Keymer Prize 2013: For the best oral presentation by a postgraduate student at the joint British Ecological Society and INTECOL conference, London.

Poster Prize (2nd) 2013: Ecological Genetics Group, Belfast.

William H. Fraser Prize 2011: For the most outstanding dissertation in environmental biology and whole organisms at the University of Exeter.

Dean’s Commendation 2011: For Outstanding performance, University of Exeter.


EU-INTERACT Fieldwork Grant: To support fieldwork at Kevo subarctic research station in Lapland.

QMUL Public Engagement Grant: To support the development of Discover Conservation.

UnLtd ‘Try It’ Social Enterprise Grant: To support the development of Discover Conservation.

Academic History:

2012 – Present: PhD Biological Sciences (NERC), Queen Mary, University of London.

2010: Gatsby Plant Sciences Summer Studentship, John Innes Centre, Norwich.

2008 – 2011: 1st Class Degree (Hons), Biological Sciences, University of Exeter.

Field Experience:

2014: University field course, Brunei Darussalam

2013 – 2015: PhD field research, Scottish Highlands, Ireland and Finnish Lapland.

2012: Chief Scientist, Empty Quarter Expedition, Oman.

2011: Research Assistant, Action for the Wild, South Africa.

2011: Science Co-ordinator, Cocama-Amazon Expedition, Peru.

2007: Expedition member, Madagascar.

Courses and Training:

Multivariate Ecological Statistics Course, Oxford, 2015.

Expedition Risk Management Training, Earthwatch, Oxford, 2015.

Species Distribution Modelling Course, UCL, 2014.

Plant taxonomy, identification and field survey skills course, RBG Kew, 2014.


> QM Evolution Research Group

> Buggs Lab Website

> Trees for Life (partners)

> Highland Birchwoods (partners)

> Center for Ecology and Evolution

> Mountain Woodland Project