As an undergraduate I dithered between English and biology as major subjects of study. It was touch and go as to which degree I would finish, until my last year when I got interested in doing research in behavioural ecology. I completed a PhD in ecology, evolution and behaviour, under the supervision of Tom Caraco, from the State University of New York at Albany in 1990. My research, at that time, focused on problems in theoretical behavioural ecology and particularly on how animals ought to trade-off avoidance of predation risk against other fitness enhancing activities.
After completing my PhD in the spring of 1990, I moved to the Zoology Department of Oxford University, as a postdoc with John Krebs. At Oxford I worked on large grazing mammals and their interactions with the plant community. Much of this work I did in collboration with Peter Penning and Tony Parsons at the British BBSRC Institute of Grasslands and Environmental Research.
I left Oxford in 1994 to take up a faculty position in the Department of Zoology at Southern Illinois University, in Carbondale Illinois (town motto: "it's not as bleak as it sounds!"). In Illinois I started working on both biological impacts of climate change, and on the ecological impacts of endophytic fungi, in collaboration with David Gibson.
In January 1999, I returned to Oxford as a faculty member in the Zoology Department and as a Fellow of St. Peter's College. I continued my research on endophytic fungi and the biological impacts of climate change. I also got involved with research on the biogeography of bacteria, and of their influence on ecosystem functioning, through the supervision of my former graduate student Tom Bell.
In the autumn of 2004, I moved to the University of Guelph when my partner, Georgia Mason, took-up her post as Canada Research Chair in Animal Welfare, in the Department of Animal Sciences. We live in a funky 1960s house with two old cats and my teenage son, Griffin.