Tomas Leigh

Tomas Leigh


My research interests mostly reside around microbiology and microbial ecology, with specific concern for themes involving manipulating microbes to the benefit of climate change mitigation. As shown in the research projects I have completed over the past few years my interests are broad, and I am also passionate towards many aspects of plant ecology.

Last year I completed an MRes in Ecology at Imperial College London, comprised of two 5-month research projects firstly on ‘The effect of increasing [CO2] on oak tree leaf temperatures’ and later on ‘Dispersal capacity of environmental bacteria and the influence of abiotic and biotic parameters’. Prior to this I studied for a BSc in Environmental Sciences at the University of Manchester. My dissertation title was ‘The effects of plant genetic diversity on functional traits and soil processes’.

I have spent the past year since completing my Masters course as a biology teacher at a Birmingham sixth form college, teaching three classes of students the biology portion of their Level 2 Applied Science BTEC qualification.

Tomas Leigh

Environmental Genomics and Microbiology

University of East Anglia, School of Biological Sciences

PhD title: Transcriptional and environmental control of bacterial nitrous oxide emissions

Nitrous oxide (N2O) represents 10% of greenhouse gas emissions, however, compared to CO2, N2O has a 300-fold greater global warming potential. Therefore, finding ways to mitigate N2O release, or better yet consuming N2O from the atmosphere, will play a role in the global fight to slow down the effects of global warming.

The production and consumption of N2O is often done by a range of denitrifying bacteria due to their ability to respire using nitrate. Through several steps this denitrification process turns nitrate into dinitrogen (N2). The final stage of this is from N2O to N2, completed by nitrous oxide reductase (NosZ), this makes the NosZ enzyme an incredibly important factor in the removal of N2O from the atmosphere. However, N2O is often shown to be produced in vast quantities from natural environments, implying that the NosZ enzyme is not always active.

This research project aims to determine the key environmental variables that regulate the transcription of the NosZ enzyme. Furthermore, we intend to examine the role of bacterial sRNA in the response to these variables, and their role in regulating N2O emissions.